Reader Essential Experience of the Week

Carpets, Mosques and Cruising the Bosporus
Istanbul, Turkey
Posted by Mike Kneebone
May 10, 2011

A Mediterranean cruise had been my wife’s and my dream cruise for a number of years.  After months of anticipation,  we set sail last October aboard Star Princess for 12 great days exploring the Eastern Mediterranean (Venice to Rome – with stops in Greece, Turkey, Italy & Monte Carlo).  

The Blue Mosque -- taken during sailaway on Star Princess.

Istanbul was our third port of call and it had been high on our “bucket list” and it didn’t disappoint.  We had booked a full-day excursion in advance through Princess (St Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Bosporus Cruise).

Our stop was a carpet store near the Grand Bazaar.  We were ushered into a beautiful room upstairs and given some apple tea.  After a brief talk and demonstration they began to show us some of the most beautiful carpets we had ever seen.

We never intended to buy one, but they rolled out a gorgeous 4′ x 6′ carpet right in front of us.  We both fell in love with it.  We took it to another room where there was a great hardwood floor to get a better look at it.  We ended up being the first purchasers of the day (with an added discount….).

Purchasing the carpet -- Mike's wife, Sajonna, is all smiles

Back on the bus, we stopped briefly at the Hippodrome and then went on to the Blue Mosque and St Sophia.  Both were incredible but what struck us both was that St Sophia has stood intact for over 1,400 years and was the largest building with its massive dome for almost 1,000 years.  It’s great that it is now a museum and everyone can enjoy its grandeur and history.

We headed back across the bridge to the dock and then boarded our motor launch for a wonderful two-hour cruise on the Bosporus including a great selection of Turkish dishes for lunch.  Seeing the city from the water (with a great commentary) is the best way to see the city.

Back on the bus again, and over the bridge, we enjoyed a couple hours at the Topkapi Palace.

We were late leaving since we were one person short but did finally get all of us on the bus and arrived back at Star Princess 10 minutes late.  I guess they had been calling some of our names over the PA…. Sure were glad we were on a Princess tour – wouldn’t want to be left behind.   Our day in Istanbul was everything we had hoped for and more.

Originally we were disappointed to learn we would in port on a Sunday and that the Grand Bazaar would be closed.  But, if it wasn’t a Sunday with less traffic we never would have been able to have had such a full day.

The interior of St. Sophia

One month to the day after we were in Istanbul, our carpet arrived and now it’s a lasting memory of our wonderful day in the city that straddles two continents.  We’ll never forget our day — the people were very friendly and the city was amazing.

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