Istanbul, Turkey

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque

OK, not the first place most people think of when booking holidays. That’s unfortunate because there is so much to see and do. Their history goes back thousands of years. Part of the city is in Europe and the other part is in Asia. The dividing line is the Bosphorus River, which is traversed by numerous bridges and all of them have fishermen trying their luck.

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It was nice to see a Christmas tree

The weather was a bit cooler there than I’m use to, with the average high of 12-14 C. I actually put on a fall coat for the first time since I left Canada. The other immediate difference is that there are Christmas decorations here and there in some shops and on the streets. I walked by a fully decorated tree in the middle of the street and laughed to myself as I tried to guess how long it would be before someone knocked it down or stole the decorations. Boy, was I wrong! After my five-day stay, it was still intact and beautiful as ever.

I was fortunate to be on the top floor of my hotel, which afforded me a great view of the city below. While it was mostly cloudy with a few showers here and there, the weather did not ruin any of my plans. Umbrellas are for sale everywhere so there was no getting wet. When it started to sprinkle, you just popped open your umbrella and continued on your merry way.

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Istanbul, Turkey as the sun slowly rises for another day.

Narrow, cobble-stoned streets with a variety of shops and restaurants are everywhere. Each bend or corner offered up a new set of options. Have you ever tried some Turkish baked goods? Better yet, have you tried to walk by a Turkish bakery without stopping to buy a little nosh? It’s almost impossible! The aromas draw you in, the friendly faces and lively chatter combined with the free samples makes it unlikely that you’ll leave empty handed. Filo dough and honey concoctions are everywhere…and yes they were all great!!!

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Tiny markets witI03h fresh fruit and all kinds of hand made crafts and souvenirs are everywhere.

The restaurants were simply amazing. Kebabs. Seafood. Grilled vegetables. It’s all very delicious and a fun way to stop and rest while people watching. I treated myself to a major seafood supper. I started with a plate full of anchovies. That was followed by a half-dozen shrimp the size of some lobsters I’ve had. The main course featured a pan fried sea bass that was soooo good, I barely cared that it stared at me the whole time. The quality, price and service was awesome. I will have to revisit this one.

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I hired a guide to take me around the historical areas of the city. I should have known I would barely scratch the surface with a one day visit. You know you’re in for a lot of history when the locals refer to a 16th century mosque as the NEW mosque! My guide suggested we concentrate on three major historical sites. We started at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque.

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Next was the Hagia Sophia Basilica where the Pope had just visited the week before. We seem to just miss each other. He never came to say hello when I was at the Vatican a couple of summers ago. Maybe he’s trying to tell my something.

The Sophia began as a Christian church and later was taken over and switched to a mosque, which explains why you see a mix of religious artifacts inside. It has been designed a heritage treasure by UNESCO and renovations began to restore it. There was, and still is, considerable debate as to whether it should be restored as a Christian church or a Muslim mosque. In a country where more than 90% of the population is muslim, the very brave decision to restore it as the original church was taken. The reasoning was that it is a part of the Turkish heritage. The on going work includes removing the old plaster that has covered the religious Christian icons for centuries. The muslim tradition is to decorate their mosques with flowers and patterns while the Christian tradition is the use of paintings and sculptures of famous and holy people. It is very interesting to see a mix of the two in one location.

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The last site of this tour was the Topkapi Palace with not one, not two, not even three but FOUR courtyards and gardens. The Treasuries located within the Palace are filled with priceless gold, silver and gems that are breathtaking to look at. They also include gifts from around the world given by leaders of various countries. One room had a collection of personal artifacts which belonged to the prophet Mohammed, Mosses and other historical figures. Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed in the Treasuries but here are some pictures of the incredible palace and numerous gardens.

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Below are some pictures of other random places I visited and sights that I experienced. It is a very small sampling of what this great city has to offer. 

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Great tea but apparently it’s great fun to watch the tourists burn their fingers! LOL No handles!!

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These beautiful lights are everywhere. It’s too bad they wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.

Rugmaker at work

Rugmaker at work

Mine came out of the pile on the left!

Mine came out of the pile on the left!

I bought a Turkish rug! They are so amazing that I couldn’t resist. The artistry and long hours of work that goes into making each rug is incredible. A smarter person would have taken a picture of the rug he bought before having the shipped it to Canada!!

I was quite disappointed that none of them could fly!

I was quite disappointed that none of them could fly!

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Some fine examples of the craftsmanship of the local artisans. The sign proclaiming “Fixed Price” is a lie!!! LOL. The Turks love to bargain.

 

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At the bottom left you can see part of the original wall that protected the city hundreds of years ago.

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Above are two views of the Bosphorus River taken from the European side looking over to the Asian side.

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The aromas filled the air!

A little bazaar by the Blue Mosque

A little bazaar by the Blue Mosque

But what about the world renown “Grand Bazaar”? Why don’t I have any pictures of that? It turns out the Bazaar closes one day a week. Only ONE day. Guess what day I was there? Sometimes I’m amazed I can dress myself in the morning!!!

All in all, Istanbul is great place to relax and enjoy different cultures, foods and lifestyles. I will be going back to experience more of this rich and diverse country.

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You know you want one!!!!

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

4 responses to “Istanbul, Turkey

  1. Simply beautiful, my friend.
    What exotica–darn shame the bazaar was closed. I know what you mean–I arrived in Venice, Italy on the only day of the year where the Grand Canal was closed to regular boat traffic!?
    I love the humour you weave in to your travel commentary. I can hear your voice…
    You are having one heck of a year, sir.
    Ron

    • Thanks Ron. I am very fortunate to be able to do these things. I’m not overly concerned about missing the Grand Bazaar. That’s because I’m definitely going back! I love Istanbul.

  2. Absolutely amazing, Andy! I really wanted to see your new rug, though. lol
    Be safe…
    Marce

    • As my older brother, you should have reminded me to take a picture!! Now you’ll have to wait until February. Come to think of it…so will I.

      André

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