Sunday, October 12, 2014

Talk Turkey TWO

As I spend time living in the ME, I learn more and more about the history of this region and how the it became what it is today. It is a millennia-old civilization that has thrived in some of the world’s harshest conditions.

Istanbul was an amazing area with strong ties to the people and cultures of Saudia Arabia and Bahrain.  There are 14 million people living in Istanbul. I find that alone amazing.  However the rich history of Istanbul makes the city even more amazing.
Looking out over the European side of the city. Istanbul is inside both Europe and Asia.

Turkey was once known as the Ottoman EmpireHittites, Phrygians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Seljuks, Mongols, Ottomans and others have all left their works of art, architecture and culture in what is now the Turkish homeland.

READER ALERT - This is a long blog, but there is a surprise photo at the end. DON"T CHEAT and go there now. Read the whole blog.  :-)

Before we left Bahrain for Turkey, DW and I visited the Turkish consulate in Manama, Bahrain to pick up travel books about the area.  Going to the embassy was DW’s idea and I was resistive because I was afraid we would get lost in the back roads of Manama.  She insisted and I was very happy I went with her.  Actually, we did get lost, but we found our way out thanks to two very nice Arab men that directed us the right road.

When we arrived, on a whim I asked if the Ambassador was in and available.  We had met Ambassador Hatun Demirer, at an American Woman’s Association luncheon only a couple of weeks previously.
DW (middle) with American Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski and Turkish Ambassador Hatun Demirer, at the AWA meeting.
We were extremely lucky, she was in.  She came rushing out to meet us and gave us the 3 kiss “Turkish” greeting. She explained every area has it’s own greeting with kisses on the cheek. In Turkey you have 3 kisses on alternating cheeks.

D and I are taking Arabic lessons and our teacher told us that the custom in Saudi Arabia is one kiss on each cheek. I am still trying to find out if the Bahrainian "kiss greeting" is different.

It was very lovely to see Ambassador Demirer, again and we felt especially excited to be going to visit her country. She is a great ambassador for Turkey.

There are several places in Istanbul that everyone recommended we visit.  Even Ambassador Demirer insisted we must see these and we did see them all.

Aya Sofya Museum
This museum was consecrated as a church in 537 and covered to a mosque in 1453.

The view inside the dome of the Aya Sofya Museum.
Windows inside the Aya Sofya Museum.
This was our view of the Aya Sofya as we ate lunch.
Doug and a sleeping friend just outside the museum.
Topika Palace.
This is a group of buildings and structures.
Many of the mosques and buildings built in Istanbul used recycled colums and stone from other sites. This seemed to be a theme in many of the historical sites.  No one is sure where all of them came from. It was very interesting to see these different kinds of stone and wonder how they were able to move them from Italy and other sites to come to Istanbul. Along the path leading up to the Topaki Palace there were "extra" pieces from other historical sites that were open to the public. We wandered through them, sat on them and touched many of the old carvings.

Doors to the Topaki Palace.
Gold door inside the Topaki Palace.
Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I.
Called the Blue Mosque by foreign visitors because of its interior tiles, it disappoints if you're looking for lots of blue because the blue tiles are mostly on the inaccessible upper floors. Otherwise, the mosque is among the finest examples of Istanbul's wonderful imperial Ottoman mosques.

Ceiling view in the Blue Mosque.
Multiple arches and domes that were amazing.
Basilica Cistern.
The Basilica Cistern is a subterranean structure commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532. The largest surviving Byzantine cistern in ─░stanbul, it was constructed using 336 columns, many of which were salvaged from ruined temples and feature fine carved capitals. Its symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite breathtaking.

There is a great description of the Basilica Cistern on this web site:

Coastlineof the Bosporus Straight. 
According to the Encyclopedia of Earth, the Bosporus or Bosphorus (also known as the Istanbul Strait) is a strait connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara (and beyond it, through the Dardenelles to the Aegean Sea/Mediterranean Sea). Together with the Dardanelles, the Bophosrus forms the Turkish Straits which separates the European part of Turkey from its Asian part.
View from the boat.
We had a wonderful cruise on the Bosporus and it was quite beautiful. One stop was at a hunting lodge used by the sultans.  This house had no bedrooms. It was only used as a stopping over place to rest and regroup.
Stairs to the "huntng lodge."
Every place we visited, D and SW would spend a significant amount of time discussing the structure and how the building might have been built.  I found it very enjoyable to listen to their conversations and see the historic building from an engineer and architect’s point of view.  Really, how did they build those arches in the year 537?  AMAZING.
SW and D discussing the Aya Sofya Museum.
Discussing the Cisterns. Did it get LEEDS certified?
Studying the Topaki Palace.
Inspecting the ceiling in the Blue Mosque.
After our Bosporus cruise, we decided to walk from the boat back to our hotel. It was not a long distance and it would give us a different view of the area. Previously we only took a taxi when we wanted to go to the port area.

Leaving the docks, we walked through an area that was both a bus terminal and subway station. When we first walked up to the area I was overwhelmed with the number of people. 

One of our many selfies at the port.
To reach the other side of the busy street, we would need to go under the street through a tunnel.  I really was not prepared for the crush of humanity in this small space.  At first I thought I might panic as I was shoved along in the wave of people going to the other side, but finally I just gave in and “went with the flow.”  Now I have a much deeper understanding of that saying.
This video is over 3 minutes long.  It is as long as it took us to move through the tunnel. It is a very interesting experience. I don’t think the video gives you a complete feeling of the movement of the crowd, but you can sense the closeness of the others and how little control I had over my movements. I was very happy to reach the other side of the tunnel.

One night we had a wonderful dinner in the trendy Restaurant 360 overlooking the entire region and the Bosporus Straight that runs between the old city and the new city. SW took this picture of the people crowding the street using his cell as we walked home. I am not sure what enhancement he used, but you can feel the people "dancing in the streets."

Street scenes along the way to our hotel gave us some very good pictures of life in Istanbul.

Our last night was a wonderful time and I will share that with you along with my favorite photo of the trip in MY NEXT BLOG. 


In the Cistern there was a "Disney" opportunity.  Here is the Sultan D and his harem.

No comments:

Post a Comment