Istanbul. The name itself evokes mystery, and tales of long ago. Its iconic silhouettes are the stuff of dreams. I pinched myself when I found out our travels to the mid-east would include a stop in this jewel of a city that spans the kissing of Europe and Asia!
Dining on a rooftop overlooking the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and the Aya Sofya Museum as the sky turned from blue to orange, the cacophony of the calls to Islamic prayer flooded the city. And I added my own prayers to theirs.
Known as Constantinople until the 20th century, it was the center of Christianity under Emperor Constantine (in 330 AD) until it came under Ottoman rule in the 15th century. The beautiful Aya Sofya, the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years, was a Christian house of worship until 1453 when it became a mosque. The intricate mosaic Byzantine tiles give a hint of its former glory. In the 1930s it was secularized and is now a museum. Oh, that I could have heard the songs of worship in that spectacular place!
The amazing architecture, the thronging streets and markets, the ever-present rug sellers, the beauty of the Bosphorus Strait which joins the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, make for a destination that begs to be visited again and again.