Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Cruise Shore Tour in Istanbul

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The first thing we learned on our shore tour called 'Scenic Highlights' is that Istanbul is home to 17 million people. The second thing we learned is that it has over 700 Starbucks coffee shops!
   We drove past the Dolmabahce palace on the foreshore of the Bosphorus then across the long bridge to the Asian side of the city. There was a short stop for photos in a little park near the bridge. However, the traffic was so bad & the roads so congested that it took ages to get back to the Old City for our visit to the Blue Mosque. I wondered whether the long drive was worth it just to say we'd crossed the bridge into Asia.
  At the Blue Mosque we were instructed to cover our shoulders and knees and for the women to cover their heads. The crowds of visitors were 'funnelled' through a narrow corridor where each was inspected by zealous staff who approved of how you were dressed, or not, as the case may be. Long skirts, pashminas and headscarves were provided for those who needed covering up.

Suitably dressed to enter the Blue Mosque
  Inside the Blue Mosque I was awed by the size of the building and the wealth of decoration - every surface covered in blue tiles, plain or patterned. It was spectacular.

The sheer size of the Blue Mosque
After this visit we were let loose in the Grand Bazaar! I'd been told how easy it was to get lost as there are hundreds of stalls and dozens of exits. We went in at Gate #1 which turned out to be where all the very expensive boutique-style shops selling gold jewellery and leatherwear were situated.

Inside the Grand Bazaar
Up and down the side alleys we went, always keeping a nervous eye out for the passageway that led back to Gate 1 in case we got hopelessly lost and missed our bus! The colours of all the goods for sale were vivid and interesting - it really was an Aladdin's cave, a shopping experience like no other!

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