Friday, August 24, 2018

Family summer trip - Day 1-3 Traveling and Istanbul

We found out on this trip that it is very far to get to Africa. It is very far and the flights are loooonnnngg.  I have to say a flight to Europe feels short after this trip, ha ha. 

After flying for 13 hours we broke it up by spending 24 hours in Istanbul so we could check out Turkey before we continued on for another 8 hours of flying to get to Tanzania.

In LAX we found the lounge was a nice place to hang out, get food and Ashley even took a shower because she didn't have time to take one at home at home. 

On our 13 hour flight to Turkey...we slept, watched lots of movies and ate a lot of food. 

My favorite part of the plane was the camera on the front of the plane that let you look out while you were flying. You could either look straight out or straight down. Anyone could have a good view of outside no matter where you were sitting. 

We got into Istanbul about 5:00 with a plan to drive into the city to dinner after we went to our hotel to drop off our bags. It took a good 45 minutes for the free shuttle to come, then after getting a taxi and getting into town (after convincing the kids to leave the hotel room again) it was now about 8:30. 

We were dropped off near a restaurant that was recommended but it was closed so we wandered around looking for a place to eat. We went into a mall (had to go through security and a bag check) and then finally decided on an Italian place. It actually ended up being really good. I ate a chicken salad, Taylor ate a pizza and Ashley had homemade pasta with a large ball of cheese on top of it. We were done about 10:00 pm and everything was closed by then so we just came back to the hotel room.  

That night I slept until 3:00 am local time and then couldn't sleep any more so I finished reading a book for 4 1/2 hours until everyone else woke up. I was hoping to get on the local schedule but we have another overnight flight so I wasn't sure it was going to happen. 

The breakfast buffet was inclusive of a lot of things, all kinds of things including honeycomb, all kinds of breads, cheeses and this wide array of olives (I hate olives though). The only thing they were missing in the whole city was pork products which means no bacon, ham or sausage for breakfast. Well they had their own chicken sausage that look like a hot dog dyed red and tasted like baloney. We found enough to eat and tried fruits we hadn't tried before and watched the ladies at the table next to us fill their bags with the mounds of food they had brought to their table, ha ha. 

We had 24 hours in Istanbul and since we spent the 1st part of it sleeping we wanted to make the best of the rest of it.  We decided to go to the Grand Bazaar first.

The Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 little shops in a labyrinth of an old building with frescoes fountains and a dizzying array of gold jewelry, metal pots and tea sets, purses, shawls, rugs and other souvenirs. 

We bought some small things and some Turkish delight from this store which was a fruit concoction with no added sugar all rolled up.  

We got some interest from people but no one had asked to take a picture until this guy.  

After that all the shop guys around him wanted to have their pictures taken with Jeff and Ashley as well. 

The dollar was strong when we were here and we could get a lot for our money which is nice. We took a taxi drive to the city and it cost 65 Lira which was only 10 bucks or so. We had some nice meals for cheaper than what we would spend at home.

The next stop we wanted to see was Haggia Sophia.  As we were in line to get in an English speaking guide approached us and we ended up hiring him. He was very nice and throughout the day we would meet people that would know him and say we had a great guide with us.  (After spending almost 5 hours with us it only ended up costing us like 65 dollars for the day)

Haggia Sophia was the original center of Christianity.  Constantine had it built and it was destroyed and rebuilt 2 times after conflicts. Istanbul used to be called Constantinople.

This is the spot where there were old columns and lintels.

It was a Christian church for about 1,000 year and was been a mosque for about 400 years, now it's a museum. When it was made a mosque some of the ornamentation was changed. The door used to have a cross on it but now it is an arrow.  They left a few murals including this one above the door because it shows someone bowing down to Jesus and they say that it's evidence that the ancient way of praying is the same way that Muslims pray today. 

Inside the building a lot of the artwork was painted over and large round medallions were hung up to decorate the mosque and cover the frescoes, angel faces were painted over and the main pulpit was re-orientated 17 degrees to the right to allign with Mecca.

In sections of the church our guide pointed out that the marble was different colors because they were taken from different regions and even harvested from different temples and palaces.

I remember when studying about Haggia Sophia in school thinking how it was a shame to ruin such a historic church but now I understand more about it. They kept all of the Christian icons and things in storage so they weren't destroyed (though I imagine the glass windows were destroyed when replaced). They moved the baptistery to a courtyard to make way for a mausoleum so it could still be on display for example.   

I learned more about the Muslim religion that I didn't know before too. Our guide explained that fundamentally that they believed that Mohammed was the final prophet or messenger before the coming of the Lord. They believe that Christ was a prophet too but Mohammed was the prophet to come after him and the Koran was an unchangeable book of scripture protected by God, whereas the Bible had been translated multiple times (even though he said it gets updated every 100 years or so).

It was interesting hearing history and religion taught to us from someone with a very different lifestyle and beliefs but because he was such a nice, kind person it helped you respect his view of things.   

This round circle in the floor of the church was declared the center of Christianity during Constantinople's time. 

All of us under the dome with the chandelier and the angels with the painted faces (they are trying to restore them to their original look since it's now a museum). 

The next place we visited was the Basilica Cisterns. 

This was a great place to visit but it would have been easily missed if you didn't know what it was. The outside was just a small building but you descended to a large underground room held up by columns.  The storage of the water for the city was brought over 40 km from a forest lake to the city and then cleaned from algae by the fish that lived in the water. 

They are renovating it right now so it was mostly drained but they are in the process of making it with glass floors so you can walk on it and see the water and the fish underneath. 

Th columns were taken from other palaces and temples and brought in to build the cistern. There were two columns with medusa on them. It was also nice and cool down in the Cistern which was a nice break from the humid heat. 

Since the Blue Mosque was closed for prayers we took a break at a rug shop that our guide brought us to (guess this is pretty common practice) and we were introduced to a lot of things we could buy. Notice the cat in the background...when he first pulled this bedspread out it covered the cat and he said "he doesn't mind, he's used to it".

Cats were everywhere in the city...they were just part of the shopping experience. 

Once it was opened again we got a chance to see the Blue Mosque.  To go inside Ashley and I had to wear head coverings, and we all had to take our shoes off to walk inside on the carpet. 

This was a "map" of the mosque.

I guess before people pray in the mosque they have to wash their hands, feet, neck and more to be clean before coming in to the mosque to pray. 

Men are on one side and women on the other. It was nice to go into the mosque and see it but it was nice when we got to take the head scarf off because it was annoying and hot. 

The Hippodrome - this was a place where they used to have chariot races but the only part that is left intact was an obelisk built by the Egyptians and one built by the Romans.  Our guide is posing with us. I was very glad we had him to explain things to us and take us around because we would have just wandered through places and not known 1/2 of what we learned. 

We got back to our hotel with plenty of time to eat lunch (even a nice hotel lunch for all of us was like 20 bucks).  We then got on the plane for an 8 hour overnight flight down to Africa. 

They fed you well on Turkish airlines...we ended up eating a lot of meals on the airplane by the end of the trip. 

1 comment:

AES said...

Sounds like a wonderful day!