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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 10/13 - Istanbul Day 2

Cruise Pictures
     

10/13 - Istanbul Day 2
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I'll try to make this entry a little less verbose. This was our last morning on the cruise ship. We had to be off the ship by 9:00AM but we still managed to have a nice breakfast at the Grand Pacific. I also managed to use 26 of the last 27 minutes of over-priced internet access left on my account before getting shooed off the boat at 10:00 to meet up with the other families for our private bus tour at 11:00.

Since we spent a good amount of time at the Hagia Sophia the previous day, we requested that we focus on the Blue Mosque which was beautiful (see pics).

After that we went to the Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman Sultans resided before it was converted to a museum in the 20th century. The palace was huge and there was so much to see and so little time. Unfortunately, there was just too much information and we only got the highlights from our tour guide as we had limited time (you could easily spend an entire day there alone). Check out the pics for some of the information that I managed to vaguely recall...

Next was the Basilica Cistern of Constantinople which didn't sound too interesting to most of us. I thought cisterns were just huge ceramic pots dug into the ground to store some water but I decided to tag along with my mom while 2/3 of the group lounged at a cafe instead. I was quite glad I did because the cistern was simply amazing. It wasn't just a ceramic pot, it was a 30 foot tall cavern stretching over 100,000 square feet to store fresh water for the entire ancient city. It was quite impressive and I managed to get some halfway decent pics despite the darkness.

After that we finished up our tour we were dropped off at the Aziyade Hotel with the rest of the group. The rooms were quite small so my sister and I we were quite thankful that we had a nicer hotel reserved for after dinner...

Meanwhile, the Aziyade hotel arranged for us to have dinner at Kalamar Restaurant. The restaurant sent vans to pick us up and drove us into a dark looking alley. We all got a bit worried that they were going to take us to some hole in the wall but we were pleasantly surprised when we turned the corner and found a nice city full of lit up restaurants. Dinner was quite good, though it took them a while to prepare the fish. Some people got a bit restless and felt the mezes were too sour, but I enjoyed it all quite a bit (see pictures).

After dinner, my sister and I hopped in a taxi which whisked us off the beautiful modern W Istanbul. It was quite a treat (paid by my SPG points) and we were quite impressed by the amenities. Pictures of the room are below with more pictures to come on the following day.

10/13 pictures are here.
Posted 01/01/2009 11:52 PM in Food, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel, Turkey | Total Comments: (1)
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Cravin' memories
The dress code from the mosque reminds me of the restrictions from a Buddhist temple in Thailand. I wonder whether any churches in Europe (orthodox or otherwise) enforce such rules these days. Otherwise, I'm really craving some fresh cuttlefish/squid after seeing those pics.
Submitted by Dan on 01/12/2009 00:01 AM



     
The bathroom in our stateroom was cramped. The toilet on the left and the shower on the right were a bit confining. This was our last morning on the boat so I took a couple pics to share the experience.   Breakfast at the Grand Pacific: pancakes with blueberry compote, eggs and bacon and grits with butter and brown sugar.

     
Another cart of simit sesame rings.   On our private bus tour, we passed by the Hagia Sophia for pictures but didn't go in since we were there the day before.   Nice sunny pic of the Blue Mosque

     
More pics of the Blue Mosque when it was a tad cloudy. The Blue Mosque has six minarets instead of the standard four.

     
Courtyard surrounding the Blue Mosque   Passage from the courtyard to the entrance carved out of stone.   No shoes are allowed in the mosque.   Men cannot enter with shorts above the knee and women cannot show any leg, otherwise you must be covered.

     
Absolutely beautiful mosaic work throughout the Blue Mosque. From the ground it looks like intricate painting but it's all mosaic.   Stained glass, partically obstructed by all the low hanging lights.

     
The central pillars are carved from solid marble and decorated with mosaics.   I'm not sure what this was, looks like the courtyard before the mosque was built.   The exit beneath one of the minarets.

     
There were lots of stray cats at the Topkapi Palace   Outer gate to the palace grounds.   Inner gate to the palace grounds.

     
Close up of the inner gate.   Gate leading from the palace grounds to the inner courts.   The palace kitchens were in a separate building due to the fire hazards. Each chimney is for a cooking station.

     
Inside the palace kitchens were huge weights, presumably used to weigh large amounts of raw materials, along with several types of cooking vessels. The right two pictures are of candy making equipment including copper bowls and marble slabs for making halva.

     
The palace Asian porcelain collection.

     
Fountain feeding into the upper terrace.   One of several Sultan Chambers   Entrance to the Palace Treasury, now used to display the royal jewelry collections. Note the precise interlocked marble carving for the archway.

     
Either the Palace Divan or another Sultan Chamber

     
Palace Armory

     
Palace Armory, including a some Samurai Armor given as a gift by Japan

     
Cistern system for the city to store clean water (before modern water processing). Today fish naturally keep the remaining water clean. The cistern was approximately 30 feet deep and could be completely filled with water.

     
A particularly nice shot showing how big the cistern is.   Not sure what this is, perhaps a recreation of the grounds above the cistern.   When building the cisterns, old Medusa heads were used and placed upside down or sideways to show that Medusa was a false god and had no powers.

   
A few "teardrop" marble columns were used as markers to show how deep the water in the cistern was.   Some apple tea while we went carpet shopping.   Xerotigano, a Cretan dessert made of rolled puff pastry that has been fried and coated with honey and nuts. I got these a few days earlier in Iraklio but hadn't had a chance to open the box and share with folks.

     
Remains of the ancient city walls which are built in different styles in different sections based on the prevailing culture of the times.   Kalamar Restaurant, recommended by our parents hotel. They provided a shuttle so we don't know where it was located, but you can make out a website in the left picture.

     
A sample platter of mezes (appetizers)   Shrimp in Olive Oil, these had an interesting herb mix that I didn't really like, but I couldn't quite figure out why.   Anchovy wrapped olives, quite good if you like anchovies and olives.   Anchovies in a tangy olive oil sauce. Some people complained these were too sour but I loved them.

     
The huge fried calamari rings were excellent.   The eggplant dip (similar to baba ganouj) was so tasty I didn't get a picture in time.   The octopus and olives were also on the tangy side but were excellent.

     
A tangy tomato eggplant dish.   The hummus was quite good as well.   We ordered Turbot caught from the Bosphorous and prepared with vegetables. Tasty but it did take 40 minutes for them to prepare.   Some simply roasted blue fish that we had as well, again it went too fast for me to get a picture.

     
A salt baked fish (not ours though) that they flambe outside to attract customers.   The hallway to our room...

     
While our parents stayed at a cramped little hotel with way too much heating, my sister and I splurged at the W Istanbul. From left to right: our hallway door, ceiling lights in the receiving area, the receiving area and men's closet.

     
Desk area with concealed flat screen TV   King size bed with ambiant lighting controls   Coffee table and lounging chair.   Reading nook.

     
Various W Amenities from left to right: Welcome gift of apples, water and refreshing towels, nice stationary with W cut out, acrylic cube holding various room information, iPod docking station and Bose Wave Radio

     
From left to right: bathroom sinks, rain fall shower head, marble lined shower and "backup plan" toilet paper (oh so punny)

 

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