Friday, June 29, 2012

Turkey Trip Day 4

Several Days have passed now were I could not post a blog because of lack of internet. I will have to do most of it when I am back home. I need to say though that my photos/blogs can not describe what an incredible trip it has been so far. James and I agree that it exceeds way our expectations. My blogs (hopefully) can only wet your appetite to see all of this yourselves.

Our trip leader Aykut is full of knowledge ... about history ... about the buildings .... about customs and the people ... you name it. He gets excited when we want to know something and we are always up to it when he suggests to do something in addition to the itinerary. Our group of 13 travelers is very nice. Everybody has good humor and is considerate. By now we all got to know each other quite well. It is a fun group of people and we laugh a lot, even making fun of each other.

Monday June 18

After breakfast at the hotel we fly from Istanbul to Izmir. The plane was full. I had a window seat and since the weather was good a great view.
We were met by our "new" (next) bus and had quite a drive in front of us to Kusadasi. This was the "A Day in the Life" day which our tour company OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) always includes. The idea is to really get to know some people in the country you are visiting.

Here we stop at an Adult Education School (since the schools for children had closed for the summer vacation).
Adults are learning skills in many ways. These decorations (Atatuerk) were done by students of course.
First we visited the class were students learn English. They were very eager to (try to) talk with us.
This is the beauty class. Facials and haircuts. 
Behind the door these pictures.
The sewing class. Somebody seems to be very proud of what she just finished.
Some work was exhibited in the hallway. Unfortunately my camera was set wrong.
The work was really impressive.
The school also provides daycare for the children of the students.
We visited a class in the next village. OAT had bought several sewing machines to help the teacher with her program here.
She told us that the students learn by making their own dowry. 
The next stop in a private home in a Turkish village. The women in this household and friends or neighbors had prepared a meal for us. 

We could sit on the front porch. Aykut translated.
Starting off as always with lentil soup.
One dish after the other came around. This was sauteed eggplant. 

My favorite. Stuffed zucchini blossoms.
 My plate filled. It was all excellent.
The women showed us their handiwork. They bought scarves and edged them with crochet and even some tatting.
I had to model. Since I was tatting on the bus our leader Aykut knew that I liked handwork.
I was the first to select a scarf and then I think the women had a good business with our group.
Turkish tea at the end.

We had had a great time with these village women. I wanted to say thank you and since they seem to enjoy making those lace edgings, I quickly got one of the hearts I had tatted in the plane to give to the hostess. Aykut translated that she was very pleased and the 'tatter' in their circle most likely would imitate it.

And more driving, driving, driving. The winding coast line was very pretty.
Finally we reached our hotel in Kusadasi.
The pool and ocean was looking so inviting that we quickly found our swimsuits.The pool was very lovely and I also enjoyed it very much. James of course had to try the ocean too. Here was no beach though and the water was not very clear so I just enjoyed the view.
 Dinner at sundown.

Buffet of course. 
The desert.

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From Aykut's CD:
Day 4 Monday 06.18.2012 (Kusadası)

Day In The Life Project
  • Breakfast at the Hotel
  • Flight From Istanbul to Izmir
  • Drive to Buca for the People’s Education Center (Grand Circle Foundation Site)
  • Stop at Belenbaşı Village to see what has the foundation done for the ladies there
  • Drive to Kırıklar Village
  • Information about the village life
  • Home Hosted Lunch, Turkish tea
  • Walk in the Village
  • Dinner at the Hotel
  • Port talk about the following day’s Program
Overnight at Charisma Hotel, Kuşadası

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Turkey Trip Day 3

Sunday June 17, 2012
After breakfast at our hotel ... we visit Hagia Sophia, the 'Church of Divine Wisdom' ...

Wake-up call today at 7:30 am and leave at 9 am.

Breakfast at the 9th floor. Lentil soup for breakfast, ha-ha. Buffets are always interesting in a foreign country.
Beautiful view again from the breakfast table. We could see on the left in the water the little island with the lighthouse. So, I guess, we could have seen our hotel from the boat yesterday.
First stop: Hagia Sophia (from the greek 'Blessed Wisdom, not a lady saint's name). This was a church built by Emperor Justinian and finished in AD 537 ... almost 1500 years ago! 1500 years!!!!!!

First we sat down in front of it while our guide gave us a big lesson. He is so excited about everything that it is really fun ... even if you can't recall all of it.
It was built over a previous church and one can see remnants of it in front of it.

In the first narthex are several posters with explanations. Here is a map of the area with the important buildings at that time. The information is taken from ancient books of that time. 
Hagia Sophia was the first building with a great big space under a dome in the middle and not with a flat roof supported by many pillars. It is absolutely mind boggling when you walk around in it. It was the largest cathedral in the world and stayed like it for a thousand years.

This is the inner entry door and we saw our first mosaic.
I have to say right away that it is such an awesome building but photos just don't do it justice. I tried to take a little video also and that too is not good enough for you to get an impression. There are a lot of beautiful man-made things in the world and a lot of old buildings too, but without question this is an outstanding work and work-of-art especially considering its age and the many earthquakes it survived. 
Above the altar area is a mosaic of baby Jesus and his mother. Aykut told us were we could take the best picture of it from the second floor so you will see that later.

For a thousand years it was a church, then Istanbul was conquered and Hagia Sophia became a mosque for about 500 years. In 1934 it became a museum. When it was built as a church, the altar area faced east. When it became a mosque, there was a niche made to the left to show the direction to Mecca which is southeast from here.  

Heart-designs for my HLG lace friends.

This is a very incredible mosaic. 
The stones are so small that there are a lot of nuances in the face, the hair, the hand etc. Our guide talked about pixels like on the computer.

This is graffiti by a Viking on the second floor banister from the 9th century. He was a guard who was supposed to guard but must have gotten bored. He even signed with his name. Wonder what happened to him?
Spider web patterns?
Interesting look out of the top floor window.
More mosaic pictures. You must know that all these pictures are about life size. Here the Virgin and Child in the middle. Emperor and Empress left and right from the 12th century.

Jesus Christ enthroned 11th century.
Emperor and Empress left and right. The interesting thing here that the faces and names of the 'royals' were changed every time the person on the throne changed. You can see the changes.
This is the picture above the altar area.
Beautiful special tiles in several areas too.
On the way out: Christa found her niche.
Waited in this area and everybody is here now (except for Lyn who takes the photo)
Our guide takes us through a special street with different architecture.
Lunch is on our own but we kind of stay together anyway. Aykut recommends the Pudding Shop (which had been visited by Bill Clinton). A cafeteria style restaurant except that somebody carries your tray to your table. Food and beer was very good ... very Turkish.

Meeting afterwards ...
... and continue to the spice market.
 A refreshment salesperson: syrupy water?
With a big vessel on his bag.
Inside the spice market. Aykut recommends this vendor. We get an informative presentation by the owner.
We also get a sample hot tea. Pomegranate, very nice.
The major item offered: Safran! Sold by the gram.

We wander a little around. Lots of Turkish delight candy.
Somehow we take a side exit. Not that many tourists here.
Stands were locals buy. Here all kinds of vegetable plants for the gardener.
And ... yikes ... leeches, wiggly ugly leeches for medicinal purposes (it says).
Later on the bus Aykut promises us THE BEST baklava. The driver stops, Aykut runs into a shop, the bus drives around the corner and there he is again.
One for each of us. We have to admit that it is really good.
Then we take the second oldest underground up the hill and walk around the old streets. Here is the catholic church.

Lots of street shops and market stands. Here Aykut shows us how to eat grilled mussels (filled with a rice mixture too).

Lots of open air restaurants.
Back in front of our hotel. Ah, yes, we had also taken a streetcar earlier. It was so cramped full that it seemed like cheek to cheek dancing. But I had a nice conversion with an Arab family with hands and feet.
After a rest and a nap we ventured out again by ourselves in the area what Aykut called were the real people were (he meant locals). James talked French with our waiter.
Since Aykut had praised the 'magnum' ice cream so much we decided to try it. One handed photos with a stretched out arm don't seem to be my strength but it is a nice memory for us.

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From Aykut's CD:

Day 3 Sunday 06.17.2012 (Istanbul)
  • Hagia Sophia (Justinian, Built in 532-537 AD)
  • Walking through Soğukçeşme sokak where there are old style Turkish Houses (Not in the Program. Learning & Discovery)
  • Lunch on own
  • Taking the tram to Eminönü for the Spice Market
  • Spice Market
  • Baklava Stop in Karaköy (Not in the Program. Learning & Discovery)
  • Taking the second oldest subway system to Beyoğlu
  • Walking through Istiklal Street through Art Noveou Style Buildings
  • Port talk about the following day’s Program
Overnight at CVK Hotel, Istanbul