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Cruise Diary: Istanbul, Turkey

Guests Jan and Dick Yetke set sail on Prinsendam’s 64-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage in March, and we’ll catch up as quickly as possible. Enjoy the journey with Jan and Dick!

Istanbul is a wonderful city to visit! We have been here several times in the past, including staying here for a few nights prior to a cruise once. We have always enjoyed it.

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Today we cruised up through the Dardanelles (the narrow waterway passage coming from the Aegean Sea) leading into the Sea of Marmara and into Istanbul. It has always been a strategic area for Turkey to defend from any approaching enemy navies. There was a huge battle fought at Gallipoli, which is on the peninsula on the port side as you go north. That was the decisive battle that Ataturk won. Even though he won the battle, he was very concerned that the families of all those who fought in the battle of Gallipoli be allowed access forever to this battle site, so he allowed memorial sites to be set up around the battlefield. Many of the combatants who died there were from New Zealand and Australia, and he endeared himself to those countries with his actions of honoring the dead soldiers from there. A special day called Anzac Day (April 25) was created to honor them. Some time at a later date, he became leader of Turkey and set up Turkey as a secular country, and became known as the “Father of Modern Turkey.” He separated church and state, insisted on western-wear-type clothing, etc. He is still remembered and revered as a very loved leader of Turkey.

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Today the weather was not the greatest for sightseeing. Oh well. We arrived and docked in Istanbul around 4 p.m. Usually the sail into Istanbul is beautiful, but today it was foggy and rainy so we couldn’t see much. Istanbul is a city divided between two continents – Asia and Europe – and connected by a bridge. The Bosporus, a narrow strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, separates Istanbul’s European and Asian sections. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the country’s chief commercial and cultural center. Istanbul was founded in the 7th century B.C. as Byzantium, and in the 4th century A.D. it was renamed Constantinople by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The great Topkapi Palace, begun by Sultan Mahmud II in 1459, is now Turkey’s most popular tourist attraction. Near Topkapi is Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century as an Orthodox Christian church and later converted into a mosque. The Suleymaniye Mosque (built from 1550 to 1557), was designed by the well-known Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Suleiman I. The mosque is widely considered Istanbul’s finest Ottoman monument. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is considered the national mosque of Turkey; it is known as the “Blue Mosque” due to the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I.

We didn’t do anything on shore today. Well, Dick actually went out for a walk, climbed up the hill adjacent to the port, and back. He stopped at a Starbucks and bought some pastries. They were good – tasted just like the ones we get at Starbucks at home. Yum! We do enjoy having some “home”-tasting food every now and then.

We were in this port overnight which was great! And the ship was running a complimentary shuttle to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar which was very helpful. The Grand Bazaar is really a fun place to shop – so much stuff, and huge. You can easily get lost in there. Turkey is noted for its hand-woven carpets, which are gorgeous, and leather goods. The bargaining is always the most fun thing to do! We have several of these beautiful carpets in our home and really love them but don’t need any more.

IMG_4243_resize Grand Bazaar entrance

IMG_4246_resize Grand Bazaar

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When the ship is docked overnight in a port, they generally are able to bring on a local group for the show on board that evening. We have enjoyed many good local entertainers during our Grand Voyages. Tonight we were entertained with an Anatolian folk dance group that was very good. They highlighted music and dance of Turkey. Really good!

And today our captain changed. Captain Tim’s regular contract ended. We really liked him and hope to sail with him again. Our new captain is Captain Andre van Schoonhoven from the Netherlands. (April 29: We are really enjoying sailing with Andre as well.)

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