Day 29: Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Tale of Two Continents
Currency: Turkish new lira
historically Byzantium and later Constantinople,
is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial
center. The city covers 25 districts of the Istanbul province.
It is located on the Bosphorus strait, and encompasses the
natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the
country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the
Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only
metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. In
its long history, Istanbul served as the capital city of the
Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and
1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire
(1453-1922). The city boundaries cover a surface area of 1,539
square kilometers, while the metropolitan region, or the
Province of Istanbul, covers 6,220 square kilometers.
According to the 2000 census, the population was 8,803,468 (city
proper) and 10,018,735 (metro area).
The weather was much better on
this day than our first time through the Bosporus. We had
an early breakfast because all of our party had decided to take
a Shore Excursion called
Istanbul". This turned out to be a big mistake.
It sounded real good in the brochure:
Europe and Asia meet in the city of Istanbul. See the best of
both continents by motor coach. In Asia, your guide will point
out Beylerbei Palace, and in Europe, the ancient city walls, and
Suleymaniye Mosque. Next, you'll see the Hippodrome, where
ancient Byzantine entertainment spectacles such as gladiator
fights and chariot races took place. This beautiful
elliptical-shaped park features an obelisk from Egypt dating to
3000 BC. Finally, you will visit the Blue Mosque with its six
minarets and stunning blue interior. En route back to the ship
you will also glimpse the Topkapi Palace and Byzantine St Sophia
Church, and stop for a chance to shop at the Grand Bazaar.
NOTES: Expect dense traffic conditions in Istanbul. Shoulders
and knees must be covered and shoes must be removed before
entering any religious site.
tour started by taking us across the first Bosphorus Bridge to
the Asian side of Istanbul. The problem was we were
driving in the last part of the early morning rush hour.
According to our tour guide, of the 10 million people in
Istanbul, 4 million go from the Asian side to European side each
morning and back again in the evening. He said it takes
him 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to work. The same trip
on a Sunday takes 20 minutes. Because we were going
against the traffic flow, it did not take us too long to get
across the Bridge. The bus took us down close to the water
and we got a quick glimpse of the Beylerbei Palace behind
a brick wall. Then the bus driver took over 30
View of the
first Bosphorus Bridge from the window of our tour bus
minutes to turn
the bus around and get back on to the Bridge. All in all
we spent an hour and a half just to say we had crossed from
Europe into Asia and back.
arrived at the Hippodrome, centre of sporting life, and the
scene of games and riots through 500 years of Byzantine Ottoman
history as well. It's now a calm city park called the
Horse Grounds because of its function in Ottoman times. It
features an Egyptian obelisk brought to Istanbul in 390 AD.
On one side of the park is the
famous Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Camii.
The cascading domes and six
slender minarets of the Blue Mosque dominate the skyline of
Istanbul. In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an
Islamic place of worship to rival the Hagia Sophia, and the
mosque named for him is the impressive result. The two great
architectural achievements stand next to each other in
Istanbul's main square, and it is up to visitors to decide which
is more impressive. The six minarets caused quite a
The Blue Mosque
scandal, as the mosque in Mecca
also had six minarets. The problem was solved by adding a
seventh minaret to Mecca's mosque. The mosque is huge, with a
capacity of about 10,000 people; among the first experiences for
a visitor to the mosque is coming to is the courtyard. Ablution
fountains around the courtyard allow Muslims to prepare to enter
the mosque by wash their face, arms, neck and feet as well as
mouth and nose. here is a portal on the left hand side which is
entrance for the local people. Upon turning to the left, one
comes to the main entrance of the mosque. The shoes must be
taken off and put into plastic bags. The courtyard is tiered and
marble steps take visitors from one level to the next.
Being inside the mosque makes one feel small. After the gate,
one meets the breathtaking interior of the mosque with its
chandeliers and blue tiles. The mosque is all surrounded by
A Side Note: Before we
entered the mosques, several of our group paid money to an
attendant to go down a set of stairs to use the washrooms.
We noticed these "pay-as-you-go" restrooms all over Europe.
Some of them are more heavily guarded than most military
17C Iznik tiles which give its
name to the Blue Mosque. It is all carpeted with prayer rugs
because people must put their forehead on the floor andtherefore
the floor should be soft and clean. The building is nearly
a square and covered with a dome of 23.5 m in diameter and 43m
high. There are four colossal standing columns of 5m in
diameter which give the basic support to the building. The
mosque has 260 windows which let the sunlight diffuse into the
building quite nicely. They were filled with stained-glass in
early 17C but they were restored later. I took a lot of
photos in the Mosque. Some did not turn out because
flashes are not allowed. I have put them in a photo
leave the Blue Mosque, you cross a small park and come to the
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), now known as the Ayasofya
Museum, was an early Christian Church and later an Eastern
Orthodox church which was transformed into a mosque in 1453 by
the Turks, and converted into a museum in 1935. It is
regularly considered one of the greatest and most beautiful
buildings in history. Its conquest by the Ottomans at the fall
of Constantinople is considered one of the great tragedies of
Christianity by the Greek Orthodox faithful. Our
did not allow us any time to go inside the Hagia Sophia.
We climbed back
onto the bus and were driven a short distance to a carpet
factory near the bazaar. We then spent an hour listening
to slick salesmen try to sell us a carpet. Although it was
interesting to find out the difference between various carpets
and how they are made, this was another wasted hour. The
only thing of real value on our excursion was the Blue Mosque.
tour was over and we only had to walk a couple of blocks to the
Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar (or Covered Bazaar,
Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) is one of the largest covered
markets in the world with a surface of 30.7 hectares, 61
streets, 10 wells, 4 fountains, 2 mosques and over 3 thousand
shops and has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is
well known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops.
Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods,
with special areas for leather coats, gold jewelry and the like.
The bazaar contains two bedestans, or domed masonry structures
built for storage and safe keeping. The Bazaar is a
colorful place, and with peddlers shouting their wares and
customers bargaining, it is always abuzz with activity.
pink pants), Carol and Arlene (in black pants) inspect bags at
the entrance to the Grand Bazaar
A visit to the
Grand Bazaar offers a unique shopping experience steeped in the
flavors of Turkish life and culture. The ladies were in
seventh heaven. Ken decided to leave them to it and walked
back to the ship, about 2.5 km. He knew he had to head north and
downhill to reach the water. He would walk a block, turn
left or right then right or left, always try to keep the sun at
his back. It took him 25 minutes to reach the water, moving on
streets, lined with shops selling turned wood, kitchen items,
new and used clothing, toys, backgammon sets, and everything
else imaginable. At the bottom of the hill you'll come to
the Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Çarsisi, also called the
Spice Market). Inside, the jewelry and tourist shops are
taking over, but there are still lots of shops selling dried
fruits, nuts, teas, spices and natural remedies. Outside, in the
surrounding streets, it's still a great food market for the
locals. Ken, who was the only man amongst the
Istanbul Map - not to scale
finally made his way down to the main road that runs along the
water, passing by the
Yeni Cami (New Mosque).
He could not cross the road because there was a fenced railway
track for the public tram which ran down the middle of the road.
He walked west to the Galata Bridge which would take him
over the Golden Horn. The Golden Horn is a
horn-shaped fjord on the European side of Istanbul and is fed by
two small streams. It is a natural harbor where Byzantine and
Ottoman fleet and commercial ships were anchored. Today, it's
surrounded by parks and promenades with ancient sites around it.
Its name may come from the color of the water when at sunset it
shines with a gold color because of the reflection of the sun.
Because he could not get across the tracks, Ken had to cross on
the west side of the Galata Bridge. The first thing he
noticed was the large number of men fishing off the bridge on
both sides. Halfway across the bridge there was a tower
with an opening and stairs leading below the bridge. Ken
went down and now he could cross underneath the bridge to the
east side. He noticed that the bottom of the bridge was
full of shops. He climbed the stairs in the tower on the
east side of the bridge and finished crossing. Once on the
other side he made his way down to the waterfront and made the
long walk along the pier to our ship. The total trip took
90 minutes in the hot sun and he was exhausted
with fishermen on top and shops underneath
time he got back. A dip in the pool, a cold beer and a nap
on the Sea View deck revived him. As he stood on the deck
at the back of the ship, Ken was amazed by the number of ships
entering or leaving the Bosporus. Facing east first and
doing a 180° turn to the west, he counted a
total of 30 vessels of all shapes and sizes from ocean-going
tankers to small local ferries and fishing boats.
The ladies caught a shuttle bus back from the bazaar.
Dinner that night was informal and we saw a Transylvania
entertainer named Dima Belinski who played several
instruments including the "Draculaphone", a series of
cymbals, horns and whistles attached to a suit which he donned
and played. Very entertaining.
I took the photos below from the
back of the ship. It is a panorama of the entrance to the
Bosporus from the Sea of Marmara. I could not stitch it
into a single photo because I was too close and the ships were
moving but they will give you some idea of number of ships in
Istanbul at any one time.
Click here for a slide show of Day 29 photos.