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We stayed in the wonderful Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul.  Some reviewers have called it the best hotel in Europe and it is easy to see why since the facilities and the level of service are extraordinary.  When we arrived, they even had personalized stationery in our room and the nightly bed turndown included no mere mint but an assortment of cakes with several sauces.  The hotel contains only 65 rooms and is built in a former prison--when we arrived around 11 PM, the night manager gave us a hotel tour and showed us, among other things, the area where the gallows had once stood.  # 1 shows some of the mustard colored buildings of the hotel and #s 1-3 were taken from the balcony of our room.  # 1 shows the Blue Mosque while # 4 shows the Hagia Sophia.  The hotel was located between these two world famous structures.









The Hagia Sophia (4-6), one of the world's great churches, is more than 1,400 years old.  A beautiful park separates it from the Blue Mosque (7-12).  Before entering the mosque, Muslims perform ritual ablutions, concluding with the washing of the feet (7).  All women entering must wear head covering with no bare arms or legs.  All persons must remove their shoes.  We were given a bag to carry our shoes with us into the mosque.  The Blue Mosque takes its name from blue tile work inside which gives it a bluish hue as the sun shines through the windows.  The mosque was built in the early seventeenth century and caused a scandal at the time because of its six minarets, a number of minarets considered only appropriate for Mecca at the time.  One evening we had dinner on an open-air rooftop of a hotel situated between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  As we dined, a sound and light show transformed the Blue Mosque at dusk.  Besides this extraordinary view, we were also able to look down from the hotel rooftop into a bazaar/restaurant area below.  There, at one of the outdoor restaurants, a whirling dervish show progressed.  Whirling dervish dancing includes elaborate ritual spinning dancing thought to bring the practitioner into direct, ecstatic communion with Allah.









In both Istanbul and Ephesus, we found the Turkish people very friendly and helpful. In #13, one Turkish family poses for a picture outside the Hagia Sophia.  A short distance away (14), we encountered what looked at first glance like one of the legendary opium dens but in reality it seemed to be a very relaxed crowd at an outdoor coffeehouse.  #s 15-20 are at the Topkapi Palace.  A lot like the Smithsonian, it consists of many buildings within a walled courtyard, housing all sorts of treasures from Turkish history.  We had only an afternoon here but one could easily spend several days.  #s 15-16 are of the Gate of Salutations, the main entrance to a series of four enormous courtyards.  An imperial council met in the Divan (#s 17-19) where they sometimes were secretly watched by the sultan through the grillwork in #17.

Istanbul Photos Continued

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