From Dervishes to Samba - Fall 2011 travel blog

tour boats

Sulemanye Mosque

Fahti Bridge

Bosphorus Bridge

Dohlambahce Palace

two lovebirds onboard

Topkapi Palace

Galata Tower

Grand Bazaar entrance

inside

eye of Allah

gold anyone?

Taksim Square


After yesterday's tour of antiquities crammed with history, our guide said that today would be our fun day. Everything he says makes me smile. If you are an old fan of Saturday Night Live, you saw the routine that Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd used to do where they were "wild and crazy guys." I think they pretended they were from Yugoslavia, but the accent they used matches our guide's to a T. I try not to laugh out loud when he speaks, but feel a little tickle every time he talks.

The day started with a Bosphorus Cruise, something that we had just done two days ago. But this time there were ten of us on a boat built for fifty and we could readily run from side to side taking photos. And there is so much to see along the shoreline, that it was hard to take note of it all or remember all the names even for the second time. We learned that the area around Dolembahce Palace had been open green space until the sultan moved the palace here from Topkapi. Suddenly anyone who was anyone rushed out of town to build a residence nearby.

There is such a variety of architectural styles along the strait. Many could be seen in Venice, Paris, or Vienna, but then a mosque would appear and remind us where we are. Two bridges cross the Bosphorus. We remember the great fanfare when we were first here in 1978 when the first one just opened. Even with these bridges the ferries still have plenty to do bringing people and cars from Europe to Asia and back again. For a city of 16 million, Istanbul had relatively little container port facilities. Our guide said it is not a major port for the country.

Then we went to the Grand Bazaar which is an enclosed shopping mall that has been here for hundreds of years. There are over 4,000 shops inside and even though there are sign here and there, as a navigationally impaired person I am always worried that I will not find my way back out. While locals used to shop here, it has pretty much been taken over by cruisers who can find all the things they might like in this convenient enclosed space. Because there were no ships in port today, there was plenty of room to walk around and admire. There was a thing or two I would have liked to buy, but with two flights ahead and limited luggage capacity, I had to treat the bazaar like a grand museum.

Our final stop was in the new part of town. We took the second oldest metro built in Europe to the Taksim Square area. If you were to see a protest or celebration take place in Istanbul, Taksim is where it would be. It is surrounded by a pedestrian mall where the Starbucks duke it out with Gloria Jean's. The names of many stores were quite familiar, although some had unusual spellings and endings to Turkify them a bit. Here we saw more women out and about and far fewer in head scarves and black coats.

We want to thank those of you who have been concerned about how the recent earthquake in eastern Turkey has or will affect us. Except for a little CNN in the hotel, we would hardly know that it has happened. Turkey is a big country larger than the state of Texas and our planned tour will only circle about 30% of it. We will never get near the area that is suffering so much today.

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