By Mary Jo
In April and May of this year, we took a marvelous cruise from Italy to Istanbul. I've written three blogs already:
Next was cruising down the Eastern Adriatic and visiting several amazingly beautiful and hospitable countries. (That's Kotor, Montenegro on the right.)
Next was Greece, mother of so much Western European culture, where we saw several splendid islands as well as notable mainland sites:
Now finally I can tell you about the last leg of our journey, Turkey, a country where East meets West, a crossroads of history. Our first stop was in Kudasi, which is near the ancient city of Ephesus. We had an excellent guide who spoke of Turkey's history and how it became a secular state, very different from the Islamic Arab states.
We visited several fascinating sites–far more than I can cover well! We saw the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, and the Ephesus Archeological Museum, a treasure house of ancient artifacts, built after a ban on exporting antiquities was enacted because the British Museum was hoovering up too much of Turkey's past.
But it doesn't speak well of me that what I remember best on this excursion was our visit to a Turkish carpet store a five minute walk from the ship. We saw a demonstration of rug making and were offered a variety of lovely drinks, including hot Turkish apple tea, which was amazing. I admired the elegant glasses and took seconds when offered. <G>
But the real purpose of the visit was for people who wanted to buy Turkish carpets to shop in a place presumably approved by the Viking cruise line as being honest and easy to deal with. Certainly our host, Sam, was charming and showed us many wonderful carpets. One of his assistants was able to toss a small one into the air where it spun around several times before landing gracefully on the floor. Sam said he hired the guy from a pizza shop, <G> I only wish I'd acted quickly enough to shot a short video of the carpet toss!
Traditional hand made carpets are a very important part of the culture and the economy in this part of the world. The really cool part is if you buy one, the price includes tax-free shipping to your doorstep. The same was true when we visited Egypt many years ago. Win/win for both the carpet creators and the buyers. I fell totally in love with the unusual, brilliantly covered carpet on the left.
Tales of the Trojan War are most famously told in Homer's Iliad, so naturally that was a must see! The Trojan horse, which enabled the Greeks to sneak soldiers into the walled city of Troy so they could open the gates and let in Greek troops, who destroyed the city. Naturally the picture above is not of the original Trojan horse; we were told that it has to be replaced ever few years. But it's quite a sight, isn't it?
Archeologically, the sprawling site has nine major layers of ancient city built there. Here's an article describing the various Troys. I'm not enough of an archeology buff to fully appreciate all the many, many stone ruins but it was pretty interesting. Especially the horse. <G>
Istanbul is one of the world's great cities, with the western part in Europe and the eastern part in Asia. We sailed under the gorgeous Bosphorus suspension bridge, a mile long and literally a bridge between continents.
I'm pretty sure that the gorgeous building above is the famous Hagia Sophia, "Holy Wisdom" originally a Christian cathedral and now a mosque. I did some research on Istanbul for my romantic adventure novel, Once a Scoundrel because the city was the site of the grand action finale of the story.
My research revealed that there were hundreds of cisterns under the city, including one under Hagia Sophia. These cisterns became very important to my characters! I didn't have a chance to visit any, but Istanbul simply has way too much to see.
But it was time to go home. We were lucky enough to get a direct flight from Istanbul to Dulles Airport in Washington on the most excellent Turkish Airlines. And when we got to Dulles, it took us THREE HOURS to get through the airport so we could head for home. Travel in 2022!
Mary Jo, who wanted to show a picture of the lines at Dulles Airport, but Typepad would only show it upside down, alas. So here's another picture from Istanbul. Plus I just added the picture of Hagia Sophia above, which I'd written about but forgot to actually post! Sorry.