10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open space below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center). The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. Inside the Hagia Sophia, I feel small. Inside the Blue Mosque, I feel peace. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest traditional covered markets, with more than 4,000 shops on over 60 streets. Just about everything you can think of is for sale here, but leather, gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, textiles and carpets are good buys. The bazaar is located in the country’s largest city, near such famous sites as Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern on the  city’s historical peninsula (surrounded on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn). The bazaar’s first shops were built in the 15th century, on order of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II soon after he conquered the city.

.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

Continue reading

TURKISH EXTRAVAGANZA – 9 Days of WOW! Part 2

Many thanks to our guest blogger Adrienne Lee! Adrienne and Robert Lee traveled on our travel agent fam trip February/March 2017. Click to read Part 1 of Adrienne’s post

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

HISTORICAL SITES

We expected to visit sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Grand Bazaar – and all were amazing. But they were only the beginning…Each of the historical sites/ruins revealed layer upon layer of civilizations past, complete with massive theaters, towering columns and even latrines. It really felt like we were walking back in history. Since none of them were very crowded we were treated to what felt like private tours. That was definitely the case at Alexandria Troas, where the site was opened up just for us; talk about VIP treatment! Robert and I had visited Ephesus in 2011 (with throngs of other tourists), so we knew what to expect. But on this visit we could see how much more of the ancient city had been excavated.

Many of the sites had added wooden walkways and they made it easier to get around – much easier than crossing uneven and sometimes rugged terrain.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

The customer service was top notch throughout the trip, beginning with the Turkish Airline flight attendants. The staff at each of the hotels went out of their way to make our stays enjoyable. Our luggage was even transported from the bus to our rooms at each one. The attentive service at each restaurant was quite notable. It was helpful that everyone we met spoke English, especially since we spoke very little Turkish. Merhaba, gunaydn and tesekur ederim were about the extent of our vocabulary – and I’m sure that our pronunciation was atrocious. But we never had a problem with communication.

YA’LLA TOURS

This trip was our introduction to the company and we were very impressed. Every detail of the trip had been planned and well thought out. The coordination was like clockwork.   We were never left waiting or wondering what to do – and there were lots of moving parts; buses, in-country flights, ferry rides, funicular, tractor-pulled trams….each one was on time. The trip kept building and each day was better than the last. Every day offered something that surpassed the day before…building up to the pièce de résistance – Dinner at the Ciragan Palace.

There were even several extra special treats like candy at the Marmara Hotel, the gift/wine basket at the Hilton, the yacht cruise on the Bosporus, the special gift on our last day.

The travel documents were detailed and even included historical information, packing tips and Turkish vocabulary.

The Saturday seminar was very informative. When we saw that there was going to be a mandatory daylong seminar, we expected it to be a typical seminar – long and boring. On the contrary, it was filled with many insights and valuable information. It also stimulated our thought processes with regard to marketing Turkey, Israel, Cuba and our own business.

Due to recent events, many people are apprehensive about visiting Turkey right now. Even our friends and associates questioned our decision to go. However, not once did we experience anything that made us feel unsafe or in danger. The presence of security personnel and metal detectors added a measure of security. We’re aware that many American travelers are fearful, and we are committed to dispelling those fears.

Turkey is a rich travel destination and we look forward to returning and sending clients to the region. We have seen quite a bit of the world and have taken many familiarization trips, but this was by far the best trip ever.

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast, immense, vast and vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open enormity below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center), sort of. The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. One more… Hagia Sophia makes me feel small. Blue Mosque makes me feel peaceful. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

Istanbul Highlights #2

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

the Grand Bazaar – If you’re a serious shopper, you need a full day or two here and a guide or a map and a compass. For most of us, a few hours is more than enough. One of the oldest and largest traditional covered markets, there are more than 4,000 shops on over 60 streets and they are not laid out on a grid, much. As long as you have an ultimate exit plan and plenty of time, it’s a wondrous place to get lost in. Just about everything you can think of is for sale here, but leather, gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, textiles and carpets are good buys in Turkey. Shops selling similar items are grouped together. Merchants in the Grand Bazaar can be quite aggressive. If you’re shopping for a big ticket item, you should go in with some knowledge about quality, firm resolve and a sense of humor. Continue reading