Beyond Sultanahmet in Istanbul

In the cyclical weather challenge of our Istanbul trip, today we were gifted with a sunny day.  Immediately a trip to Chora Church was concieved.  Most travellers to Istanbul stay within the confines of Sutlanahmet but if you have a spare morning, brave a taxi ride to the Chora church.  You will be awed with the spectacular byzantine mosaic artwork, I promise.  As you ride the taxi to the church, dont miss the Roman aquaducts on the way.  Below is my twisted view of the Valensduct.  Why twisted?  If you ever ride in a taxi in Istanbul, you will find that taxi drivers here leave the NYC drivers in the dust.  I must have been jolted around so decided to keep the memory alive when posting this picture.

When you leave the Chora church (why am I talking about leaving even before getting there?  because I am on the topic of taxi rides in Istanbul and do not want to forget pointing this out :)), do not take the taxi from the small street on which the church is located (unless you have spare liras to throw around on price gouging taxi drivers), walk up the slope through the lovely residential neighborhood to the main road and catch a taxi from there.  
Chora church is a site to behold.  Since the grounds are small, you can get close to the exterior of the building and get to know the byzantine architecture and the present day cats milling around the grounds.  We visited in spring and the trees were just starting to bloom.  An audio guide is a must here, unless you want to trail an english speaking tour group.

Some of the not so lucky survivors

Once you are done, step out the main door to the cafe across the street to grab a quick bite to eat (there is no reentry if you leave through this door) or do as we did, cab it up to Eminonou and eat in the square at Hamdi restaurant.  You will have a beautiful view of the new mosque from the top floor restaurant.  Outside seating needs a reservation but you can sit in the enclosed glass section without one.  Food was quite good but do not order baklava, it was one of the worst we had any place.

The only plate of Baklava left uneaten in our entire trip
After lunch we were ready to make our way up the hill to Sulemaniyah Camii.  Give yourself plenty of time for the grounds.  The mosque was beautiful as the rest of the mosques in Istanbul but the view of the Bosphorus and the city from the grounds was spectacular.  The walk up the hill takes you through a local shopping district.  
Checking out the local fashion
The Mosques Interior

Dont forget to pay homage to the father of Istanbuls architecture, Mimar Sinan.  His tomb can be reached on the Mimar Sinan Road next to the mosque (a level below)
View of the City and the mosque from the grounds
Our friend found a moment of peace to pray at the water fountain on the mosque grounds
And I leave you today with the feline friends of Istanbul!

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