A stop in Istanbul wasn't really planned - it happened by accident. Flights to Japan from Germany are expensive, and the cheapest flight had a stop-over in Istanbul. A 24 hour stop-over. So instead of hanging around at the airport, we went on and spent a night in Istanbul.
The first impression of Istanbul was almost disappointlingly unexoctic - the city could easily pass for any modern cosmotolitan city - except the stunning architecture in downtown Istanbul, called Sultanamed. Finding a place to stay was easy too, as the city had its own "tourist-ghetto", with one cheap hostel/hotel next to another. With the flight being delayed and the last tram gone, it was 1 am by the time we checked into the hotel. To excited by everything, we took a nice walk looking at the magically iluminated Blue Mosk and drank tea in a melow summer night.
We rose early to enjoy the city - our shuttle to the airport was scheduled for 3 pm, so there wasn't much time. The list of things to do was long, but due to time constraint mercyless reduced. At daytime we could see the Blue Mosk from the inside - a stunning structure, supported by four pillars they call "elephant feet". Next, we were fighting our way past countless carpet-salespeople to the Great Bazaar. As it turned out, the carpet salespeople were a great preparation for the bazaar, where the intensity of touts increased tenfold. It was a tough battle, but we survived it without loosing a Lira to any compleately unnecessary goods (let's see how strong we'll be when we return in October).
Almost time for the shuttle. We were back and even had 20 minutes to kill, and decided to spend the time on two glasses of tea and a game of backgammon. After a while, the owner of the Teahouse joined us and explained to us the differences of Turkish Style vs. American Style backgammon. Soon a friend of his joined, and we talked about everything from religion to tourism. And best of all, they did not try to sell us a carpet. What a refreshing and memorable experience.