Let me tell you something.
On the list of places I have traveled there are a few that surprise me when I remember that I have actually BEEN there.
The first is Russia.
The second, Istanbul.
As in Turkey.
Halfway across the globe.
Part Europe, Part Asia.
I literally crossed continents when I was there.
How amazing is that?
Some of the things I have seen or heard since going to Istanbul make me think, wow, I am so glad I heard these things AFTER I went.
But just like all of the countries I have been to, it's really more about being smart and making good choices when you are there.
The morning we arrived in Turkey, we woke up as we were cruising into Port.
The funny thing with cruising, is you don't really understand where you are and what you are looking at until after the day in port, when you have your bearings.
So, as we cruised into the beautiful city of Istanbul, along the brightest blue waters, I snapped pics of everything, just in case.
Istanbul has two magnificent suspension bridges, our day's tour started by taking us across the Bosphorus, which is the Europe/Asian divide. We left Europe and momentarily entered Asia. One city, split over two continents.
A new country and a new continent all in one day.
(That is Europe in the foreground, Asia across the water)
As we traveled through Istanbul, two things were in abundance: Turkish flags and mosques.
At any point of view, you'd see the towering columns of at least several mosques, and buildings peppered with red crescent flags.
It became pretty clear, pretty fast, that the Turkish are very proud of their country.
After we made a quick photo-op stop we were on our way to the Spice Bazaar.
Due to my affinity for markets this was my absolute highlight of the day.
There's just something about spices and teas open to your hands that makes me happy.
The Turkish vendors were kind, polite, and friendly.
They gladly offered samples, were willing to barter, and despite trying to make a sale, weren't too pushy.
In addition to spices, there were ceramics, and housewares, souvenirs, jewelry, and Turkish Delight.
So much Turkish Delight.
Hundreds of varieties.
And plenty of samples.
And similar treats too.
And my other favorite part of the marketplace was exploring it with my dad.
He's a six foot tall, bald, American man.
And I don't know if it was any of those factors, or if he reminded them of someone famous,
but almost every vendor came out of his stall to talk to and joke with my dad.
So many comments about his bald head.
They would joke across the aisles to each other about him too.
My dad was quite the scene in the Spice Bazaar that day.
Sadly, our time in the Spice Market came to an end.
Even more sadly, I had no more room in my luggage for any more of the mugs, trivets, bowls, and other goodies I wanted.
So our tour left, and headed over to the Grand Bazaar, which unfortunately was closed.
However, a few shops were open.
I don't think I really got the full experience either. It didn't feel anything like I'd expect a Bazaar to be.
Just an urban shopping area.
We did get to go into a Turkish Rug shop where we were given a detailed presentation on this huge Turkish export.
We were encouraged to touch, feel, and walk on each different kind of rug.
To feel the difference in materials, density, and threadcount.
The presentation went on for a long time.
Layers upon layers of rugs.
Different patterns, colors, styles.
And when they were done, we were served Turkish pastries and apple juice.
I also found a Starbucks.
My first European (well, in this case, Asian) Starbucks!
We drove through the main part of Istanbul, despite being a Sunday the streets were crowded and bustling.
We passed Istanbul's most famous landmark, Hagia Sophia or Saint Sophia.
And made our last stop at the Blue Mosque.
Which is Istanbul's most famous mosque.
We waited in a long line before entering, and were given coverings for shoulders (women), legs (women & men), and heads (only some women).
There were spaces for men and women to wash their hands for purification (separately).
And we removed our shoes before entering.
Despite the blue exterior accents, the Blue Mosque is actually named for the plethora of blue tiles inside.
The men were to pray in the main area.
And the women, in a smaller area in the back, behind a separator.
Interestingly enough, tour groups pass through while people prayed all around us.
After this, our tour returned us to the ship.
Where I took a nap in our stateroom, which was still facing the mosque.
The nap didn't last very long as the call to prayer blared through the city shortly after I fell asleep.
It was one of those days where I stop and think "Is this real life? Am I really in Turkey right now?"
I guess it was, I have the pictures to prove it.