Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mediterranean Vacation { Istanbul, Turkey }

I'm not even sure where to begin with Istanbul.  It was the reason we picked this cruise.  We knew next to nothing about the city before we went, and I'm not sure we know much more now.

Istanbul is massive.  It smells good - like ocean, flowers, incense and street food.  It feels aged and stately and vibrant all at the same time.  It is a melting pot, but not in the New York/LA sense of the word; it is a true crossroads of civilization. It's very apparent that Istanbul has seen and heard more human history than one can possibly imagine.

It is stunning. Your eyes will be exhausted from looking at all the Color and Pretty.  Istanbul is Stylish.  So very, very stylish.  I wore my best pair of 7's and a black trench coat with a pretty silk scarf and thought myself well-appointed.  Not so.  I wish I'd had the time (and means) to purchase an entirely new wardrobe in Istanbul.

And on that note...bring lots of money - you will inevitably want to buy a stunning pair of sparkly brocade ballet flats in the bowels of a subterranean antiques shop on your way back to the port, and you don't want to have to say 'no' and regret it to this day.

Sailing into the Bosporus, we had an amazing view of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  

We decided to go to the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish) first, which added some walking to our trip but was well worth it.

Then on to the Blue Mosque - more crowded than the Ayasofya, but just as beautiful.

 We made our way to the Grand Bazaar, which I was looking forward to, but just found overwhelming.  I did my shopping in the Arasta Bazaar (behind the Blue Mosque - look for Jennifer's Hamam there).

After fighting our way through the maze of pillow-cover-carpet-tacky-souvenier shops and back out into the open air, we rewarded ourselves with a stop for street food.  I really wish we'd taken the time to eat more in Turkey.  The food looked and smelled Amazing.

There were pomegranate juice stands all over the city.  Again, I wish we'd taken the time to stop at one!

Our last stop was one that nearly didn't happen.  We made our way back to the park in between Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque in time for the afternoon call to prayer (which is lovely and deafening standing between the two giant mosques).  We had a couple hours left before we had to make our way back to the ship and decided that since we were there, we should try and see the Topkapi Palace.

We could have spent the entire day there - as it was, we toured a small part of the grounds and saw the treasure room.  That was it.  The palace is HUGE.  Plan to be there for a while.

I don't know if it was the time of day or the time of the year or what, but the palace had a sort of faded, crumbling beauty thing going on.  Dry leaves swirled around chipped stone courtyards, treasures like a mosaic tiled wall or a tortoise-shell door seemed to abound around every corner.  Oh that?  No big deal.  Just a carved marble railing that goes on for about a mile.  This?  Oh, a shabby little pavilion the Byzantine Emperor used during the summer.

And that sentiment actually sums up Istanbul pretty well.  It can afford to be casual about its awesomeness.  Because, you's seen it ALL.

all photos, mine

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