Istanbul, Turkey for Christmas 2014

This post is the first in the Deen Winter Saga... A 3-part series covering our trip to Istanbul, the Red Sea, and finally Cairo. Enjoy!

Day 1 - December 24: 
Made it to Newark.... Just entertaining  ourselves. 
Now heading out to Munich en route to Istanbul.... I suppose we will beat everyone to Christmas morning!

Day 2 - December 25: Land in Istanbul, Turkey at noon. Merry Christmas!!! Now, where is our traditional turkey (poultry) dinner? 

Our boutique hotel The Ambassador had a driver come pick us up from the airport. Name on a sign and everything! Comfy transport for the 45 minute ride to the hotel.... Conveniently located in the heart of "Old Istanbul" walking distance from several historic attractions.

First on our tourism stop.... Basilica Cistern. 
This is one of hundreds of ancient underground cisterns that provided filtered water for the buildings nearby. 338 marble columns, 2.8 million cubic feet of water, 212' x 453' large.... This cavern is remarkable. Toby asked me to calculate how many cubic feet of water that is into gallons. Apparently if it's in O&G terms he is able to relate to it easier....
 "💡 I know exactly how much water that is!!"
No this picture is not upside down... 
No, this picture is not sideways...
These are supposedly of Medusa. Many theories as to why they are upside down and sideways. 

...and then a few sights along the road....

(some local kids who interviewed me for school)

Day 3 - December 26: 
Wake up to this. 
"Straight out of Aladdin" as my sister says. It is such a breathtaking sight to take in.
This is the view from our hotel. No joke. Drinking coffee and enjoying my latest puzzle book... Can't get better than this. If only my toby would wake up to see it! He is still in bed with aches... Not sure if it's allergies, travel-symptoms or sickness, but he needs all the rest he can get. 

Today we will be making our own walking tour in combination with "The Big Bus" that will give us a ride around town with some tid bits of history along the way. Major stops along the way: Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque, etc.

WHAT A DAY! What a wonderful day! We decided to save our €&$&TRY on the Big Bus and just make our own tour instead. We (non-intentionally) got lost and walked aimlessly West hoping for the best. After a few too many refer-to-the-map-and-still-have-no-idea-where-you-are moments we ended up stumbling into the bazaar. 

Toby was not a fan.

People people everywhere.... Merchants are rather persistent. Needless to say I had a difficult time remaining standoffish and not smiling at each person I passed. If I did, they would swarm. Scarf up, head down. 

We then made our way to the Spice Bazaar. Now this place was aromatic heaven! Every spice and Turkish food you could imagine, Lined up as far as the eye (and street) could take you. There were row after row of new vendors and scents.

After this wonderful scent-ful experience, we headed further West toward Suleymaniye Mosque. Boy was the journey worth it. 
The view was amazing and the grounds were impeccable.... I just wish we could have gone inside!!!!
The mosque was closed to visitors for Friday prayer from 1100-1400. Unfortunately, we got there at 1130. 

Good news... There is more than one mosque in Istanbul. In fact, there are thousands. After a quick stop at the hotel and a bite to eat, we headed towards the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. 

On the way we enjoyed the views of the Topkapi Palace gardens. It was so beautiful and expansive, we were convinced we had accidentally bypassed the line and entry fee, but sure enough, it was just there for passing through. You could, however, choose to pay and go inside the palace or visit the archaeology museum or the carpet museum. We chose to keep on our heading towards the Blue Mosque before the rains came in.... And so did all these other people,

Built 1609-1616, this mosque was a HUGE beauty. Out of respect, you had to have your knees covered (preferably with s skirt), remove your shoes and put them in a plastic bag and women had to wear a scarf over their heads. Trying to be a conservative American during ISIS times, I chose to wear a long skirt, high neckline long sleeve shirt and scarf at all times during this particular international trip. Literally, I didn't bring a pair of jeans. 
After we had our time enjoying the mosque and Toby could stop laughing at my socks, we put our shoes back on and hit the road.
Bye Blue Mosque!

This beauty behind us above is the Blue Mosque and below is the Hagia Sophia.

Time for our Turkish Bath and (much deserved!) Massage Appointment! Any idea what a Tufkish Bath is? Well, you are locked in a sauna with a tap for slightly chilled water and a tap for almost-TOO-hot water. In the middle of the tomb... Did I say tomb? I meant room.... Inside the middle of the room is a 6' diameter butcher block of marble that is internally heated. You are to strip off your clothes, poor hot water over your head, then cold, then hot, then cold, and lay on the marble block and do solo yoga with as much skin to marble contact as possible. Sounds like a weird experience? It is... But surprisingly... I really enjoyed it. For obvious reasons, there are no pictures of this monumentous experience.  

Day 4 - December 27: Not much happened here in Istanbul. Early morning flight to Mumich and then on to Cairo. 



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