Friday, August 14, 2009

My cruise--continued

Well, as you can see I am a little behind in my blog--but I took excellent notes and now that I've had a few more adventures under my cap I'm ready to sit down and tell you all about them.

Last time I updated, we were preparing to visit Istanbul, Turkey. (That's Istanbul, not Constantinople). We started the day at with a visit to the Blue Mosque named after the lovely blue tiles decorating the interior walls. The tiles were beautifully painted with geometric and floral patterns. and I was surprised at how large it was inside. We all had to remove our shoes and ladies had to have their shoulders and knees covered, but that was no trouble for me at all. As it was between prayer times, the mosque was very crowded with tourists and visitors.

Then we went to see a carpet weaving demonstration--including how they get the silk strands for the thread by boiling the cocoons of those poor little silkworms. I admit the rugs were beautiful, but once I realized they didn't have any flying carpets, and the carpets in front of me were made by bug spit, I just quietly sipped my apple tea and enjoyed the show. Afterwards, I tagged along with Blue to shop in the Grand Bazaar--she bought so many things I think she's going to need another suitcase--but I'll let her figure that out later.

Lunch was all Turkish food and was the most wonderful meal I have ever eaten. There were dozens of dishes including little lamb ribs, pearl couscous salad, candied pumpkin, saffron chicken eggplant salad, four types of hummus, local cured meats and cheeses, nuts, dried apricots, roasted potatoes, green salads, and so on. For dessert, there were trays of bakalava of all kinds of shapes and flavors including chocolate, pistachio, and walnut. There were little honey and pistachio cakes that melted in your mouth-and if that wasn't enough there was apple crumble, chocolate brownies, custard, and raspberry and green tea mousses. I ate so much I could barely fit into my cape. I left full, and with a great appreciation for Turkish cuisine.

After waddling to the bus we drove to Topkapi palace and where Sultans once lived and ruled over the Ottoman Empire. The treasury included the Topkapi dagger with three egg sized emeralds, the Spoonseller's diamond, and a shoebox sized crystal box filled with emeralds. It must have been good to be the Sultan--but not so good to be one of his many wives or concubines. The harem seemed like it would be a difficult place to live in with so many women vying for the Sultans' attentions.

Our final stop was to the Hagia Sophia, or Divine Wisdom. It was a Christian church built by the Romans to be the both the largest building in the world, and to have the largest dome. It was destroyed and rebuilt twice before finally falling into disuse. Eventually it was converted into a Mosque, and the beautiful mosaics were plastered over in keeping with the Muslim belief of not having pictures or statues of people within a building of worship. The plasters are now being removed so the mosaics can be restored and enjoyed by visitors. The four corners of the church are held up by eight of the marble pillars from the Temple of Artemis that once stood in Ephesus and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world

We returned to the ship for a relaxing evening. Next stop, Mykonos.

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