Subject: Turkey Travelogue
Hi Ziners

Here is part one of a travelogue on my latest trip to Turkey and Rhodes, Greece. I was fortunate to travel there just before the bombings took place and found it very safe. I would like to thank all of those that gave input on my trip. Enjoy it.

Istanbul-Oct 12-16

My tour guide Izmi picked up promptly at 9AM and our first stop was the Blue Mosque that was built between 1606-1611 by Sultan Ahmet I. Before entering a Mosque we took our shoes off and put them in a bag. Upon entering the Mosque I could see the blue iznik tiles on the walls and roof for which the mosque gets it's name. Some interesting features of the Mosque were the chanters lodge that counterbalanced the Sultan's lodge because all people were considered equal according to the teachings of the Koran. As we left the Mosque Izmi pointed out that this was still a functioning mosque and was also considered an empiral mosque due to it having more than one minerate.

Next we moved onto the Topkaki Palace that was started in 1453 by Mehmet the Conqueror and was expanded upon by following sultans until the 1900's when they moved to the Dalmabalce Palace. The palace has 4 courtyards, which are divided into the Selamlik (salon or public place) and Harem (private place). The palace kitchens show a small portion of the 12000 piece collection of Japanese/Chinese porcelain which truly outstanding. Legend has that the sultan's everyday dishes would change colour if poison was present in the food. Another impressive feature is the sultan's collection that includes the third largest diamond in the world (86 carats) named the Spooner Diamond, The rod of Mose's that he used to part the red sea, holy artefacts of Mohammed and John the Baptist.

The final stop was the famed spice market that had incredible collection of herbs and my favourite candy, Turkish Delight. One of merchants advised that could sample any type I liked so I tried everyone and then felt obligated to buy a large package as each one was excellent.

The second day I was taken to the Saint Sofia or Hagia Sofia as it is more commonly known. This was built by the Emperor Justinian in 527AD and had the largest dome for over 1100 years until St. Peters was built in Rome in the 1600'S but legend claims it was actually built by angels, as it was so impressive. The structure also serves as a marble museum because Justinian had different types of marble imported from all over the Roman Empire that were incorporated into the construction of the building. When the Ottomans conquered the city the church was converted into a Mosque until 1935 when Ataturk converted it to a museum. We exited by a pillar that is supposedly inhabited by the spirit of St. Gregory and if you put your finger in the hole (in the column) then your wish will come true. I asked Izmi if it worked and she assured me it did but patience was a requirement (it took 5 years for her to have her first wish granted as she wanted a computer)

Early in the morning I caught a cab to the Dolmabahce Palace that was on other side of the Golden Horn and on the way he pointed out several sites including the soccer stadium of which he was particularly proud. Dolmabahce means 'filled in garden' and this palace was built by some of the last sultans in the 1900's by the Bosphorus River. It is a UNESCO heritage site and is also famous as Attaturk died on a visit to Istanbul in 1938 in the palace. Part of the tour takes you by the bedroom where he spent his last hours where the Turkish flag is draped over the bed. The palace has extensive crystal used in its decoration as there is a crystal staircase (crystal pedestals), crystal candleholders and not to mention the largest crystal chandler in the world at an impressive 4.5tonnes. Some asked if it needed to be cleaned as it looked grey but the tour guide assured us that it was Irish crystal and that was the way it was supposed to look. As I left the Dolmabache palace I couldn't help but not be impressed.

One of the more unusual and interesting sites is the Basilica Cistern that was built by Emperor Justininian in 532AD as water storage for sieges. It is 70m wide by 140m long and is supported by 336 columns. The columns are made from recycled material, which contain 2 carvings of Medusa' s Heads from a previous temple. When I walked through the cistern they had an orchestra playing classical music, which gave it quite an eerie effect. Truly the cistern is something not to miss.

After visiting the Basilica I visited the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museums that has amazing floor to ceiling Usak carpets. The building itself was built by Ibriham who was a Grand Vizer and Son in law to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent that is an outstanding example of 16th century Ottoman Architecture. The last site of the day was the Istanbul Archaeology museum that has some excellent Samarian and Roman carvings.

onto Izmir next...

Tom, London, Canada