Extending a cruise among the Greek Islands to sail into Turkeys’ capital, Istanbul, added an exciting dimension to our 1997 tourist visit to Greece. Along the way, our ship made one stop on the Turkish coast to allow tour groups to explore the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. We bowed out of that visit while I did some sight seeing in the attractive port of Kusadasi.
One notable structure was a colourful monument dedicated to long time Turkish ruler Kemal Ataturk. He was the founder and first president (1923-38) of the Republic of Turkey. He modernized the country’s legal and educational systems and led a secular government which encouraged a European way of life.
Arriving in Istanbul was an outstanding experience in viewing its numerous religious and commercial centres. Visiting the Grand Bazaar was hectic at times because of so many young people selling souvenirs of all kinds. We watched a carpet sale and were taken on tours of major Muslim sites, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles adorning its interior. Much larger and older was the so-called Red Mosque, Hagia Sophia, which was built originally in 360 A.D. and functioned for more than a thousand years as a Christian church, St. Sophia’s.
The Topkapi Palace, once centre of the Ottoman empire and now a museum, was also of much interest. This was partly because of the charming 1960s heist movie of the same name, starring among others Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell and Peter Ustinov.
An entertaining evening at a restaurant-night club introduced us to the exotic charms of Turkish folk music and belly dancing.