Europe 2014 - Istanbul - Turkey

16 January 2015

12th October – Istanbul in Turkey 

Early start again… these are by now becoming the norm… 
its no wonder we are pooped in the evenings. 

Our first glimpses of Istanbul from the ship were so beautiful...
we could already note the difference in the architecture and counted a number of mosques with their minarets dotted around the skyline. 

Istanbul was the second port that we had booked an actual Princess shore tour. 
So it was another easy… follow the sheep sort of day. 
Our guide for the day was lovely and very informative.. I didn't envy her the job of keeping us all together and on track…it was extremely crowded and the sites we visited were noisy and packed with tourists and locals. 
So what did we visit?

Topkapi Palace – treasure filled home to the Ottoman Sultans (heart of the Ottoman Empire) for over 400 years. Built on the ruins of Constantine’s Imperial Palace it was completed in 1478.  The Palace was converted to a museum in 1924 and is home to the famous Topkapi dagger… precious jewels and world famous porcelain.

Hagia Sofia – This was a true highlight. The history seeped out of the walls…and never before had we seen the merging of two religions like at the Hagia Sofia which is now essentially a museum. Even with the huge scaffolding covering a large portion inside it was possible to be overwhelmed by its sheer size and the contrast of the Christian and Islam artwork side by side.

“The Hagia Sofia was rebuilt in her present form between 532 and 537. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.
For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for church councils and imperial ceremonies.
In 1204 the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders, who also ousted the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches that had begun with the Great Schism of 1054. It also means that most of Hagia Sophia's riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
Despite this violent setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.
In 1934 the, Hagia Sofia was turned into the Ayasofya Museum. The prayer rugs were removed, revealing the marble beneath, but the mosaics remained largely plastered over and the building was allowed to decay for some time. Some of the calligraphic panels were moved to other mosques, but eight roundels were left and can still be seen today.”
The Bosphorus cruise- with lunch included was a lovely respite from the crowds and persistent street sellers. We boarded for fine dining Turkish style and cruised the Bosphorus strait for about 90mminutes. The Bosphorus divides Istanbul in side Europe and the other side Asia. We could see some differences in architecture as we passed by. 

I really enjoyed the meal...

 which was finished off with Turkish Delight..omgosh it was divine…nothing like any Ive tried before.

The Blue Mosque  (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) visit was a total experience… right from the beginning of the long queue we were excited.

 Donna was prepared and had brought head scarves for us to wear so we could enter. 

With shoes removed we stepped inside…and WOW!

The Blue Mosque was built in the 17th century and the interior is covered in tiny blue tiles (hence the name) it was exquisite. The Mosque is still used for prayer so we respectfully and quietly took in the beauty of the architecture and tiling as much as you could in the crushing crowd.

The last portion of our day was a trip to a carpet weaver / retail store…we were ushered into the rear of the store and given Turkish tea to sip while we were entertained by the history of carpet making and a demonstration by a woman making a silk carpet. 

It was crazy …she was SO fast and the threads were so incredibly fine ..I swear if I were making the carpet it would take me more than three lifetimes and then it would be barely a bath mat.
Of course as we left...the street sellers were in over-drive...trying to tempt us into buying an 'authentic' woven carpet at a fraction of the price. Ron is always keen to play the haggle game.. but no carpets came home...authentic or otherwise.
Pomegranate juice anyone?

Pigeons anyone??

Our beautiful Regal Princess..

Gorgeous shopping...loved the plates and bowls so much...

Such a wonderful day in Istanbul Turkey.

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