Live from Istanbul

Posted on Posted in Grand Mediterranean via Princess Crusies, Princess Cruises

Istanbul port review for cruise visitors

Driving into Istanbul.
Driving into Istanbul.

Well…. I made it. In total, I traveled over 16 hours to get from John Wayne Airport to TAV Istanbul Ataturk Airport. The good thing is that I have traveled as far east as my journey will require, and as I say, the rest of my trip will be a piece of cake. Um…personally I like going westbound on cruises because you gain time, which is (in my mind) is a better value.

City Highlights Tour

My group is meeting the ship, which is in-transit. That means that we will board a voyage that is already in progress. Most of the Royal Princess passengers embarked in Venice, Italy. So, our group arranged a private city tour before we board the ship. Below are a must sees that we visited before heading to the ship.

Hippodrome

One of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque

Cruise fact: The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets, which is the maximum number allowed. The Blue Mosque, completed in 1616, it is a triumph of harmony, proportion, and elegance.  The mosque was a part of a complex also including, tombs, fountains, kitchens, and a bath. It’s colorful 260 windows enable the sunlight to reach inside.  The blue Iznik Tiles covering the walls have given the mosque its popular name,  Blue Mosque.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Once the residence of the sultans for almost three centuries, the Topkapı Palace is located on the promontory jutting out between the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.  Construction of the structure took between 1465 and 1478.  The Palace was the imperial residence of the Sultan, his court and harem for many years. The palace was also the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire. 4,000 people lived in the Palace. In the Treasury section be on the lookout for the 7th largest diamond in the world:  the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond”.

St. Sophia – Haiga Sophia

Inside Haiga Sophia
Inside Haiga Sophia

Also known as the Church of the Divine Wisdom, St. Sophia was built during Emperor Justinian’s reign ( AD 537 ). Back in the day, this was the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II , who converted the structure into a mosque.  In 1934, Atatürk proclaimed it a museum.

The Grand Bazaar

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the largest and oldest covered Bazaar in Turkey. There are more than  4,000 shops selling everything from rugs to scarves.  The merchants are hoping you will enter their shops for a cup of tea, which indicates your intention of doing business – so sip wisely.

Venture into the hidden courtyards or hans, look out for marble fountains and ornate kiosks.  Streets are named according to the trades and the most oriental atmosphere in Istanbul is found in the bazaar.

Lunch is served

Traditional Turkish food is largely the heritage of Ottomon cuisine (so says Wikipedia). The dishes represent a fusion  Central Asia, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.

Colorful spices enhance Turkish cuisine. Photo by Carrie Finley.Bajak.
Colorful spices enhance Turkish cuisine. Photo by Carrie Finley.Bajak.

A friend told me I was going to love the food in Turkey and guess what? My friend was totally right. The dish that I love the most is called Meze. But before you get all excited, that just refers to the appetizer-ish small bites like fetta cheese (Turkish cheese), melon, köfte (meatballs), humus, rice stuffed vine leaves.  You get the picture. #Yum.

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