Sunday, February 23, 2014

Istanbul, A Turkish Delight

We just returned from a wonderful get-away to Istanbul Turkey and what a treat. I was able to have my first Turkish Bath, (soapy and scrubby, better than a massage) and enjoy some Turkish spices in food that was just delicious. The weather in the high 60's and sunny was perfect for a cruise on the Bosphorus, visiting ancient Mosques, walls of Constantinople, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and an underwater Cistern built by the Romans and full of mystery.  We had always wanted to explore this great city with enormous historical tales and we were not disappointed. It was interesting to hear the Greek's history of events and then hear the Turkish version. The Ambassador Hotel was perfect and the people as nice and welcoming as you could want. If you get the chance to visit you should, it was a delight.

Trip was too quick, I could have spent a few more days to explore- also, it's the cleanest I've seen Richard.
My take:

The Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built in 1609 - 1616.
   Istanbul has 3,000 Mosques in a city of approximately 15 million people.  Our guide told us that 99% of the population here are Muslim, 40% are practicing Muslims, and maybe 20% attend services at the Mosques. Even though Turkey is a Secular State, one hears the chanting through loudspeakers 5 times during the day as everyone is called to pray.

Inside of the Blue Mosque - still in use, even as tourists tramp through taking pictures

Before praying in the Mosque - a ritual of washing called Wadu is done.
Outside of  Hagia Sophia Mosque
Once a Byzantine Church in 532, built by Emperor Justinian.  He wanted to build the world's largest cathedral so materials were brought from all over the empire to build the church - Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, marble from Thessaly, stones from Egypt and Syria.
When the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 it was converted to a Mosque and then became a museum after 1931.
These pictures cannot do justice to the architecture and collection of relics of this now museum.  A museum that holds both Christian mosaics and historic Islamic art is always a challenge for the restorers as they continue to uncover more mosaics that have been plastered over when converted to  a mosque.

A visit to the Egyptian Bazaar known as the Spice Market!

"Mr. Richard, what can I interest you in...."
 I don't know what Mr. Richard is filling that black bag with...

Heading into the Grand Bazaar to check out the shopping.  Since we only have so much space in our suitcases, we got out of there with a scarf for me and a belt for Rich.

We were in the Grand Bazaar early and caught a Sales Meeting.  Richard was ready to give some advice.
A Turkish Silk Rug can take a year or more to make - at least she gets to chat with her friends on her
 Iphone as she is working.

The Basilica Cistern - An ancient cistern that lies beneath the city was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Constantine and later expanded by Emperor Justinian.  Back in the day it held 100,000 tons of water and was built by 7.000 slaves.  

In the Cistern are two columns with Medusa's head at the base -why is her head upside down and sideways is the mystery.  (Dan Brown's new book Inferno has a climatic scene here!)

Old walls of Constantinople still standing throughout the city

City View over the Bosphorus or Golden Horn - I can't remember, it was a quick picture.  I was really more interested in taking a Turkish coffee break at this point.

Peace Out  - 3 days was not long enough.  We did buy a box of baklava, so we could taste all the different varieties - chocolate, pistachio, almond etc.  We over indulged, but what the heck we had a delightful time!!