Friday, March 27, 2015

Trotting around Turkey

The call to prayer is going on as I type this....the mosque is quite close.  It starts up at 5 a.m. and I dare anyone to sleep through it!!! 

The tour is going great and we are a small group of 7 who all seem to get along well.  Our tour leader Kemet is a doll - she is so full of knowledge and eager to please.  As we are pretty well on the go all day with a late dinner all I can do is maybe read a few emails and browse Facebook quickly and crash...no time for blogging or much contact with people online. 

We have a free afternoon and I am pretty tired so decided to do a little blog.  I hope you appreciate that I am sitting on my bed sideways doing this. 

This morning we visited Ephesus which was amazing.  The best preserved Roman ruins in the surrounding area.  Rain was forecast but luckily it never materialized as it was windy and I can't imagine trying to negotiate that place (and walking on wet marble) in those conditions.  I will post more on it later..much later...but here are a few photos...

Roman toilets

The library

The Nike brand got their name from this statue - can you see the Nike logo? 

Holes in the marble so the chariots would hot slide when it was wet
Yesterday we had a long bus ride - three buses...to get here.  We are currently in the town of Selcuk which is a five minute drive from the ruins.

Today we went to a place for lunch that makes the local speciality of crepes right in front of you from scratch  - I had a spinach, feta and onion one..yum!!

Spreading the dough and putting the fillings in - the other lady is making Turkish ravioli

Into the oven one by one!

The finished product which was yummy!
The day before yesterday was hectic as we took a tram then a ferry and then a bus to get to the city of Bursa which is the third largest city in the country.  We had a short orientation walk and after lunch we were free to do our own thing.  I went gift shopping!  That evening we visited a local tea house to listen to local musicians play and of course...drink tea!  Very entertaining. From there we went to a Whirling Dirvish ceremony - this is a sect of Islam that is the spiritual side.  Because of my positioning upstairs I only got photos of three but there were six men and young boys whirling for about 25 minutes nonstop with music playing as well as singing.  It was really amazing and I am so glad I got to see it.   And that's been it.  Our hotels have been pretty good - nothing fancy but they do the job.  I have two tiny balconies at the hotel we are at now.  However it is dull and windy out so it's not really tempting me to sit out....a shame...ah well. 




Unfortunately even on sports mode my camera could not capture the action. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Across the water to Asia for lunch

Yes today I was on the continent of Asia.  Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents - separated by the Bosphorus Strait.  I had wanted to get a boat across but I missed it because buying a ticket in a machine was too darn confusing...it's not like I can read Turkish!  So I ended up walking across the Galata bridge which turned out to be fun. 

I must back up and say that this morning we did an orientation walk.  I had done most of the places but it was great to learn more about them from our guide.  We also saw the remains of the hippodrome but the funniest part for me was the stray dogs that live in the area (of course) who chase all big vehicles (they especially like garbage trucks) out of the area.  No doubt a few lose their lives that way - we were quite impressed with the speed of a black and white speciman going hell bent after a small truck.   It was funny as they didn't chase the police car that went through the square or a motorcycle - if I was a dog I think chasing motorcycles would be a fun thing to do.  ...Anyway I digress...

We headed back through the Grand Bazaar again but only the main aisle and then into the spice market where we stopped at a lovely shop and some of us purchased a few items...mine were gifts except for some pomegranate tea..  (yum!) 

I then headed for the water front as we all had the afternoon free.  Once on the other side of the strait (the bridge walk was only ten minutes) I realized I was hungry but did not want a kebab or any kind of meat so opted for a "chief" salad.  What it actually was was a Greek salad.  Vegetables!  Yay!  Tonight we are going to a local restaurant - damn just when I decided I'd go for something non-Turkish (I was eyeing the pizza and pasta a couple of the others had ordered last night - I ordered the Turkish meatballs...) 


Fishermen were lined up on both sides of the bridge

Asian side of Istanbul - all the main attractions are on the European side
Anyway I then went to the other side of the road the bridge was on and darn it...a fabulous fish market with restaurants on the bank where you could order grilled fish and sit at a table on the grass by the water....  Ah well...





By the time I walked back to the European side of the city it was like all hell had broken loose.  Tons of people everywhere - I don't know where they came from but it was wild. 

I hit the ATM and took out much less than I had intended as I was thinking dollars not lira...duh....

Back here to rest up as out for dinner again tonight at 7.  I have to pack up my suitcase and fill my zip up bag with stuff to leave here....I will have to handle my luggage the whole trip (except for hotels - well some of them) so want it to be as light as it can be especially as tomorrow I will be hauling it onto a tram, a ferry and a bus! 


Monday, March 23, 2015

Three mosques and a big big market

Today dawned cloudier than yesterday. After breakfast I wandered along the water front for a bit but resisted taking a boat on the Bosphorus as it was too hazy.  I headed over to the New Mosque which was another beauty...completed in 1663 if you can call that new.  Behind the mosque was a small (once again relatively speaking) market that I wandered through until I came across yet another smaller mosque. 



I came to a smaller mosque in a market that was absolutely beautiful inside...it was not possible to get a photo of the outside - and let's face it they tend to look the same...but it was small but blue inside...they call it the real blue mosque. :)  Apparently it is considered one of the most possible mosques (inside) in the world...




Next up was the Sulymaniye Mosque which is Istanbul's most important mosque completed in 1557.  It is absolutely huge with a stunning view of the city and nice grounds.   I must say things were much quieter today!  I had a hard time finding it but finally got directions and off I went...huff puff up the hill....





I then had lunch...a lamb kebab which was pretty good but I am kebabed out now...sat outside which was nice. 

As the day wore on it got cooler and rained a bit as well....however next up was the Grand Bazaar....yikes.  It is huge and so much stuff and I didn't buy a single thing... I guess I was a bit underwhelmed - it is just a bigger verson of the many markets I have been in and it's very very confusing.  Because it was a slow day was constantly bothered by marketers although I must say they give up easily which is a good thing. The foodie in me prefers Borough Market - not the Chinese crap and cheap stuff at the bazaars.  I know what I want in Turkey...scarves, turkish delight and tea....I can get that at the shops up the street from the hotel.  Can you tell I'm not a shopper? 



All kinds of tea




No she wasn't for sale but wish she would find a good home - reminded me of someone!
I got misplaced coming out of one of the many entrances to the market but found my way to the tram line and followed it back to the hotel....

I must say they take care of their stray dogs here....dogs are picked up and vaccinated and spayed and sport a tag on their ear - all the dogs I saw had one of these.  They all look well fed as the local shopkeepers and residents put food and water out for them.  I know I shouldn't have but one mastiff came by and I noticed someone else petted her so I did and I ended up with a 125 pound (at least) dog laying on my feet wanting her tummy rubbed.  The cats look well cared for as well so it did my animal loving heart good. 

This morning I was informed that I was to change rooms and I assumed it was because I was officially on the tour tonight....so I packed everything up...turns out Intrepid booked me into a shared room even though I paid for a private room and I had the paperwork to prove it.  So I am back into my own room (and a bit nicer than the last one).......I have been assured they will make sure I have my own room for the rest of the tour...I better! 

Anyway Hilary, a gal from Australia was who I would have shared with and she is great but don't want to inflict my snoring on anyone!  We had tea in the lobby and chatted then went up to the room as I needed to change - a knock on the door with a key to my own room...

At 6 we had our group meeting - there are 7 of us - one token male...four from Australia and three of us from Canada...one down the road in Winnipeg....so I think it will be a great group.  Keemat is our guide and she seems great.

We went out for a meal tonight - had meatballs with fries and rice - they are really into that here.  It was pretty good but I am waiting for the Turkish food to wow me...can you believe I was the only one that didn't have wine or beer...me not have wine?  Just was not in the mood for it...I think I am having a mini middle of the trip exhaustion episode....I've been on the road for three and a half months and while I don't miss home at all I guess being on the road so long is taking its toll...hopefully I will perk up as this is probably the most intense two weeks of the whole trip.

Thank goodness we can leave stuff here....when I heard we had to take a tram to the bus on Wednesday morning I was absolutely horrified thinking how can I get that sucker on a tram (and that's with leaving a big bag full of stuff in London with Claudia) but I will go through my suitcase tomorrow and leave things that I won't need here like my dressier shoes...every little bit I don't have to carry will help.  I am trying not think of the trip home to Canada....when all my stuff comes together....

Tomorrow morning it's an orientation walk around the area - kind of a repeat for me but that's okay.  It's a fascinating city and there is always something new to see. 



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Palaces and mosques and ice cream

Yes it was that kind of a day!  Wow am I tired - I left the hotel at 8:30 and came back at 3:30.   Well just saying that sounds kind of pathetic as in the "old days" I wouldn't have been back until 6 or even later..ah well...old age sucks but the alternative sucks even more....

They provide a buffet breakfast here at the hotel so I had some scrambled eggs, goat cheese on bread, some yogurt and that was about it.  The selection was quite extensive so I will take better advantage of it tomorrow.  I just wasn't hungry - me, not hungry?  I know strange isn't it.  I think I felt a bit overwhelmed and I am not sure why as I have certainly been in more exotic locales...

I got the front desk person to mark the hotel on my map and off I went...first stop was the park beside the Topkapi palace called Gulhane park.  It was lovely...



The Topkapi palace opened at 9 so a couple of minutes before I headed over there...the line to get tickets wasn't too long (it was horrible when I left) and I was soon wandering around.  I stayed there for three and a half hours and still didn't see everything however I saw everything I wanted to including the harem.   Topkapi palace was built in 1459 to 1465 and was the seat of government until the 16th century - it was opened to the public in 1924.  During their 470 year reign the Ottoman Sultans amassed many treasures and they are on display at the palace.  The outside buildings aren't as impressive as the interiors.  The treasury was beautiful however no photographs were allowed.  Here are some of the highlights:


 

 


 
 
This is just a tiny bit as I just don't have the time or strong wifi to upload a lot of photos or talk about it in great detail.  When I am home and wishing I was back on the road I plan to go into detail with photos of some of the places I have visited and this will be one.  Just trust me...it was amazing....the harem was interesting as well....
 
 
A short walk away was Haiga Sophia (I was accompanied by a young man who insisted he wasn'ta tour guide but wanted me to visit his shop - can you believe he was waiting for me when I came out of the museum...I told him to sling his hook but in a very nice Canadian way) ...this is over 1400 years old...once a Christian church the Ottomans converted it to a mosque in 1453. It is now a museum.  It retains some Christian aspects and has tiles of Jesus and Mary...it was fantastic.  And huge! 
 
 





Last but certainly not least was the Blue Mosque - I think we've all heard of that one haven't we.  It was as beautiful and magical as I envisioned...sadly the sun was the wrong way for me to get a full on shot but I did manage to get a couple of nice different ones...I had forgotten my scarf in the room so luckily they loan out scarves for women to wear. 






I need to go back so I can photograph it in proper light....it is so beautiful....

I was awfully tired by then and my back was giving me grief so I headed back..but not before having an ice cream cone....I couldn't make up my mind so had all four of the flavours.  And yes the fellow selling ice cream was flipping it around - I had to record it of course!!! 


That was a small! 

After a rest I ventured out for a meal (had chicken kebab which was okay...) and sampled some Ottoman tea...I must buy some!!!  Apparently they will pack it into sealed plastic containers so I can enjoy it back home and think of my time in Turkey while sipping it on my balcony. So on my return to Istanbul at the end of my tour I think I will be racing around buying last minute items like that...shops are open until 11 p.m. so it shouldn't be a problem!  The sweets here are unbelieveable...that's all I am sayin' ...well they look good I can't say I've gotten into them yet...the ice cream was my only sweet today.  (though Turkish airlines did give a piece of Turkish delight  yesterday and they were available at breakfast today...yes at breakfast!)

Tomorrow?  I am going to work up the courage to go to the Grand Bazaar..me thinks it will be a big overwhelming and I hate pushing sales people and that place will be full of them...and hopefully a ferry across the Bosphorous and a visit to the New Mosque.