We picked the cruise we did because it had us staying a night over in Istanbul, giving us a day and a half to explore. I have always wanted to go to Istanbul and this was the place I was the most excited about going to. As soon as we docked I was jumping with excitement. I couldn't stop smiling!
We started the day by taking a taxi to the Blue Mosque. We got there right when it opened and had to wait in line for a little bit but it wasn't too bad.
I am going to have a rant right now.....ladies....when you are visiting a mosque please adhere to the rules of wearing modest clothing, covering your legs and arms and cover your head! I don't care if you are not Muslim....I am a Christian but I respect their religion and culture and see it as an honor (not a right) to visit their place of worship. Mosques are not tourist attractions and are places of worship...be respectful! I was so angered by the amount of people that would cover their legs or arms with a scarf and rip it off as soon as they were away from the door security people or the amount of people who made no attempt to cover their head. I purposefully wore pants that day, a shirt with sleeves and brought a sweater to put on and I covered my head. Please show respect and don't be ignorant when you visit mosques....cover up!
The Blue Mosque was beautiful! The only other mosque that I have visited was the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. That was beautiful but in an over the top, elegance and modern way and it was impressive due to the size of it. But this was equally if not more beautiful in the details and history of it. I loved the intricacy in the tiles and designs and it was breathtaking!
I loved that Peyton remembered we went to a "church" like this in Abu Dhabi and was telling John about the really big rug in the one in Abu Dhabi and how we took off our shoes! Love that she is absorbing something doing our travels!
After the mosque, I put Graham in the stroller and he fell asleep. So we walked over to the Cisterns and John and I took turns going down so we wouldn't have to bother Graham and his nap. Peyton was scared of the cisterns so my turn was pretty rushed. They were pretty neat but I think John appreciated them more than I did.
After the cisterns we walked towards the Grand Bazaar area to do some shopping. After getting lost, having low blood sugar due to being hungry, some tense moments...we finally found the bazaar and found somewhere to eat. The food was delicious! We both had the most delicious shawarma we have ever had and were very pleased when they made Peyton a grilled cheese. The random restaurant we found was a hit!
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar. I knew it was big and overwhelming but I was amazed at how lost you could get in there and how many stalls there were. We completely passed the jewelry section and the carpet section and still spent hours in there!
One of my first purchases and one that I had planned prior to going was to get some hand painted bowls that my mom has that I have always loved. The shop keeper LOVED Graham and played with him, gave him gifts while I was looking. We came away with a large bowl and two little bowls. I loved everything and wish I could have bought plates and more bowls and more bowls!
Also while we were in the bazaar I started to look for some embroidered pillowcases which I eventually found and while we were also at the store I found a bed spread. It is embroidered with red, blue, yellow and some purples and I love it! I can't wait to get our future home and use it in the guest room. Lots of fun shopping around the bazaar and I could have stayed much longer but....our time and money were running out!
We left the bazaar and as we were walking to get a taxi and head back to the cruise ship, Graham fell asleep in the stroller and Peyton fell asleep in my arms. So, we decided to try to see one more sight that we wanted to see but didn't think we would have time for....the Hagia Sophia. I am so glad we did because it turned out to be one of the top places for me on our trip. We carried Peyton throughout (putting her in the carrier to help distribute the weight) and just took our time and trying to not wake up kids! The Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox Basilica that was turned into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks. What I think is wonderful is that when the Ottoman's would conquer they did not destroy the Christian mosaics or artwork. Instead they would paint over it. So there is so much of the beautiful mosaics of Christ that have been restored and visible in the church.
I loved seeing the mosaic of Jesus between the Islam pieces, one said Muhammed and the other Allah. It was such a representation of our lives here and I also loved how it showed the various history and uses of this building.
On the second floor there were many mosaics of Jesus...one representing Revelations, one with Mary and one with John the Baptist. What was so moving for me was seeing this beautiful mosaics that clearly conveyed the same biblical truths that are present today and that Christianity is the same today as it was hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
After the Hagia Sophia, we played at the park outside before heading back to the boat pretty exhausted from the day. This was view from our boat that night overlooking Istanbul.
The next day we woke up and set off into Istanbul to try to take in one more sight before we left. We went to the Topkapi Palace however we did not stay very long. Since it was closed the first day we got there and overnight, three more cruise ships docked in Istanbul it was so busy! When we got there the line was insane but we got tickets and made it through pretty quickly but walking around we quickly realized it was not stroller friendly at all (no rooms allowed strollers) and with Graham asleep in the stroller it was difficult. Every room had tons of lines to get in and since we each had to go in by ourself it was taking way too long.
The only room that I found really interesting, was where they have housed many important artifacts and items that belong to Muhammed along with what is claimed to be the rod of Moses and Abrahams sauce pan. It was interesting but no pictures.
I think if you had all day, no kids, then the palace would be interesting and worth a visit. Defiantly behind the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in my opinion but it would have been nice to see more. There is also the large Harem area which required a separate ticket and a guided tour but sounded very interesting. We ended up buying a book on the palace and I have enjoyed reading more in detail of what is there and the history.
Overall opinion of Istanbul....LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! One of my favorite places! I can not wait to go back sometime and hope that we can do a more comprehensive trip of Turkey in the future!