Monday, May 30, 2011

Istanbul, the rest of the Story...

So, on our second real day in Istanbul we got straight to sight seeing. We started off at the Topkapi Palace and then made our way to the Hagia Sophia and then shopped at the Grand Bazaar. We then ended the day with dinner with a view of the Bosphorus. It was a great day. Get ready for lots of pictures...

First the Topkapi Palace was where the Sultans lived for like four hundred years (thanks Wikipedia) and was built around the 1460's. The building were very ornate and many of the walls were covered in the same blueish tiles that are in the Blue Mosque. There is a section that holds every type of object that had been covered in jewels. There was the section that had Moses Staff and Joseph turnic and Muhammad's foot print. There is also a section called the Harem. It is where the sultan's mother would live, along with all the sultan's concubines. It had over 400 rooms of it's own, and they were also covered in the blue tiles.

After the Topkapi Palace, we made our way to the Hagia Sophia. It was the biggest Christian church for several hundred years and it was built in 360. It had burned down twice and had been rebuilt, so the latest one was finished in in 537. It was a Christian church until 1453 when Constantinople was taken over by the Ottoman Turks, after this it was converted to a Mosque. Then in the 1935 it was turned into a Museum. The original relics of the Christian church had just been plastered over, so many of them have been restored since it became a museum. The Muslim relics as still there as well, it was very interesting to see them right next to each other.

Then after seeing the Palace and the Hagia Sophia we grabbed a doner kebab and headed to the Grand Bazaar. We looked around for about an hour and talked to a lot of vendors all trying to sell us stuff we didn't need. After browsing we bought a few things and headed back home for a dinner reservation our hotel clerk had set up for us. The Grand Bazaar was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, and dinner was delicious.

After dinner we went to a restaurant that had a Whirling Dervish. We ordered some apple teas, asked for a Backgammon board and had a great little evening out. It was a bit chilly since we were outside so they even brought us some blankets. We drank our teas and watching the Whirling Dervish. Then after beating Mikey soundly in backgammon we made our way home.

The last day we had in Istanbul, we went for a morning boat ride on the Bosphorous. The boat took us to a Mosque that is outside the touristy part of town, the Beylerbeyi Palace, and the Rumeli Fortress. The Mosque was small and we were the only ones there. The Beylerbeyi Palace was a huge mansion that the Sultan would spend summers at, and it had all the original furniture and decorations and was very pretty, but we couldn't take any pictures inside. And then the Rumeli Fortress was what they called an open air museum, but it seemed more like a poorly run park that should have had some signs and rails along the stairways.

After our boating adventure we finally made it back to town and hit up the Spice Bazaar. It is smaller than the Grand Bazaar, obviously, but it was packed. The vendors were mostly selling every kind of tea, spices, and Turkish Delight you could imagine. It was a pretty cool place to look around in. We bought some tea and some spices and pushed our way out to the open street. We ended up in the street that connected the Spice Bazaar to the Grand Bazaar and it was a madhouse. We started walking in the direction of the Blue Mosque and some man told us to keep going straight and we would walk over the Grand Bazaar and show up right by the Blue Mosque. We walked for about ten minutes and the road had barely anyone on it, it was very strange after being swarmed by all those people in the bazaar, and then we were back to the main street of the Blue Mosque! The people really were helpful and friendly in Istanbul, well as long as they were trying to sell you something!

And that was about the whole trip! Soon, I will try to write a blog about everything we missed in May!

Here's one last picture from Istanbul! We had a great time!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Istanbul (part 1, lots of pictures!)

Whoa, I can't believe that we have only been home for a month since our trip, it seems like we were there last year. Time has just been flying by lately. Well, here's what we did in Istanbul! We got there around lunch time on April 20th and had the hotel pick us up from the airport, I am not sure how we would have gotten into town otherwise. So after they paged my name four times while we waiting in the customs line we jumped in the van and were off for our first look at Istanbul!

We met up with Andy and Pam at the hotel and headed out to find some kebabs for a snack before dinner. We wandered up the road and found a little restaurant right next to the Blue Mosque, it was literally a five minute walk from our hotel. After our snack we walked around and looked at the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and then we went back to the hotel for a quick nap and shower before we went out to dinner. It was surprisingly cold the first day we got there, they said that it had been pouring rain all morning. It was much colder than Paris and London. That night we met up with some of Andy and Pam's friends that were in town and had some dinner. Mikey got something with lamb probably and I had a cheese pida (just like a cheese pizza without sauce) and they were both very good. I had been a little worried about what I was going to find to eat in Istanbul because I can be a little picky about meats, but it was all just fine.

The next day we go up and had breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel and it had a wonderful view of the Bosphorus. After breakfast we headed up to the Blue Mosque to take a look inside, but before we went in Pam and I wanted to pick up some scarves to wear inside. We ended up at a lovely little store that had way too many scarves to choose from. I ended up getting a tan one and a red/green one. And then we were off to the Blue Mosque. Pam wasn't feeling too hot, so Andy walked her back to the hotel to take a nap and Mikey and I stayed to look at the Blue Mosque. We stood in line for a little while and then made our way inside. All the walls were covered in intricately decorated blue tiles, it was amazing.

Then after we spent some time inside, Andy came back and we walked around towards the Topkapi Palace and then through a lovely park with tons of tulips and then found a place for some lunch. They said they had doner meat, but it sure wasn't doner meat. Then after lunch Andy went back to check on Pam and Mikey and I made our way down to the water of the Golden Horn. We were offered lots of Bosphorus cruises and nicknack's and saw a lot of men fishing off the bridge.

After a stroll down the bridge we headed back to our hotel to see if Pam was feeling any better. And she was so we all made our way to the Cistern Basilica. It was very impressive. After that we headed back to the hotel and took a little nap before dinner. The boys were very excited for a rumor of flaming meat.

The next day we started off at the Topkapi Palace and the Harem. It was also very impressive. We even saw Moses staff and turban of Joseph along with a bow, sword, tooth, and footprint of Muhammad's. Then we saw the Treasury of the Palace, and there were tons of things covered in jewels. There was a dagger, thrones, a baby bassinet, and something called the Spoonmaker's Diamond that was 86 carats. This is getting long... I'll write another update on Istanbul soon! And I have started to realize I forgot to add some pictures from Paris and London, so there will probably be another blog for those!