Today was the first day of our “official” Turkey tour – and I promise not to talk about food! There are 27 people in our tour group and we are traveling in one of those huge tour buses – lots and lots of room to spread out and everyone gets a window seat. 🙂
Did you notice the new photo that is the cover for this blog? That is the Turkish flag and I thought it would add pizzazz to the blog.
I’m a little afraid today’s post is going to sound too traveloguey. Tonight I’m not physically tired, but my brain is exhausted. I learned so much and really wish I could share it with you. Information about architecture, religion, commerce, politics and more. For instance, did you know that Istanbul is the meeting point of Europe and Asia? The Bosphorus (more on it later) runs through Istanbul…one shore is in Europe…one shore is in Asia. And at one point the two shores are only 800 yards apart. The city is an amazing blend of East and West – hence today’s title “Betwixt and Between.”
This morning we started by visiting Hagia Sophia (Greek for “church of holy wisdom”). Hagia Sophia is about 14 centuries old, built at the height of the Byzantine empire. Think about that…1,400 years ago the building I was standing in, was walking around in was built. I stopped once and put my hand on the wall just to try and feel the past. To feel marble and the wooden door that represents those years and years of humankind, of faith and of politics.
It was initially built as an Orthodox Christian basilica and was the largest cathedral in the world for 1,000 years. Interestingly,during the Ottoman conquest Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque (in like 3 days). Their takeover of Hagia Sophia was political rather than religious…with Hagia Sophia a mosque, the Christian dominance in the world ended. Today, Hagia Sophia is a museum.
I could go on and on about the amazing 6th century ceiling decorations. I took this photo of one.
I thought it might make a nice quilt pattern. Anyone interested in trying that? I have a couple of photos of closer details.
Hagia Sophia is known for it’s incredible mosaics…and trust me, it was tough to get a decent photo of those. I might go back through my pictures tomorrow and see if I can find a halfway decent one to pop in.
After Hagia Sophia, we traveled to the Grand Bazaar. This is a VERY famous shopping mall that was set up in 1453…so 30 some years before Christopher Columbus set sail and discovered America.
There are 21 gates (entrances) to the Grand Bazaar, 12 inns and 66 streets. Over 30,000 people work in the (4,000!) shops – and they all want you to shop in their store!
“Gate 1” is considered the front door of the Grand Bazaar. Look at the huge entrance and that amazing door. And here is a shot of one of the 66 halls inside.
Unfortunately for all those vendors none of the five of us was interested in shopping, but we were interested in lunch! We wander outside through a madhouse of sidewalk restaurants and street stall food and pick the restaurant with the comfy-ist seats! I said I’m not going to talk about food today, so…after lunch we made our way back to our bus getting lost only once or twice.
This afternoon was at our leisure or we could take a Bosphorous cruise…hey, when will I be in Turkey again? And anyone who knows me, knows I love cruises! hahaha! Mary and I had a discussion on what exactly the Bosphorus is – a river? a strait? We have no idea, but decided it is a strait.
Out of the 27 tour participants, 9 took the river excursion and we were 5 of the 9. The tour boat sat probably 150-200 people, and we had it all to ourselves.
The weather was gorgeous, the river goes all the way to the Black Sea, though we didn’t go that far. On either side of the river there is a fortress. The Fortress of Europe in on the narrowest part of the Bosphorus and was built in 1452. This was right before the invasion of Constantinople. The Fortress of Asia was built 50 years earlier just before the Ottomans tried to seize Constantinople in 1396 – I didn’t get a very good photo of those ruins. Poor Constantinople…under siege over and over again.
It’s amazing to me that these fortresses still stand!
There were a bunch of palaces along the Bosphorus…those sultans and such liked their beachfront properties. I can’t remember the name of this palace, but do remember that it was designed to look like Versailles…and it was completed about 3 years (or maybe months?) before WWI and the palace person never really got to live in it.
While the history of Turkey goes back before Christ, there is equally interesting history in the present as well. In fact, last week several Russian warships sailed down the Bosphorus through Istanbul on their way to stand off in the waters by Syria. This river was important in the past and may be more so now.
Can you see why my brain hurts?
After the cruise, which was so relaxing and wonderful, we headed back to the hotel. We decided to skip dinner, though Elaine, Eve, Leroy and I walked out to find a grocery store. We’re leaving on a long bus ride to Ankara tomorrow and wanted to stock up on provisions. We leave at 7am and I am going to be grumpy. (Not really). We got some fruit, bread, water, tomatoes and yogurt. Mary napped while we were gone. As I started to relax on my bed, Mary headed for the shower, when Eve and Leroy knocked to come in. They came in toting stuff…Eve sat on my bed and Leroy on the chair. A little puzzled, I asked “what are you guys doing?”. Turns out we were having a picnic dinner in our room! Elaine showed up shortly afterwards and we sliced apples, peeled bananas, washed grapes, sliced the loaf of crusty bread and topped it with fresh tomatoes and talked about our wonderful day.
Yikes! I’m talking about food – a sign that it’s time for me to stop.
Here, one last thing, is a photo of the five of us on the Bosphorus. From your left: me, in the sari, Elaine, Eve, Leroy and Mary.