The last leg.....back to Istanbul


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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul
November 8th 2011
Published: November 17th 2011
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The horse used in the movieThe horse used in the movieThe horse used in the movie

Hollywood donated this horse to the people here. Yep, this is the one Brad Pitt was in!
On Sunday (11/6) we left the Asian side of Turkey to return to European Turkey into Istanbul. That's about it for Sunday. It's the Holy day of sacrifice today for Islam so most everything was closed but there were still some industrious people in Istanbul that kept things open. Since we rushed to see Troy on Sat and it was planned for Sunday am, we arrived in Istanbul around 3:30 with free time but very little open to spend our time in, including tourist traps like the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.

That night we had our farewell dinner as a group at a fish restaurant in the Armenian section called Okyanus, meaning ocean (original, huh). We had traditional appetizers of mere, anchovies, yogurt with garlic, crushed tomatoes and eggplant. We were then served calamari and an egg roll type appetizer filled with cheese called a cigar. The main course was either fish (sea brine) or chicken kabobs. We then were treated to a performance by a band of gypsies, not in any colorful costumes, though.

Monday is the last of the 4 day holiday of Ramadan, so a few more things were open. Problem was several tourist
The Dardenelles straight from the ferryThe Dardenelles straight from the ferryThe Dardenelles straight from the ferry

crossing from Asia to Europe
spots like Hagia Sophia, Spice Market and Grand Bazaar were still closed so all the tourists in town, including locals who had come into Instanbul for the holiday, all went to the same places.

First we stopped at the site of the Roman Hippodrome built in 1400 BCE and held 100,000 people. Nothing is left of the Hippodrome itself other than the general outline where they made a park. There are 2 columns from the 4th century BCE now in this park were shipped from Delphi in the 4th century ACE, about 200 years before the use of the Hippodrome was discontinued in 506. One of the columns was covered in gold but the gold was taken by crusaders. There is also and obelisk from Luxor, Egypt from 1547 BCE and is still totally original. It was shipped in the 4th century ACE but it remained on a ship in the harbor for 80 years while the Roman Emperor and others tried to decide where to put it.

We also saw the German Fountain, so called because it was given to the Sultan by the German Emperor Willheim III. The gold is real and the blue is lapis.

We next walked to the Blue Mosque built 1609-1616 by Sultan Ahmet I. The plan of the mosque ic copied from the Hajia Sophie, which was built 1000 years earlier as a church. The dome, however, is still shorter than the Hajia Sophia. There are 266 stained glass in the windows which used in addition to normal colors of red, blue and green, used the rarely seen yellow, done so to ward off flys and mosquitos.

The Blue Mosque gets its name from the blue tiles. Today the same color of blue used on those tiles cannot be recreated even with chemicals so they are extremely valuable. The Blue Mosque is also unique in that it has 6 minarets representing the 6 articles of Islam.

Next we walked to the Topika Palace. Unfortunately, the crowds were SO thick and frankly our guide was rushing us a bit so we would still finish early, E and I lost the group for a bit and I heard nothing the guide said about the palace so I'll have took it up later. Even when E and I finally caught up and the guide was speaking, the noise was so loud I couldn't hear anything. Our guide did talk to us a bit about the palace on one of our long drives. Their Treasury holds many gold and gem encrusted items but the star of the show is an 86 carat diamond, surrounded by several small diamonds. It was gorgeous.

Again, we had several free hours that afternoon and we started to preparing to return home.

This was a great trip for us. Many things are hard to put into words, like the hot air balloon ride, the tastes of the food, and how beautiful the Mediterranean and Agean seas are. I wish everyone could see these things and experience life in this Muslim country where your religion is not the only thing that makes you you.

I tried new foods, ate tons of wonderful olives, had goat's milk ice cream, took a sip of raki (that was more than enough), had local beer, Efes. But mostly I'll take away the tremendous history and beauty of this country that is the middle of a very uncertain world. It was made so much better to have a good tour group, with seasoned travelers, no ugly American tourists, people who were very considerate of Ernest and helped him out or waited for us so we wouldn't lose the group. That made everything so much easier.



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