The time has been going so quickly. The first 5-days of the trip were spent in the Netherlands, which were extremely busy. But I got to see a lot of people again so in the end it was worth the effort. In Breda I saw Laetetia, Joost, Bert-Jan, Marieke, Oma (who is looking quite frail) and Soriya. Everyone is good and it was nice to catch up with everyone again. I made a stop at Schiphol Airport and saw Martijn and I even stopped to watch some of the planes, which I love doing. I had a half-day in Amsterdam where I saw Natasja and Marie-Christin, who I met last year (at about this same time) in Namibia. It was really great to catch up with them also. Friday night I also saw John & Sandra Scott, who was one of my teachers.. They have been traveling for 3-months now (the life of a retired teacher?) and returning to New York from Turkey via Amsterdam. It was nice to catch up with them also. In the end I spent Saturday with Mart in Den Haag. We had a great time and he introduced me to a few of his friends; Peter, Kate and a couple of others…….. then Sunday morning came and Istanbul was calling my name.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Boeing 777-200ER, returning home.
Arriving in Istanbul was less chaotic than I had anticipated. The flight arrived about 30 minutes early, which allowed me adequate time to get my visa, go through immigration, pick up my luggage, hit the ATM to get money and then find my airport taxi to my hotel. In all the process took about 40 minutes, which is not bad at all.
Once known as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul has had a very long and colorful history. First known as Byzantium in 667 BC, the city-state of Megara was named after their king Byzas. In 330, after the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made the city the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire on 11-may-330, the city became widely known as Constantinople and on 28-march-1930, as part of the Turkish Postal Law, the city was officially named Istanbul. The city is home to over 12 million people, which puts it currently at the 4th largest city in the world. Though it is not a city in the same sense of modern cities. However, the people here are really quite friendly and welcoming. Though they can be a bit abrasive when it comes to selling their carpets and other wares — I was methodically lectured in agonizing detail about every nuance of carpet making, for which I have about as much interest as a mouse has for being interviewed by a cat.
The Hagia Sophia at Night
The first two days were completely miserable, weather wise. It was cold, it was rainy. However, with the right materials (coat & umbrella) it was time to set out on my quest. Sunday I walked all around the city and eventually got myself lost. We’re not talking a little lost, we’re talking lost-lost. It took me over an hour just to find my way. But I saw some interesting parts of the city to say the least. Monday I ended up at Topkapi Palace, which is now a museum, which for 400 years of their 600-year reign was the official and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans. The initial construction began in 1459, which was ordered by the Sultan Mehmed II who conquered the Byzantine city of Constantinople. The palace is a complex made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At the height of its existence it was the home to as many as 4,000 people. After visiting the palace, I wandered down to the Grand Bazaar which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with more than 58 covered streets and over 1,200 shops; selling everything from spices, jewelry, pottery, carpets, tacky tourist souvenirs, pottery, children s toys, clothes, etc. The Grand Bazaar opened officially in 1461 and was vastly enlarged in the 16th century and then in 1894 underwent major restoration after an earthquake damaged most of it. It is definitely a spectacle to see and wandered around for about 8-hours over the course of two days.
Detail of the tiles, Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace Interior
Today the weather was much much better. Sunny and warm. I even got a little sun burn. Visited the Blue Mosque and tomorrow will visit the Hagia Sofia and hope to go see the Whirling Dervishes…. Thursday I leave for the city of Troy and then to Ephesus..
Spices @ Grand Bazaar