Day 036: Istanbul, Turkey | West By Sea
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Day 036: Istanbul, Turkey

Posted by on 2013/06/24

Day 036: Istanbul, Turkey
Position: N 37º 58′ 32″ E 023º 43′ 26″
Weather: 36ºC wind north east 10 kts
Last Port: Mytilene, Greece
Next Port: Naples, Italy
Status: In port, starboard-side-to

From the Navigator

We are suckers for ferries. We love intermodal transportation, and as the gateway city between Europe and Asia, Istanbul has embraced intermodalism with an aggressive but practical intensity. Water taxis are almost as abundant as auto taxis, better maintained and cheaper by the mile.

Our advice if you arrive at Instanbul by sea and in the morning – get up early to watch the transit. The morning sun illuminates the famous sites with a striking low light. These same sights in the afternoon will appear as mere silhouettes with a powerful backlight. Get up early and keep looking west! You can identify this as the Blue Mosque by the six minarets. The greater the number, the greater the patron who had it built.

Inside the Blue Mosque. It is “blue” because of the ornate blue tile. We were told there could be no images of people or animals because Allah (God) is the creator and therefore the only one who can produce such images perfectly. We mere humans must remain humble and stick to the written word, geometric and floral patterns.

A closer view of the main dome. There are four semi-domes facing the main compass points, each with three even smaller semi-domes. The result is an immense space supported by only four massive columns to support the main dome.

Whew! All those unclad feet inside sure could use a washing…

We have no idea what this sign is advertising. Sour looks, perhaps?

Next we visited a local craft center specializing in authentic hand knotted rugs. Each rug takes a minimum of one month and the time increased based on size, thread count and complexity of the design. The size alone does not determine the price. Rather, it is the time. Large Turkish rugs can take over a year of work by two skilled craftspeople. This lady worked while the presenter talked about the process, patterns and offered us drinks.

Here she continues transferring the design (above) into colored knots. The tufts are shorn across to leave a perfectly uniform surface of either wool, cotton, silk, or any blend of these. The figures in the rugs can tell a story of the events in the life of the weaver at the time: a birth, harvest or other major life event.

Close up of the pattern. The detail and colors are intricate. The knotwork itself is not complicated, but detail work takes time.

The finished product, this one in wool. We liked it the best after seeing over two dozen designs in various sizes. The price: $1,200 US shipped to our doorstep. Sadly, not this trip!

You want Turkish delight? You got Turkish delight! All shades, sizes, flavors, prices. Boxed to take home with you. You want a bag for that?

In the Grand Bazaar, you can pretty much find anything you want. Tens of dozens of shops of whatever it is you want. Spices? Yes, we have those. If you can make your way through the air thick with the intermingling scents.

If you need a pharmacy (chemist, apothecary) in Turkey, look for the big red “E”.

Here’s Daniel, who grew up in Turkey and Seattle, USA. He’s started his own business and wants to turn it into a chain throughout Turkey. He says it’s easier to start a business here than in the U.S. because they have fewer regulatory restrictions and want to encourage business. We wish him well!

Ah, the sweet desserts of travel. We hope you’re enjoying the journey with us. Let us know in the comments here, or on our Facebook page. And please SHARE this adventure with your friends!


Tour Overview

A scenic 25-minute drive in your motorcoach takes you across the Galata Bridge into the heart of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Your first destination is the Blue Mosque, also known as The Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This 17th-century marvel was built to rival and surpass the grandeur and beauty of nearby Hagia Sophia, and is a true study in color. It displays a multitude of domes and semi-domes and graceful minarets on the exterior, and over 20,000 shimmering blue Iznik tiles in more than 50 different tulip designs, and 216 stained glass windows, on the interior.

Just a short walk away, Hagia Sophia comes into view. Also known as St. Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, it was originally built by Constantine the Great, and later rebuilt by Emperor Justinian to be a “queen church” of the new empire. Considered one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, it’s rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.

Nearby, the Byzantine Hippodrome presents an opportunity to snap a photo or two as you walk by this imposing arena, once the heart of Constantinople’s political and sporting life, and the scene of games through the history of the Byzantine empire.

After an awe-inspiring exploration of Turkish history, you’ll board your motorcoach for a “shop ’til you drop” experience at the Grand Bazaar. Start off with a carpet demonstration, then enjoy three hours on your own to explore. With over 4.000 shops filled with jewelry, carpets, leather ware, and copper goods, you’re sure to find something that will strike your fancy. Bargaining is expected and half the fun.

Your tour concludes with a walk back to your motorcoach, and a relaxing drive back to the port. With Istanbul behind you, you leave with a myriad of unforgettable memories of a lifetime.

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