Norwegian Spirit, Istanbul

Lin and Beth   /  

Istanbul 19th Oct Norwegian Spirit
We docked at 9am and could see the distinctive minarets of the Istanbul skyline as we sailed up the Bosphorus.
Istanbul has apparently been the most over run City in the world. The peoples of Turkey came from Mongolia to escape religious persecution, and the city was conquered by the Sea Peoples Persians Greeks Romans and 4 Crusades.among others.
We met our guide and driver and ventured into the busiest traffic since the M1 at Birmingham. There is no controlled entry like Rome and London so it was slow.
1st stop the Hippodrome and it featured an obelisk from Egypt ( the guide said it was not stolen as the Romans controlled both Turkey and Egypt 2000 years ago and it was moving their assets around). It lay in the harbour on a boat for 30 years until they worked out how to move it. The hippodrome was the centre of the popular sport of horse racing. Not Flemington style but chariots with up to 6 horses tearing around this large area. The bronze serpentine coiled out of the level of the old city, 2 metres below the current level. The final object in the area was a huge stone square pinnacle that was originally covered in bronze but the bronze was removed and reused by the Crusades. There is little left of the original hippodrome except for the large area that has remained unused except for the tall monuments.
The Blue Mosque was next with 24,000 blue tiles on its interior roof giving it its name. It is dazzling in its beauty and size. It has 6 minarets as it is the Imperial mosque. There are 2000 mosques in Istanbul, 200 churches and other religious centres.
We then walked past Hagia Sophia to the Topkapi Palace that is in the same huge square. We were all impressed by the decorated rooms, the displays of clocks, weapons and porcelain which the guide says is the 3rd best in world after China and Germany. The jewellery display was very well guarded. The kitchen was impressive as all food for the palace was prepared there to reduce the risk of fire to the other buildings.
Our guide’s knowledge was impressive as she continually gave us history and facts and she apparently lectures in Economic History and Finance at the University.
Hagia Sophia impressed us all. It had been a Christian church since the Roman Emperor Constantine for over 1000 years and then Muslim since 1500s. It has been a museum since 1934. The domes and half domes in the structure and the walls are being renovated about a quarter on the church at a time so they do not have to shut the whole church for 2 years. It is a delicate process because of the intricate mosaics and trying to keep both Muslim and Christian important features. We were able to walk around the 2nd floor overlooking the. whole interior with its many decorations. One interesting feature was the sloping pillars and uneven arches from earthquakes. The floor marble is also severely cracked.
Istanbul has a wonderful water Cistern below the city that was able to keep the city supplied in times of siege. It is the size of a large cathedral with hundreds of brick arches and pillars. There is even 2 Medusas ( 1 upside down and 1 sideways) in stone at the bottom of 2 columns to bring good fortune to the Cistern. The kids were impressed by the carp that were swimming in the 1m of water all through the storage.
Last stop was the Grand Bazaar which has 400 streets and 4000 shops. We remembered it from 48 years ago as being busier then ( shoulder to shoulder busy) but it is impressive in its range of all types of goods from kitchen pottery to expensive jewellery. We bought some nougat and Turkish delight.
We watched an impressive sail away, few cities can match this skyline of dozens of minarets.
Dinner was in the Dining Room and was hamburgers, veal scallapine and chicken Kiev and a pizza for Matthew.


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