Well here's a rundown of what we went through during our stay in Istanbul. The plane landed on time - for once - and after acquiring visas and collecting our luggage we boarded our bus and headed for the hotel, driving past the old city walls on the way. They tower over the road, and some houses are built atop of the walls, showing how strong they still are. The Taxim hotel was our next stop. Very nice indeed, Imogen and I were given a suite while the rest of the group were given double rooms. Lunch was also at the hotel with a westernised menu to help us deal with the culture shock. (Try to upload the pic of Digger with the cream cake.) After lunch our group went on a cruise up the Bosphorous, seeing just how old and grand the buildings are. Luckily no one was sea sick, but the cold wind forced many of us below deck. Once we docked a short drive brought us to the stat o our walk along the streets back to the hotel, walking along Istikal Street, which has various shops on all sides, almost like a long open mall. Dinner was back at the hotel. Thursday saw a full day of sight seeing in Istanbul. First sight was the mosque of Suleyman the magnificent, and it certainly lives up to its name. It's the biggest mosque in Istanbul/the world. (Not sure which.) Hanging on the chandeliers were rotten ostrich eggs. According to popular belief as they rot they release a smell that is undetectable to humans but dives spiders and other creepy crawlies away.
Whether it's true or not, we did not see and bugs in any of the mosques we visited that day. A quick stop of the Hippodrome saw us become spectators to a re-enactment of the famous chariot races, but rather than horses and a 450*200m track it was class of Turkish school children running around one of the 3 remaining obelisks nine times. They were all very eager to practice their English on us. All the people are very helpful and friendly, many of the shopkeepers knowing enough English to make transactions easy. The Blue Mosque is named appropriately, for the outside at least. Inside reveals a hidden gem, with much of the seemly delicate paintings actually made of tiles. However the dome is the main attraction, even though large scaffolding sits in the middle to support the building, which would collapse if not for the modern addition. Topkapi palace really is fit for royalty. When in full use 4,500 people lived within its walls. The gem was in the treasury, with the 'Spoon' diamond housed in the royal treasury. The 8th largest diamond in the world, what makes it unique is it came from India rather than South America. The nickname 'spoon' diamond comes from a legend that the man who found it traded it to a jeweller for two wooden spoons.