As usual, we went through NYC and we seem to always do New York City for only 24 hours at a time. (Seriously, we need to plan a trip there and stay a week!) NYC has been our gateway to our destinations, so we make a day out of it instead of just stopping and changing airplanes right away. I wanted to see three things: the Rockefeller Tree, Bryant Park, and Central Park. And we did.
We checked into our hotel in Midtown and then went to Rockefeller Plaza. The tree was surrounded by scaffolding and was quite amazing. It's a lot bigger than what I thought it would be. And the scaffolding wasn't just AROUND it, it was THROUGH it. Like, maybe 9 layers. Impressive. It didn't get lit for another couple of weeks.
The next morning we took the Subway to Central Park. We only went in a quarter of a mile at most, but the trees were pretty. We had too much on our list to spend any amount of time there.
Took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked only far enough across to get the picture. (in the background: One World Trade Center)
Back on the subway to the hotel to pick up our luggage and then to JFK airport. I really think we spent more time underground than above.
We left JFK for our flight to Amsterdam. I love non-American flights. They aren't stingy and don't nickel and dime you. We had a lay-over and then caught our flight to Istanbul. (I MUCH prefer to fly directly and not have these stupid lay-overs, but this one was especially expensive and I figured I could buy a lot of shoes with the $$ I saved.)
And now we're in Turkey.
We met our tour director, Aukut and travelling group in a meeting at our most fabulous hotel (And David and I even got a suite!) It was nighttime and we were all jet-lagged and wanting to sleep. (After our yummy 4 course meal.)
The next day - Thursday, November 20th - we took our nice bus to see the Hippodrome where horses and chariots used to race. We also visited the Blue Mosque and St. Sofia:
This is all in Istanbul.
St. Sofia (Sofia Haggia)
These both started out as Christian buildings, then Muslim, and now museums.
We toured the underground cistern also. Ingenious way to save water back in the day. Invading armies always shut off the water supply to cities that they were conquering. These guys didn't have a problem because of that. There are lots of carp in the water now.
Istanbul (Constantinople) is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Asia and Europe.
I fell in love with the mosiac tiles in Morocco. And here they are again in the Topkapi Palace!
Had to wear a scarf in the Blue Mosque
Turkey is the #2 exporter of marble. It's everywhere! See those slabs above? They were cut in half so they are a mirror image of each other. Artisans could cut two inches a day. (And what did they cut the slabs with? Silk! More on that later.)
Seriously -- with all this Christian artwork, how is this country 98% Muslim?? I asked myself that CONSTANTLY this whole trip.
That cherub in the picture above? Her face was just uncovered recently. The Muslims don't believe in having faces and they covered it with plaster.
The different marble patterns.
And here I thought that punch bowls like this were recent. Silly me. This one was unearthed a thousand years ago by a farmer.
Some fun facts:
Everyone in Turkey carries an ID card and it lists your religion on it.
Military is compulsory for 12 months. Eight if you're in college.
Once you have a major (or are assigned it) you can't change. Ever.
70% of the world's hazelnuts come from Turkey.
Chobani yogurt? Not Greek. Turkish! (Choban means shepherd)
Original Turks still live in Northern China.
"Mesapotamia" means "between two rivers." It's in Turkey.
Black Sea is called that because at 250 ft there is no oxygen. Just sulpher.
The Turkish language is most like Finnish and Hungarian.
They call the sunflower the moonflower.
Before 1934, no one had surnames.
Arab sailors taught Italians how to make pizza.
70% of Turkish salt comes from their own salt lake.
Journalists are jailed a lot. Censorship in media is horrible.
Gas is $10 a gallon. Most expensive in the world.
In a room in the palace, an Imam has been chanting the Koran 24/7 since the 1500's. !!
Grand Bazaar. Oh yeah. I bought a pretty tea set that has carnations and tulips on it. Those two flowers stand for Mohammed and Allah. (Not that I think that's amazing or anything.) But what IS cool is that Holland first got its tulips from Turkey. They were smuggled in.
The picture below is at the Hippodrome.
On Friday, Nov. 21st, we left Istanbul and drove to Gallipoli. Still on the Europe side. The Aegean Sea was on our right and the Dardanelles were on our left.
Such a sad place. This graveyard is dedicated to the boys from New Zealand and Australia. They tried to take Turkey but were all killed. Turkey has really stepped up to honor them. I love the words on the above memorial.
Above and below: dedicated to the Turks that lost their lives in WW1.
Aegean Sea in the background.
We crossed the Dardanelles by ferry. The whole bus just rolled on and we jumped out to enjoy the short trip across to the Asia side where we would spend the majority of our trip.
Above: Fatima, Dorothy, me, and Peter and Tricia Chang
The view from the ferry
Landed in Canakkale. (chan-ock-o-lay)
This Trojan Horse was a prop in the movie "Troy."
Above: The Dardanelles.
The ferry above. The view from our hotel below.