Published: April 11th 2012April 9th 2012
Turkey to Odessa, Ukraine
We left Malta and continued sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey, the port to go to Ephesus. We docked right in the downtown area and it is an easy walk to shops and restaurants, although the streets are very crowded and the merchants bombard you with merchandise all with a “special price just for you”.
We had walked around Ephesus before, so we decided to take a tour to an outlying village of Sirance. Here we walked through the small village and then went to a private home for a typical Turkish lunch. We had to remove our shoes before entering the home. To the right was a living room with TV and chairs. We were directed up some wooden stairs to the next level where they had a bench on all four sides and a large round table about 18” high, in the center. There were eight of us, and there were eight small chairs around the table. There was barely enough room for all of us and the bench, too. We had a choice of red or white wine, and a bottle of water was at each place. The appetizer of bulgur, tomato, olive oil and spices wrapped in grape leaves very tightly to form a roll a bit larger than a cigarette. Bruce ate beaucoup. Next came the main plate of traditional dishes with eggplant, lamb meatballs, rice with tomatoes, spinach, oil and spices. Everything was delicious. For dessert we had an orange which was already peeled and put into pieces -- a satisfying way to end a good meal. On the way back to the ship we passed many ruins, including distant views of the amphitheater of Ephesus. The next day we took a panoramic tour of the city and, of course, a carpet demonstration. The best thing about that is a chance to sit down and have a cup of tea or Turkish coffee, served strong, medium or mild.
From Kusadasi we came to Istanbul, one of the most interesting cities in the world. On our first day tour we went to the Spice Market, the underground cistern, and then a wonderful boat ride on the Bosporus. It was sunny and beautiful and a perfect way to see some of the beautiful buildings on the water and view both Europe and Asia in one glance. The city has between 14 and 15 million people, and the traffic is horrible. They have trains, trolleys, buses, and taxis, but not enough to handle the millions of people. The areas around St. Sophia’s and the Blue Mosque are only for tour buses, no private cars. It is amazing to see these large buses maneuver the narrow streets.
On day two, we took it easy on the ship and got ready for our special dinner at the Maiden’s Tower, an island in the Bosporus where the built a tower that comes with several legends of Sultan’s daughters and keeping them “safe”. Now it is a very elegant restaurant. We boarded the boat on the European side along with all the guests dining that night. The inside of the tower is all stone, and has niches with tables for two, then, a larger room for larger tables. On one side is a grand piano. We were entertained by a pianist, violinist, and later a Turkish female singer who sang American classic songs. (very well, by the way.) Our meal was very special. It could be described as a sophisticated dinner in a medieval atmosphere with
Contemporary music. After dinner, we took a boat to the Asian side of the city where nost of the people live. They work on the European side, for the most part, and commute across several bridges to the Asian side. They are building a tunnel for trains under the Bosporus that should be finished in a year or so.
On our last day in Istanbul, we took a panoramic tour of the city. We drove past many palaces and mosques, and stopped for a visit to the Blue Mosque. When we were here before, the mosque was not very busy, but today it was packed! It was difficult to keep with our tour guide as we were jostled around inside. We removed our shoes and put them on bags and carried them with us on the tour. The individual handmade rugs are now gone, replaced with machine made carpet every 5 or 6 years. The tiles are just outstanding, and being in there is a wonderful experience. After our visit we headed to the Grand Bazaar. But first, we had to listen to another carpet demonstration. At least we could sit for a time and have a cup of apple tea (really good!) before going to the Bazaar. The place is so large that we didn’t go in very far. It is easy to get lost in all the side streets and so we window-shopped in a straight line before walking back. We sat on a bench not far from a Starbuck’s. Then we boarded the bus for a return to the ship. This was a wonderful three day stop.
We left Istanbul at dinner time, so we weren’t able to see much as we arrived in the Black Sea. The Bosporus Strait has one way traffic every six hours because it is so narrow. We took on a pilot in Istanbul and he left us at the border into the Black Sea. We continued sailing to Constanta, Romania, arriving in the morning.
What a contrast between Turkey and Romania! This country is really a poor country trying to raise itself up and struggling to do so. The average wage is $200/month. Sales tax is 24%, and income tax 16%. That doesn’t leave much for living expenses. The revolution in 1989 gave them freedom, but no resources to build or renovate. We went to the historic site of Histria where there were Roman ruins. Those Romans really got around! We couldn’t stop for lunch as planned because no place would take $ or Euros. We went to a couple of museums and a church. It was Palm Sunday in the Orthodox church, not Easter. We are all glad we donn’t have to live here.
Today we are in Odessa,Ukraine. We are going to the ballet this afternoon, and then we sail back through the Dardanelles in the daytime and on to Greece.