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Istanbul, beautiful city on the Bosporus, where Teb and I went for four days after I finished a workshop there. Our hotel room just overlooked the river, of which you see an overview on top, and we could see boats like these going up and down all day and night. There were also fireworks in the evening, which was a beautiful sight. Once, we took a boat to Princes Islands, in Turkish Red Islands (Kizil Adalar), beautiful places that are only one our by boat from Istanbul.
We went to the farthest island, where there are no cars and transport is done by horse drawn carriages. Nature is beautiful and there are only little tourists.
Some very rich people have beautiful villa's on the hills with enormous gardens. On one of the most central squares of Istanbul, you find the blue mosque as well as the Aya Sofia. The Aya Sofia was built on 27 December 537. The words Aya Sofia mean "Holy Wisdom" and it was first an Orthodox Patriarchical Basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.
The blue mosque is called the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet (Sultan Ahmet Camii) who had the mosque built between 1606 and 1616. You may wonder where the blue comes from, well it is from the tiles inside. Unfortunately, most of them are hidden in a gallery which is not opened to public. Sultan Ahmet and his brothers are buried inside. The real worshippers are allowed through the main entrance; poor heathen tourists like us had to use the side entrance, although the entrance fee was high enough to arise expectation of an entrance with orchestra and Sultan Ahmet coming out for a personal greeting.

The Aya Sofia, even though only five hundred meters away from the Blue Mosque as the crow flies, is more than 1,000 years older and that is clearly visible. Aya Sofia means Divine Wisdom in more than one language.
Emperor Justinianus built the church in the 6th century. Before that there was already a church in the same place, that was destroyed in 532. Some ruins of the Theodosian church (middle 5th century) still lay around in the garden. Within the church, there is a mixture of impressions that go hand in had. Part of it still looks like a church, while the other part is a mosque.

And the parts are not separated, on the contrary, both are all over the inside. Leaded windows and gilded verses from the Koran, a beautiful combination. The church itself is huge and has a nice comforting atmosphere.
To the left you see the outlines of the Galata tower above the riverside, once the highest point of the Genoese fortifications, nowadays a nice viewpoint over Istanbul.
Another beautiful attraction forms the Topkapi palace, which is situated in the middle of a big park and has a nice view over the Bosporus. Mehmet the Conqueror built the palace in the middle of the 15th century, and sultans have lived there until the beginning of the 19th century. The place is vast and has some beautiful buildings, the most interesting is the harem. Also there are many things on display that the sultans kept to decorate their houses, showing their very expensive and extravagant taste.In the 19th century, Topkapi palace became old-fashioned and rulers moved to places like Dolmabahce, outside the center of town on the riverside. It was built in the middle of the 19th century by the Ottoman ruler whose power was failing, in an attempt to copy European (French) styles. Dolmabahce means filled-in garden, because Sultan Ahmet already in the 17th century made a filled-in cove to built a kiosk and gardens.
Kemal Atatürk died in this palace at 9.05 hours, and therefore all clocks are set at this time. Furthermore the palace is stuffed with things and very Bohemian, and absolutely horrible. Our guard was thrilled by the happenings in the circumcision room, and he told this story at least three times. In Istanbul there are, apart from seven hills, many beautiful mosques, the Süleymaniye just behind the university being the largest. It w
as built in the middle of the 16th century by the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman 1, the Magnificent. Since it is situated on top of one of the hills, you can see it from everywhere.
The bazaar is also worth a visit, even though we found the small Egyptian spices bazaar a lot more attractive than the far more famous Grand Bazaar, where eager sellers scream after fleeing tourists to sell their Dutch gold and machine-embroidered T-shirts with Istanbul in big letters on the front.