Have you ever been to Istanbul?
Two weeks ago I had to answer this question with "No, never".
But then I got the chance to travel to the megacity (and European Capital of Culture 2010) located left and right side of the Bosphorus - one part in Europe, the other part in Asia.
And now I know it was a mistake...
...waiting such a long time for the first trip to this amazing destination!
Here are some of my first impressions of Istanbul right after the sun vanished in the west behind one of the seven city hills. The photos are taken in Sultanhamet, one of the city districts on the European part. Where you (and many millions of tourists and inhabitants) find some of the most important places of interest of the old town parts formerly known as Constantinople.
The first two photos display the Hagia Sophia, a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica (inaugurated by Constantius II on 15 February 360), later a mosque, now a great museum in Sultanahmet, Istanbul.
Opposite to Hagia Sopia, after a turn to the left, you see the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, widly known as the Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque - it was built between 1609 and 1616 - is one of the two mosques in Turkey with six minarets.
Many tour guides often tell the following story, although it is not true: The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. The other one is the Sabancı Mosque in Adana. When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for being presumptuous, since this was, at the time, the same number as at the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. He overcame this problem by ordering for a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque. In fact, the mosque in Mecca already had seven minarets for over a century before the Blue Mosque was constructed.
I took the photos from two different "roof garden restaurants" which are very popular in Istanbul.