What to share about Istanbul...there is just so much. First of all it is beautiful. It is a place where old meets new and East meets West, and where everyone is happy to chat, especially to try to sell you something. On our first afternoon we hit two major sites that are across the street from each other, the Haghia Sophia or Ayasophia and the Blue Mosque. The Ayasophia is only a museum now, but has spent time as both a mosque and a church in the past. Significant portions of the artwork were destroyed during the switch and only some remains, but it must have been a sight to see. The Blue Mosque is quite large and as ornately painted as any place I have ever seen. Even though there were tons of tourists in there (we went in after the evening prayer), it was still an incredibly peaceful place to spend 45 minutes. You can't help but reflect when in the prescence of that much grandeur and beauty.

The hippodrome, and old stadium sort of thing, is just outside of the mosque and we wandered our way over there and started to notice an increase of activity as we looked at the Egyptian obelisk and other towers on the row. Everyone was preparing to break the fast of Ramadan or Ramazan as they call it. People who are able fast do so from dawn till dusk, also abstaining from drinking any liquid at all, a true fast. It was getting closer to dark, but the sun was still up. People and their entire families came and sat in the park on the benches, on the grass and at the picnic tables. Then slowly they would spread out their items, drinks and tons of food of all varieties. It was really something. The energy in the air became palpable as it got closer and closer. More and more vendors showed up with all sorts of food, ice cream, sweets, grilled corn, cotton candy and almost anything youl could think of. Then all of a sudden it came, the call that signaled it was time to break the fast because the sun had dipped below the horizen. A huge burst of energy and then people started with a drink first and then slowly went to the food. Generations of families doing it together in conjunction with other Istanbulies. It was amazing to watch and I felt so lucky to see the it and experience the community nature of breaking the fast together. We hadn't eaten or drank anything since we got in Istanbul, so we went and broke our mini fast at a restaurant nearby, still riding the energy wave of everyone around us.

Inside Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya