My first experience with Turkey was on a Celebrity cruise. The Golden Horn is the old section of Istanbul. It is like a peninsulawith the Bosphorus on one side and narrow river like inlet. Located inthis area is the BlueMosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace among other sites.
Originally found centuries before Christ, the city was at the cross roads of Europe and Asia. In fact, it is the only city located on two continents. Withover 11 million residents, it ranks as one of the largest in the world. Besides straddling two continents it straddles two cultures, Islam and Christianity. Having been the capital of the Roman Empire for a periodof time. And after the Great Schism, it was the capital of the EasternOrthodox religion. The Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church, with the Muslim overthrow it was converted to a mosque and minarets were added.
Touring the city should include the ruins of the old Circus Maximus from the Roman period; the Great City Wall, which though in ruins, the remaining sections are impressive; the many mosques, and the underground cisterns to name a few.
The ruins from the Roman period have largely been covered up with subsequent development, but can be easily located. The turning postsfrom the old race track rise near the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. These mosques are impressive with their vast open interiors and soaringminarets, an unusual 6 for the Blue Mosque. When visiting, remember these are places of worship, so be respective of another’s religion.
The underground cisterns are an engineering feat in themselves. The areabetween Istanbul’s hills were covered with the use of columns toprovide a water supply for the population. This was accomplished withrecycled columns and other materials during the Roman time. Muslimswill only consume running water, not from standing source. The Medusa heads used to fill in the gaps of column height are an ancient bit of humor.
As with all vacations, shopping is as important as sightseeing. The Grand Bazaar is not to missed along with the carpet dealers. Be careful of the later since you needto get the carpet home somehow. The secret to the Bazaar is never makeeye contact with the vendor unless you are REALLY interested, they will follow you for blocks. The Bazaar itself is alabyrinth of alleys and streets all under cover. The merchandisedisplayed range from religious item, to clothing, to counterfeititems(there are no copyright laws in Turkey), to the usual souveniritems. It is a definite on any visit to Istanbul.
Did I mention thevendors themselves? If handsome dark haired men with deep eyes are youtype, then you will be in heaven. Just don’t let their looks influenceyour purchases.
Eventhough Turkey is a secular country, no official religion, it is heavily Muslim, and therefore not quite as open as people in the United States are used to. The gay bars, though popular, are not as abundant orprominent as in most large cities here. So keep the PDAs(Public Display of Affection) to a minimum unless in a club or the privacy of your hotel room. And remember, a bath house in Istanbul is MUCH different than here, even though the room is full of naked men.
So if a taste of the exotic is what you desire, try Istanbul for avacation. It is available for an extended hotel stay and also a port on many cruise lines. So call the experienced agents at Damron Vacation to decide which is the best way for you to experience the Orient, while never leaving Europe. Though I highly recommend traveling across the bridge while in Istanbul, just to say you also went to Asia on your European vacation.