Monday, November 2, 2015

Istanbul,Turkey - Days 1 thru 3

On October 27, I departed for an OAT trip to Turkey.  I traveled with my friend Lynn from Phoenix.  We flew from Phoenix to Houston and then directly to Istanbul on Turkish airlines.  Flight time was approximately 12 hours for the direct flight.  We arrived in Istanbul around 5 local time.  We were greeted by an OAT ambassador and then taken to our hotel, Sultanahmet Sarayi, located behind the Blue Mosque.  On the trip was 7 other travelers including 3 other women and 2 couples.  We went out to dinner (I had a lovely calamari dish) and then retired for the evening since jet lag was attacking us.
The next morning, Oct. 29, I was awaken at 6:30 by the Iman giving the call to worship.  Magical! Of course, it was very loud since we were so close to the Mosque.  After breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the Blue Mosque, so called for the shimmering blue tiles that line it's interior.  Flanked by symmetrical soaring minarets, it is one of th defining elements of the Istanbul Skyline.  The mosque was constructed under the Sultan Ahmet I rule (1609-1616).  We stayed for about an hour an marveled at its beauty.

Sultanahmet Sarayi Hotel:

View from back of hotel at the Bosphorus Straight and ships coming in:

View from front of hotel - back of Blue Mosque

Our tour guide, Ahkut, Lynn and others on trip:

Blue Mosque

We went to the Topkapi Palace which served as the royal palace of the Ottoman Sultans from 1459 to 1853.  Today it is one of the world's richest museums, with a staggering collection of jewels, arms, porcelain, and more.  The palace was very crowded. After a quick lunch at the palace cafeteria, we stood in line to see the palace jewels for 45 minutes.  The most magnificent of the jewels is a 87 karat diamond flanked by 49 diamonds.  Gorgeous!  We walked through the armor display and the kitchen museum with all the beautiful porcelain.  I would have liked yo see the Harem but not enough time.  One could spend the whole day in this palace but we only had a little over an hour.

Entrance to the palace:

The long line to see the jewels:

No pictures were allow inside any of the palace museums.

In the afternoon, we boarded a large boat and did a Bosporus Straight cruise.  Istanbul is partly in Asia and partly in Europe.  This straight divides the European and Asian sections of the city.  You can look north to the European district or east to the Asiatic side. Our boat was very large with upper and lower deck but the weather was pretty cool so we stayed on the lower enclosed deck.  

The first evening we went to a local restaurant for dinner and enjoyed the lighted Blue Mosque:

Oct. 30, day two Istanbul - 
We visited Hagia Sophia, or St. Sophia, the " Church of Divine Wisdom."  Completed by the Emporer Justinian in AD 537, the magnificent dome was once the pre-eminent architural wonder of the Byzantine world.  The massive building was a Christian church for almost a thousand years, until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.  The building served as a mosque until 1934, when it was proclaimed a museum. The massive structure has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This museum was so impressive,even though half of the interior was covered with scaffolding.

View from a window in the Mosque:

We could take pictures inside:

Next, we walked through one of the underground cisterns that they used to store water in case of a siege.  This cistern could hold over 87 tons of water.

In the afternoon we visited the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.  The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest, with 3600 shops, and oldest covered markets in the world.  What a zoo!  So many people.

The picture above is from the Spice Market which was even more crowded than the Grand Bazaar.  Of course, it did not keep me from buying a few souveniours.  We took a walking tour to Istiklal Street which is the Art Noveou district of Istanbul.

Today was an exhausting day and tomorrow we leave very early for our flight to Cappadocia.  Istanbul is a beautiful city but the amount of people and traffic always turns me off.

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