WOW! Our days in Istanbul were a assault on the senses! Incredibly crowded (tourists, beggars, street venders, regular people), loud (trams dinging, car and taxi horns honking, boats tooting, calls to prayer, music playing, so many languages of people talking), smelly (lots and lots of garbage - more than I have ever seen, and an intense thick layer of heat that soaked everyone in minutes) and vibrantly visual (tile work, head scarves, so much colorful stuff mostly made in China to buy). The three mosques - Hagia Sofia, Blue, and Suleyman the Magnificent, were stunningly beautiful in their intricate simplicity. Each time we left the serenity of the hotel it felt as if we were diving into the awe inspiring gritty soup that is Istanbul!