Negatives: hotel cat kneading J's sweater, getting baklava juice on my phone screen (the Eee won't work with the firewall)
So after a modestly busy day we're back chilling at the hotel, trying to make the incredibly important decision Where shall we go to dinner and can we find a place with live Turkish music? I'm having some motivation issues due to being 2/3rds through my Sookie Stackhouse book. Obviously my schedule's also totally messed up because it's only 4:20 UK time & not really time for dinner. But it is time for evening prayers; there are three guys singing the call outside my window. It sounds really cool.
I should probably write about my day while I can, or to delay so I can enjoy the fireplace. We got up around 10, had a yummy breakfast, then finally got motivated to see the Aya/Hagia Sofia, which is now a museum & not a mosque. It was a really odd place, truth be told; a large, airy Romanesque brick building (well, cavernous rather than airy, but neither should be possible in brick) that had a bunch of Islamic structures sort of pasted inside just as incongruously as n Egyptian obelisk would be jammed in modern bank's lobby. It mostly felt ... empty. And the mosaics were all stripped away save about 5. I never thought Ravenna would outshine Istanbul, but its little, perfectly preserved churches were like diamonds on velvet, while the Hagia Sofia was like a huge ring that had lost its stone. So it goes.
Then we dashed down the hill, past kebab "salonyi" and Lahmacun Huts and street vendors selling sweet corn, meatball or fresh fish sandwiches, clams (?), roasted chestnuts, fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, and circular pretzel things, following the tramway until we got to the waterfront, where we bought two tickets for a Bosphorus cruise. We went up to the suspension bridge near the 13th Century fortifications, past palaces old and new(ish), past fishermen and jellyfish, listening to Turkish music, drinking tea, and trying to figure out where we were based on the maps we'd brought with us. It was pleasant & lazy &even though the day was overcast, it was mild out & not raining, so really it was a very pleasant way to while away the day.
We got back to the dock at 4 PM, and we're south enough now that we still had about an hour of light left to us. We walked up the hill, past the busy square of "the New Mosque" (1663 fyi) and up a narrow street full of vendors hawking all kinds of clothing, magically making it to the "Basilica Cistern" when by all rights we should have been lost. I bought some baklava while J waited in line, returning just before he made it to the ticket office. Inside I was having some full-on James Bond flashbacks, but no boating across the (fairly shallow) waters these days; we walked across raised platforms through a forest of 6th century pillars, occasionally getting dripped on. There wasn't really much to see inside but it was tremendously atmospheric & made me want to see more of really old (Byzantine) Istanbul.
Tomorrow we're going to Topkapi palace, and at some point we'll hit the archaeology museum & the Grand Bazaar. I won't be coming back with a carpet, but they do have these gorgeous inlaid glass lampshades I'm totally taken with - no surprise as they are very sparkly indeed. And a hammam - I must go to a hammam. I've got knots in my back that just won't go away, and I suspect the Turkish bath experience would be just the ticket.
Signing off for now ...