Today, the weather was thankfully cloudy, not as hot as it could have been.
This was the first time we could see the sights of Istanbul. We started with a wild taxi ride through the streets. Our bus had been held up at an accident and Yavuz quickly organised an alternative way of getting to the Blue Mosque. We had all been warned that knees needed to be covered Bob Stenhouse’s shorts were the only garments that did not pass muster; he made quite a picture in a skirt. Once inside, we were struck by the wonder of the structure.
Twice as old as any concrete stone or brick structure in Australia, it has withstood earthquakes. The decorations, tiles, scriptures and intricate design work standing testament to the architects and craftsmen who created it.
Next we stepped out onto the site of the hippodrome where Roman charioteers once careered around an ancient track in the same way Istanbul traffic reacts to a gap. The monuments that mark the centre of the arena were all explained in detail by Yavuz.
At the end of the hippodrome we found the German Fountain built for Wilhelm II and Empress Augusta's 1898 visit to Istanbul.
Then on to the cistern that was once an integral part of the City’s water supply. It still has the carp used to purify the water, and the heads of Medusa statues incorporated at the bottom of pillars in the structure by the order of the Emperor Justinian in order to prove the powerlessness of the pagan gods.
Thence to the Hagia Sofia, the 6th Century Church that became a Mosque and is now a Museum. Here we saw the design so successful in withstanding earthquakes that it forms the basis of the design of almost every mosque.
We entered the Topaki Palace seeking sustenance, duly satisfied by an excellent lunch at the restaurant. Afterwards Yavuz explained the significance of each palace wing and gave us time to explore.
A little worn out, we again experienced Istanbul traffic on the way back to our hotel by bus.
Tomorrow, will be our last day on tour. We have a late 1000 start before heading to the Kariye Museum (Chora Church), Grand Bazzar, and a cruise on the Bosporus.