Yes, I needed to pay a visit to this magical city so I devoted today to visit the area of Hagia Sophia. I didn't do this alone, Tino Vázquez, Javier Fontán (both colleagues from my Research Group) and Manuel Rodríguez (from CIEMAT) came with me in this... "Lonely Planet" to Istanbul!
At the beginning we took the subway but this wasn't a good idea. What happens if you get in a subway system without a map (Spanish way!)? It happens that you pay for the trip between 2 stations and then discover that you have to get out as another mean of transportation must be taken. However, we could learn that instead of being the ticket a piece of paper, what you need to use the subway is a metal token! It reminded me of the ones used in Italy for making phone calls long time ago.
Back to the street, we took finally a taxi to Hagia Sophia. The wait at the entrance, where there was a incredible mix of nationalities, didn't last for too long. Inside we got caught by the wonders kept inside this building's walls. Basically, it was the Byzantine Empire which was still talking to us through the mosaics, being a witness of how Hagia Sophia was taken as a model for the rest of mosques built by the Ottoman Empire. It was simply... incredible.
Then, we paid a visit to the Blue Mosque too, while its Imam was giving strength for the Ramadan (Ramazan) to the community gathered there, as far as I could understand some spare Turkish words. We decided to have lunch nearby, hearing the Mohecin's call for the next prayers.
Then, we decided to feel Istanbul for real...
As far as we had enough time, we wanted to return to Taksim square on foot. To accomplish this, we left the touristic area and walked along residential streets and local markets. When we saw that we were the only non-Turkish there (and nobody was pursuing us for eating in their restaurant) we felt that we were breathing the real Istanbul, that one made by its citizens, and this made us very happy! For expanding this sensation, we stopped at the Galata bridge, where a "Just in time" restaurant was doing business. This restaurant was built on a boat (always moving because of the waves) and prepared just a dish: fish & onion sandwich. Fishes came from on-duty fishermen that were all along the bridge. We spoke to an old man (probably the owner) for getting our sandwich and sat down as we were also part of the landscape, enjoying the afternoon at the Gold Horn.
Something else from Istanbul that delighted me is the quantity of cats. It's not only that they are everywere (I love cats) but also people here feeds and take care of them. Cats here are very friendly and many of them like to be photographed. If you doubt it, take a look at the new campaign of "United Colors of Benetcat - Istanbul" ;-):
And tomorrow... The Conference! Time to meet you all and return to work!