With anticipation and anxiety, the Istanbuli Eight landed
 in the former Constantinople and wondered what we had done.
Viking had canceled its Istanbul leg, and the US had sent out
a cautionary. However, all our worries were allayed when we met
and came to know our guide Umit who guided us through Old Town
 and would do so for all of our daylight hours from plane to ship.
We encountered almost everything that
Viking had suggested was possibleóCistern, Blue Mosque,
Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Hippodrome, Topkapi,
 and more. By stayís end, we respected Umitís
vision and passion for his home and country,
done at our speed, with a little prodding,
with kindness and openness and friendliness.
What a wonderful start to our trip

the obelisk in the Hippodrome guide Umit - high praise for his work view from our Eresin Hotel room
.

scenes from Blue Mosque: exterior; the grandeur of interior that cameras struggle to capture; Americanos Deb, Judy, Lynda, and Elaine

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cleanse before entering mosque, if needed old dogs, taken care of by city clothing cautionary before entering mosque
.

scenes from Topkapi Palace complex: home of Ottoman sultans from mid-1400s to mid-1800s; up to 4000 lived here

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the splendor of Hagia Sophia a small piece of the Sophia's grandeur Punto of Istanbul - respected carpet dealer
.
old Roman mosaic in Eresin Hotel floor the stunning Roman Cisterns Spice Market wares, we indulged
.
lunch at famed Pudding Shop; last morning tea at scenic overlook with Umit (in red)
.

at the Grand Bazaar - home to 4000+ stores, miles of paths: Deb and Elaine anticipating; where would you put this?; Elaine haggling

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one of many corn & chestnut stands in city; Istanbul makes good use of trams, one of which almost nicked Ross