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Europe Cruise Day 16
Tuesday, September 21st
Istanbul, Turkey

Since I will still be in Istanbul, there is no need for the map or time check.

As noted yesterday, today's shore excursion is Istanbul Deluxe Part II. Here is the description.

After a short panoramic drive through the Old Town of Istanbul you will arrive at the Ancient Hippodrome, once the largest chariot racetrack of the Roman Byzantine Empire. From there it is a short walk to the Blue Mosque. This incredible monument to Islam was completed in 1616 and is a triumph of harmony, proportion and elegance. The blue Iznik tiles covering the walls give the mosque its name. Nearby is the Topkapi Palace, the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The palace consists of courts, pavilions, mosques, fountains and a rich Treasury section. The Harem was the home of the sultan and is an exceptional insight into how the rulers lived. Enjoy some free time to browse on your own. Stop for a spectacular lunch at one of the authentic Ottoman house restaurants located in the Old Town. You will taste delicious Turkish cuisine cooked in Ottoman and Turkish styles, lovingly prepared by the chef. After lunch, you will visit the famous St. Sophia Church, built during Emperor Justinian’s reign in 537 AD. St. Sophia’s dome was then the largest in the world and it remained the greatest church in Christendom for centuries. After several conquests and pillages, the building was converted into a mosque, but fell into disrepair as the centuries passed. Its magnificent mosaics were uncovered in the 1900s and the church was later dedicated as a Byzantine-Ottoman museum. At the end of your tour, you will return to the port, stopping en route for a carpet demonstration. A short stop will be made for a carpet demonstration and the Grand Bazaar for some shopping en route to the pier.

This is considered to be a continuation of yesterdays excursion and is expected to last approximately 8 hours.

The ship is scheduled to depart at 5:00PM heading to Antalya, Turkey a day and a half from now.

How it actually happened!!!
(written November, 2011)

From the blog about today......

Today’s shore excursion, called Istanbul Deluxe, Pt. 2 (surprisingly enough) actually left early at about 7:55AM. This ones itinerary started at the Blue Mosque, then a carpet demo, then the Grand Bazaar, then the Topkapi Palace, Lunch, and finally Hagia Sophia and back to the ship. This may sound like a lot but none of these places are too far apart so it was not too bad.

The blog continues talking about the Blue Mosque.....

The most notable thing about the Blue Mosque is that it is not blue on the outside but it has quite a number of blue mosaics on the inside. This is where it gets the name blue. One other unique thing about it is that it has 6 minarets. Apparently there was a misunderstanding between the people who wanted the mosque built and the architect. There should only have been four.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque which is the Blue Mosque's proper name was built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Sultan Ahmed 1. It has a capacity of approximately 10,000 people and looks a bit like the neighbouring Hagia Sophia which was built just over 1,000 years earlier. Apparently "the architect has ably synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour". (Quote from Wikipedia).

Here are a group of pictures of the Sultan Ahmed (or the Blue) Mosque.

Blue Mosque 1 Blue Mosque 2
Our guide explaining things outside. Still explaining. She was not allowed to speak inside.
Blue Mosque 3 Blue Mosque 6
Part of the continuous vaulted arcade that circled the courtyard. Most of the colour in the upper sections comes from blue paint.
Blue Mosque 4 Blue Mosque 5
The upper parts of the mosque. You see a bit of why it is called the Blue Mosque in the picture.
Blue Mosque 7 Blue Mosque 9
Many of the over 200 windows. More of the ceiling area and some of the "blue".
Blue Mosque 8 Blue Mosque 10
The columns are massive. Most of the colour you see here comes from
20,000 hand made ceramic tiles.
Blue Mosque 11 Blue Mosque 12
I do not know what the area in front of the column is but it is interesting The large open area is where prayers are held.
Blue Mosque 13 Blue Mosque 14
There are more than 200 stained glass windows. It is a massive place.
Blue Mosque 15 Blue Mosque 16
There are 28 windows around this central dome. More of the domes and the "blue".
Blue Mosque 17
The very red carpet has a tulip motif. Apparently tulips are a very important Islamic symbol.
I wonder who's toes those are in the bottom of the picture?
Blue Mosque 18 Blue Mosque 19
I think this is the back balcony. This gives you some idea of how large,
and in places how "blue" this building is.

Below is a panorama of three images, I think, that shows most of the ceiling area along the centre of the Mosque. It looks a bit strange but it does give you an idea of it..

Blue Mosque Panorama 1

Here is a second panorama of two images showing the floor area.

Blur mosque Panorama 2

When one exits the Mosque one comes out into Sultan Ahmed Park and you see this.

Shore Excursion 1 Shore Excursion 3
The St Sophia Museum (Hagia Sophia)
from just outside the mosque.
A little better angle.

After one gets a ways out and one turns around, one sees this.

Shore Excursion 2 Shore Excursion 4
The mosque from the park. A bit better picture of it from another section of the park.

The excursions next stop was the carpet demonstration. My blog entry says all that needs to be said about that......

The carpet demo was really only a sales pitch for a company that sells hand made Turkish carpets. Some interesting facts, but not much else of interest.

Here is one picture taken as we continued to the next stop.

Shore Excursion 5

I thought the name of the parking garage was interesting.

The next stop was the well known Grand Bazaar. Here is what I said in the blog about it, then some pictures.....

A short walk from the carpet store was the Grand Bazaar. This was more like a shopping mall than the spice bazaar of yesterday. There were some similar aspects but not really very interesting. One interesting thing about bazaars in general is that they are often associated with and owned/built by a Mosque. The two that I was in certainly were.

Shore Excursion 6

On the way to the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar 1 Grand Bazaar 3
The entrance to the Grand Bazaar (as it says above the door). Lots and lots of stuff to purchase.
Grand Bazaar 4 Grand Bazaar 5
Not as busy as the Spice Bazaar of yesterday. More stuff.
Grand Bazaar 2 Grand Bazaar 6
It looks a bit more like an old style North American shopping mall. One last picture.

The next stop was Topkapi Palace. This place was the "official and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624 year reign". Construction started in 1459 shortly after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul. At one point during that time 4000 people lived in it. It gradually lost its importance near the end of the 17th century when most of the functions were transferred to the more modern Dolmabahçe Palace which I (we, if you looked at the previous page) saw last night on the Bosporus cruise. It became a museum after the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921.

Here is what I said in the blog about this place......

The Topkapi Palace was the home of the Sultans and his harems. The complexity of the society that existed here is too much to describe here.  Let me just say that the whole reason for the existence of this was to provide an heir to the throne. It may not have been a biological heir but an heir of royal stature (in this culture anyway). The complexity of who did what with whom and what the end results were could be is staggering. There are many mosaics again and a nice view of the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait.

Here is a collection of pictures of the palace.

Palace 1 Palace 2
The Imperial Gate The Gate of Salutation.
Palace 3 Palace 4
A model of the palace. I think this is the Courtyard of the Harem Eunuchs.
Palace 5 Palace 6
Some of the wall tiles in or near the courtyard.
Most of these types of mosaics that you see in the palace are ceramic tiles of one type or another.
Hey, the guy in the red jacket is taking a picture!
Oh, it is just me taking a picture of myself in the mirror!
Palace 7 Palace 8
I believe this is the Passage of the Concubines. This is the Courtyard of the Concubines.
Palace 9 Palace 10
I think these are the Apartments of the Queen Mother. A view of the dome at the top of the previous picture.
Palace 11 Palace 12
I think this is the Bath of the Sultan and the Queen Mother. This is the Imperial Hall.
Palace 13 Palace 14
The Imperial Hall again with the throne of the sultan on the far left. Not sure what room this was in but it sure is ornate.
It may be another section of the Imperial Hall.
Palace 15 Palace 16
This is the Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince. Light in the apartments was provided by stained glass windows.
Palace 17 Palace 18
The Conqueror's Pavilion houses the Imperial Treasury. The view of the Bosphorus Strait from the palace.
Palace 19 Palace 20
There were a lot of cats here.
This is just one of them asleep under a tree.
The palace kitchens with their many tall chimneys.

Palace 21

I believe this is the Tower of Justice which was/is visible from all around for great distances.
This "tower symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice".

The blog continues....

Lunch was at a place called the Green House restaurant that is hidden between the palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. We were told to look for a green house. Well, what would you think to look for, a green house that grows plants, right? Wrong, in this case it was actually a house with pale green wood siding. It had what looked like a garden green house out the back but you could not see it. The food was interesting and I tried most of it. Unfortunately much of it did not agree with me or many others it appeared either. It was a nice atmosphere though.

The final stop was my most anticipated one, Hagia Sophia. I would have liked about 10 minutes more than they gave us there but still it is/was quite amazing. It is in amazing shape for a building built between 540 and 546AD which makes it almost 1,500 years old. The first dome on it collapsed as the result of an earthquake about 10 years after it was finished but the new one has lasted ever since. It was first built as a Christian church, and then converted to a mosque with four minarets and now it is a museum.

Here is just a bit of the history of Hagia Sophia. The name comes from Greek and means "Church of the Holy Wisdom of God". There have been three churches at this location, with the current one being the third one, all of which have been called Hagia Sophia. Construction on this third one was started in February of 532AD and completed in December of 537. It was an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral from 562-1204, a Roman Catholic Cathedral from 1204-1261, Eastern Orthodox again from 1261-1453 and an Imperial Mosque from 1453-1931 when it was secularized. It opened as a museum in 1935. It has been raided, pillaged and through who knows what else in the almost 1500 years of its existence. It has been through a number of earthquakes (Istanbul is located in a geologically active area). These have caused numerous structural problems most of which have been successfully repaired over the years.

Hagia Sophia is considered to be one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. It was the worlds largest cathedral for over 1,000 years until the cathedral in Seville, Spain was built.

Here are some pictures.

Museum 1 Museum 2
The entrance. What you see when you enter.
The central dome is 55.6 metres from floor level and is slightly elliptical averaging 31 metres in diameter. The dome collapsed in an earthquake in 558 because the original one was too flat and was rebuilt with a number of unique changes including increasing the height by just over 6 metres that have made it last until now.
Museum 3 Museum 4
The half dome at the end was a trick the builders used to make the church as big as Emperor Justinian 1 wanted it. It also helped provide structural support to the large central dome. These columns are used to make the building look bigger and were also used to reduce the weight of, and to support and strengthen, the structure.
Museum 5 Museum 6
These columns are marble and are believed to have been brought from somewhere else. You may notice that some of these columns are different heights. This was compensated for by using different height capitals on the tops and bases at the bottoms. The two small half domes on either side help support the half dome in the middle which in turn helps support the large centre dome.
Museum 7 Museum 8
The building has had major problems with weight ever since the construction began in 532. You can see the thickness of the major load bearing columns on either side of this picture. Here you can see many of the various domes, arches and columns that the builders used to bear, and try to reduce, the weight of the upper parts of the building.
Museum 9 Museum 10
The central dome, parts of which have been cleaned and parts that have not yet been cleaned. Apparently there was a major problem with the dome roof a number of years ago that has been repaired. Most of the colour you see here is from marble mosaics.
Museum 11 Museum 12
The two large disks are left over from when it was a mosque. The large images on either side are apparently seraphim's.
Museum 13 Museum 14
The ceiling of the exit. Another part of the exits ceiling.

One comment is that the excursion was rapidly running out of time by the time it arrived here. I think that 10 or 15 more minutes more here would have been nice and not made things so rushed.

One last picture taken in the park before the excursion left this area.

Shore Excursion 7

I thought this was a neat flower pot. There were a number of these with different people holding the pots.
You can see part of another one at the top left of the picture.

From the blog......

So after all this sightseeing the excursion arrived back at the ship at just about 3:30PM. 

Here are a couple of pictures taken from the dock before returning to the ship.

Shore Excursion 8 Westerdam Istanbul Daylight
The St. Sophia Museum from the dock near the ship. A daytime view of the ship at the dock, from the dock.

From the blog...

The ship sailed at about 4:50PM again with a strong wind and a tug boat in case assistance was necessary.

Here are 6 pictures taken as the ship departed Istanbul.

From Ship 1 From Ship 2
The St. Sophia Museum and the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque. Other ships at the dock as we were departing.
Departure 1 Departure 2
The dock we have now departed from. Istanbul's famous ferries came and departed just in front of where the Westerdam was docked.
Departure 3 Departure 4
Looking north up the Bosphorus at Bosphorus Bridge. The mosque, the museum, and the Topkapi Palace as the ship headed out into the Marmara Sea.
Departure 5 Departure 6
The central part of Istanbul looking north along the western shore of the Bosphorus. Looking back towards where the ship was docked which is hidden behind what is known as Seraglio Point. The three sites listed in the caption above are located in the green area of the point, on the left.

Well, the ship departs after an interesting overnight stay in Istanbul heading for Antalya, Turkey two days from now.

I should also note that much of the information on these two pages for Istanbul came from Wikipedia. Many thanks to them for their efforts.

On to Day 17!

Page Created: August 3, 2010
After Trip Update Started: October 29, 2011
After Trip Update Completed: November 2, 2011
Last Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 6:22 PM

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