160519 Istanbul Turkey

Istanbul historically also known as Constantinople and Byzantium, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural, and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia straddling the Bosphorus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives on the Asian side. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (coterminous with Istanbul Province), both hosting a population of around 14 million residents. Istanbul is one of the world’s most populous cities and ranks as the world’s 7th-largest city proper and the largest European city. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It was a pity that we cruised through the Dardanelles at 1:00am as the scene would have been interesting to be sailing between the two great continents of Europe and Asia with both of them so close. But we didn’t. I happened to wake up around that time and took a quick look out to see a glass millpond. Lights dotted the coastline on the Europe side, which I could see from our balcony.

Coming into Istanbul is very fascinating indeed. There are many cargo ships waiting outside the harbour area for their turn to sail through the city and on into the Black Sea. It is a one-way shipping lane, which operates in one direction through the city for 12 hours and then the other direction for the next 12 hours.

We have booked an excursion for the day. This includes a Turkish breakfast on board a boat that takes us up the harbour towards the Black Sea and back, then a visit to the Blue Mosque followed by a quick visit to the world famous Istanbul bazaar.

The guide on the boat is full of information about the houses, castles and hotels along the coastline. As I had already taken breakfast on the ship, I was quick to make my way to the upper deck to do some filming of the buildings being described. There are three bridges that cross between Europe and Asia and one tunnel for trains travelling under the busy waterway. Istanbul is a ‘divided’ city with the population living on either side of a wide waterway. The ferries crossing from one side to the other are very busy and remind me somewhat of Sydney although Sydney has a lot more expansion of services to make to get up to Istanbul.

Our visit to the Blue Mosque was rather confronting for many, especially the women. We were all required to take off our shoes and if we were showing our knees, were given a ‘skirt’ to hide that which is pretty good. Nothing wrong with my knees. – so why walk around church hiding them? The ladies also had to wear a head covering. It seemed that it was a show of respect to their way of life rather than to the God they worshipped. And with all this covering up, we were allowed to take flash photography and video; that was an interesting contrast of concepts. Of course, tourists were all through the mosque and prevented a quick exit if one wanted to.

From here, we were transferred to the Grand Istanbul Bazaar. Now, if you want to get lost, this is almost equal to getting lost in Pompeii but with traders hassling you to purchase their wares. I learnt quickly never to look any of them in the eye because that became an indication that you were interested in their product and wanted to make a purchase. There were probably only 6 or 7 types of shop: the Turkish delight shops, leather shops, jewellery shops, carpet shops, material shops, bag shops, and maybe clothing shops (I don’t recall). We were given 30 minutes which enabled us to walk in one direction without deviating, do a u-turn, and back to the bus. There are 17 gates to the bazaar and we were ‘released’ at gate 1. No-one seemed to want to get lost so the one avenue was seen by all our coach load.

We did make it back to the coach for our transfer back to the ship. Our guide made a comment that he was sorry he didn’t convert any of us to the muslim way on the day but at least he had sown a seed in our minds. Mmmmmmm!

Leaving Istanbul was a great experience too, with many ferries and small boats out to enjoy our departure.

Tomorrow, we arrive at Mykonos for an afternoon at a typical Greek Beach. We then have a few hours to wander the narrow streets and find some Free WiFi to post three days’ posts in a very short period of time. I hope we can make it.

“To find inspiration, look to the horizon.”

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