Friday, October 15, 2010

A Cruise on the Bosphorus

We began our day with a trip to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.  On the walk to the museum we spotted a real fixer-upper.  This is very common in Istanbul, which is a vibrant modern city built upon ancient bones.
The museum is located in the former palace of the Ibrahim Pasha (c. 1493-1536).  This was a nice change of pace because it wasn't mobbed by tourists.  Unlike the Topkapi Museum these exhibits were not so gaudy.  But like the Topkapi Museum there really wasn't a lot of information about what we were seeing - only the bare minimum of facts.
This is part of the courtyard of the palace.

Our next stop was the Grand Bazaar, which is a vast labyrinthine covered market place with 21 gates and something like 4000 shops.  Everywhere that we went were these gentlemen carrying silver trays suspended on chains that held tea.  I didn't really understand what was going on with the tea until we were pulled into a shawl shop by an earnest vendor.  He was eager to make a sale and offered us tea and seats.  Bruce didn't want to accept at first but having been in another shop where we were offered the same thing I accepted.  It seemed to me that this was how they did business.  We had apple tea, which was delicious, and the shop keeper started pulling out beautiful shawls of cashmere and silk.  We did end up buying three after bargaining him down to what we thought was a reasonable price.

After the Grand Bazaar we made our way to the Spice Market.  Originally this market only sold spices, but now it sells a lot of other wares.  It only has about 800 shops and is shaped like an L.  Bruce and I were pretty much shopped out, so we just cruised through and walked around outside.  The Spice Market is located on the water next to the New Mosque.
One of the things that caught my eye at the front of the mosque was the plethora of pigeons roosting all along the top of the wall and just about any other surface they could land on.
After a quick lunch in a nearby restaurant where we had Turkish pizza (with sheep cheese and sausage, the pizza was boat shaped and had a thin crust that was folded over to form the edge crust - quite tasty) we headed for the water and our cruise up and down the Bosphorus.  The Bosphorus connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.  A current runs on the surface from the Black Sea, and another current runs in the reverse direction about 30 meters beneath the surface.  There are no tides.  The water is a dark green, similar to the color of glass in the old coke bottles.

The cruise was a wonderful way to see the city.  We traveled north along the European side and south along the Asian side.  Just before the northern most point of our trip is the Castle of Europe, which was built by Mehmet II in 1452 as a prelude to his invasion of Constantinople.  The ruins of this castle are quite extensive.
On the other side is the Fortress of Asia.  It is 50 years older than the Fortress of Europe and was built by Beyazit I just before the failed Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1396-7.  There is not as much left of it.
The Asian side is not as built up as the European side and has more private residences, where the European side has more palaces.  At many places on the European side it is so built up that you can no longer see the landscape.  All you see is a bewildering mass of buildings that seem to be growing like barnacles onto the sides of hills that were once green with forests but on which no trees remain.  As we were cruising back to the dock I spotted this fuchsia house on the Asian side and just had to take a picture.
Once back on dry land we headed to Ortakoy, which we actually cruised past.  This is a place with lots of shops and cafes and it would have been mobbed if the weather had been nice.  As it was raining it was practically deserted.  Bruce and I weren't interested in shopping so we settled in a cafe on the water and he had Irish Coffee while I had Turkish Tea and we shared a piece of cheesecake topped with chocolate.  Then we returned to our hotel, where we once again enjoyed a soak in our Jacuzzi (each room has one).

1 comment:

  1. This is such fun - reading and the pics are great. More pictures please! Thinking of you both on the bottle-green river with real pleasure. Lizard