April 6 - After
a light lunch, we set off to the bazaar area in Kusadasi, Turkey.
The idea was to prepare for the worlds largest (3000+
shops) bazaar in Istanbul but more about that later.
Sal found an excellent price on a leather jacket (very chic).
Beset by Turks with bargains, we politely ignored most of them.
When we came to a carpet shop, we had to stop to admire some
especially fine looking silk carpets. A young man (very low
key and pleasant) took us inside, asked if we would mind speaking
some English with him. Although he clearly understood that we
were not buying, he wanted to share his carpets with us if we
had the time. Well, who could resist? He showed us a 1600-knot
per square inch silk decorated in a multi-colored floral pattern
and border design that was lustrous and soft. It took almost
one year to make and was obviously his pride and joy
as it should have been due to its exceptional quality. He rolled
out and shared several other favorites while talking of their
patterns and meanings. His shop, Private Collection, held many
lovely treasures and would be a reliable place to buy.
braved the gauntlet of sellers, passing other shops, then stopped
to buy an eye-catching carpetbag to carry home our purchases.
Virtually all of the passengers had gone on the escorted tour
of Ephessos and the House of the Virgin Mary. We had been there
and done that and really were not interested in the miles of
walking involved. We were fortunate to have some friends
contribute photos of the site.
A first timer has got to see it though.
were up and out of our cabin by 11 a.m. after coffee, shower
and shampoo. It was a very lazy morning and were feeling
rested. We took a turn around the upper decks, and sat to watch
the Turkish coastline go by. It is a beautiful day 70
F and slightly overcast. We seem to be traveling with the best
of weather as usual. We arrived in the Golden Horn near the
port of Istanbul around 5 p.m. We sailed past the Agia Sofia,
Sulimenhet Mosque, and the Topkapi museum.It
is a spectacular shoreline with these monumental sites. We can
see the bridge over the Bosphorus, many mosques, and tall buildings
that make it a modern looking city. Tomorrow begins our adventure
in Istanbul, so we plan to make this an early evening. After
a superior dinner, we went for a stroll on the upper deck to
enjoy the evening lights. This is quite a city!
April 7 - here
we are in Istanbul. Guess what? Its closed! This is the
last two of a four-day vacation allowed for the return from
the Hadj. The Grand Bazaar and all of the small shops and restaurants
throughout the city will are closed this is actually
to our advantage. There is no traffic and no crowds. There were
ten of us on the tour bus as we rode through the older part
of town and across the Galatia Bridge as our guide Aseyla pointed
out mosques of note and other historic features.
Our first stop, Sultanahmet Mosque
is a massive structure with six minarets. As the story goes,
the Arabic word for gold and the number six sound the same.
When the architect decided that a solid gold minaret was too
wasteful of money, he built six minarets and told the sultan
that he had misunderstood his instructions. The interior
has a truly rich pattern of floral tiles and the variety of
blue tiles for which it has been called the Blue Mosque. The
stained glass windows have fantastic floral motifs, there are
gilt inscriptions on the walls and pulpit, ornate wrought iron
balconies, and a delicately carved muezzin box. It felt very
open and airy despite massive marble pillars supporting the
dome. In front of its entrance were an obelisk from Karnak,
a three-stranded bronze pillar from Delphi, and a modern Egyptian
obelisk that had lost its gold and bronze panels to the Crusaders.
Across a broad avenue and through a park
area is the Agia Sofia (church of sophism or thinking).
It is in a process of restoration and is known for having the
widest and flattest dome of any church (the new St. Peters
is bigger). A Christian church under Constantine, Byzantine
under Justinian, stables for the Crusaders, converted to a mosque
under Meni II, it became a museum under Ataturk as Turkeys
gift to the world. Aside from the four green marble pillars
from the temple of Apollo and four red marble pillars from the
temple of Jupiter, the capitals were rococo Corinthian.
Walls were covered with slabs or red, green, blue and gray marble
from Egypt and Italy that were book-ended and appear to have
faces in them. The cupolas were bordered with Byzantine scribe
mosaic tiles and paintings. Domes carried mosaics in gold and
cobalt and natural colors rendering images of the Virgin Mary,
Christ, etc. Doorways were arched and topped with mosaics of
emperors and saints. Ceilings we covered with brilliantly painted
and gilt frescoes.
The tour stopped at Bazaar 54 (an upscale
Harrods-like store) for a quick explanation and sales pitch
about carpets and the opportunity to spend some money. Then
we spent some time taking a look at the smaller shops and stores
along the main street and down by the large, closed public bazaar.
The passage through the first gate at
Topkapi Palace opens to the Agia Ireni (church of peace) on
the left and the expanse of courtyards and gardens to the right.
We started our tour by viewing the porcelain collection (14-18th
century Chinese and some Japanese). These pieces are displayed
in the kitchen hall (the food for the 6,000 occupants of the
Sultans complex were prepared and served from here). The
Chinese collection is arranged chronologically, starting with
Celadon (jadeware), through Ming, and to Imari. All of the Japanese
collection was from the 18th century. Most striking
was an urn with lifelike parrots, a huge bowl with a flight
of egrets, a jewel-topped coffee service, and the koi pattern
plates and urns.
A six course lunch was served in the
101 year old Konyali Restaurant that has a splendid view of
the Marmasa Sea. After glutting ourselves, the group proceeded
to the jewel and treasure collection.
This include finely made chests, service pieces, etuis, bibelots,
jewelry, censors, the Topkapi dagger (hung above a ten pound
emerald), the Spoonmakers diamond, and the throne given
by Shah Nadir to Mahmut (inlaid, heavily bejeweled, carved and
quite stunning). The costume collection contains silks, brocades,
fur caftans and robes from a wide time span. Respite came inside
a cool blue suite of rooms that held relics of the Prophet.
This concluded a full day tour of Istanbul.
Aboard the bus and heading back to the ship, Aseyla pointed
out the newly constructed train station and the old Istanbul-Gare,
end of the Orient Express line. It had a perfectly restored
engine from the classic old train displayed.