Having felt recovered enough, I ventured out with Howard to a few of the major sites in Istanbul. Our first stop was the Hagia Sofia (Ayasofia), a magnificent church built by the Byzantines in 532, converted to a mosque in the 1450's by the Ottoman Turks. In the conversion, the magnificent Christian mosaics were covered by plaster, and two minarets were constructed on the outside. Here's some photos of the space:
After the Hagia Sofia, Howard and I travelled to the Basilica Cistern, one oa massive underground facility that was used to bring water to the city. First, we got a wonderful view of the Blue Mosque, which can be seen below:
The Basilica Cistern was built by the Greeks during the Byzantine empire (6th Century), and had several uniquely greek features, including two Medusa head statues used to reinforce the pillars in the back of the cistern:
The best reason for why the Medusa heads are upside down and on their sides was explained to me as strictly utilitarian (they needed them to fill in the gap between the pillar and the ground. Pretty cool.
After the Basilica Cistern, we travelled to the Topkapi Sarayi, an Ottoman palace built in the 1400's. The palace was quite large and pretty overbearing. Here's some photos:
After the Topkapi Palace, we travelled to the Istiklal Caddesi street for lunch/dinner at a local italian place. Here's a photo from that street, which includes a trolley that goes down the center:
When we finished eating, we headed back to the hotel. On the way, we passed a campaign tent for the Justice and Development Party (the leading party, representing Islamic and anti-corruption ideas). The prior day, we passed a politician from the party walking with a slew of supporters/security personnel. It was pretty neat (I asked them if they had any openings for campaign staff, but alas the election is too soon at this point):
Needless to say, a full day. The next day would be our last full day in Istanbul...