Wednesday, October 16, 2013

day 3

Saturday was our first full day of the tour. We saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, hippodrome, and the cisterns. 

Our first stop was the Blue Mosque which is a mosque still in use today. It is right next to the Hagia Sophia and the prettiest mosque that I saw. 

Sarah Beth and Emily did a great job of blending into the crowd and not looking like tourists. 

The majestic Blue Mosque. 

Excited for the Hagia Sophia
For thousands of years now the Hagia Sophia has been the last fortress when various armies attacked. After these numerous attacks the building has started to show wear and tear. I avoided it by the angles from which I took pictures, but the whole left hand side of the church is full of scaffolding where they are attempting to refurbish the old building. 
Interestingly enough the Hagia Sophia was first built as a church before the muslims took it over. Thus, the famous turrets of muslim churches were originally part of the Christian church. 

This was a church built by Constantine nearly 2,000 years ago. Constantine's rule allowed Christianity to flourish in Istanbul and helped grow the number of Christians who continued to spread the gospel around the world. Istanbul was the preserver of the gospel during that time. 

In the afternoon we went to the Topkapi Palace right behind the Hagia Sophia. It is now a museum but most of the exhibits didn't allow photographs. I did see what the muslims believe to be King David's sword, the staff of Moses, and the arm of John the Baptist. Now these probably aren't true but they were fun to see.
Our next stop was the underground cisterns. For 1000's of years the people of Istanbul would store their water here. 
One of the reason the cisterns are so famous is because of the infamous Medusa's heads. Apparently the builders did not see any significance in this because they are just used as the base of 2 of the columns and aren't even right side up. 
Then we went back to the Blue Mosque and this time we went inside--and I'm very glad we did because it was stunning. 
Unlike most old, large churches you visit, mosques did not have any paintings of people. 

Hagia Sophia
This concluded our stay in Istanbul and that night we set sail on our yacht, The Windstar, which would carry us to our following destinations. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 2

On Day 2 we awoke and enjoyed our Mediterranean breakfast. Mediterranean breakfasts are somewhat different than our sweet American ones. They consist of a lot of olives, cheeses, sandwich meat, fruit, and eggs and bacon. Not many sweet donuts and baked goods. 

 Our view of Istanbul from breakfast
 Our tour didn't start till evening so we decided to explore the spice bazaar. You can see a whole variety of different things in Turkish bazaars
 Dried fruit
 Spices and teas
 Muffin cups
 Not sure what this is...
 Fresh pure pomegranate juice
 Sea thingys. 
 Sea sponges
Adorable little turtles. For the record these were for pets not food. 
 Or baklava. Turks love to put pistachios in anything, baklava, in salads, on meat, in oatmeal, in ice cream, you name it. 

For lunch we enjoyed gyros, which have french fries in them strangely enough. 

Istanbul is the only city in the world to be on two continents, Asia and Europe. Our hotel was on the Europe side so we took a ferry over to the Asia side for the afternoon. 

 That evening (Friday) our tour officially began with a banquet at the hotel.