Entries in Turkey (4)

Tuesday
May012012

Au Revoir Istanbul! {traveling with kids in Europe - and Asia!}

Our last day in Turkey was spent heading out on an early ferry to the Princes' Islands, a popular day trip from Istanbul. After a lot of research, I settled on the pedestrian only island of Buyukada. It was cute, though a little run down. It had glimmers of charm and it's past glory, and we were just delighted to have sunshine and a horse and carriage ride! Officially I don't think I'd recommend it. I'd recommend staying another day so that you have time to go to Ephasus or Cappodiccia. And there's about another 3 weeks of fantastic sites to be seen in Turkey, but alas, the hubs actually has a job, with only a certain amount of vacation days, so 4 days it was!

On the ferry ride over:
On the island itself. First up was the horse and carriage ride which is a must if you do go.. 
Our last fresh fish lunch. Eyeballs and all :) We really enjoyed the food on this trip. Mediterranean influence meant lots of hummus, dolmas and this special puffed pita bread as big as both the kids heads! We have quite an adventureous eater in Miss C, as we've always known, but she really had fun exploring a more exotic menu with her dad (who she gets it from). My picky eater surpised us all when he wanted the fish on this day. He's always been a great meat eater and we decided he's a little more adventurous than we give him credit for. Over the last few months, his "all meat goes attitude" has inlcuded trying duck, rabbit, escargo, scallops, beef tartar, and even this fish with the head and eyeballs in which he was eating the crispy tail like a chip. So, while he still won't eat un-melted cheese and mashed potatoes will make him vomit, he's holding his own! haha...

then, walking off our yummy lunch...

We raced back to the hotel to catch our 7pm flight... I loved  these flags in the trees..
only to discover our flight had been canceled until the next morning. Too bad we couldnt' have stayed in our great hotel that night and enjoyed a relaxing evening.. instead, we were in the airport for many hours, finally going on our own to get an airport hotel which had a shuttle for our 7am flight. The line to get a hotel voucher with the airlines was at least 4 hours long!  So this is how the kids entertained themselves for a few hours in said airport..
See if you can guess what games they were playing!
So, that's finally the end of our Turkish adventure! Thanks for looking and check back for loads of tulips in Holland and more this week!

Monday
Apr302012

Istanbul Part 3: {traveling with kids in Europe & Asia}

I feel like our experiences living overseas will be the beginnings of great party jokes one day. You know the ones that start like this -
"Did I ever tell you about the time ..."
...  I scraped my windshield in the hotel parking lot with a 'my little pony' because it was 6am, the 3rd day we were in Belgium and I didn't have a scraper in the rental car!?
... we drove to the Christmas markets in Germany the 1st week we were here and the GPS ran out of charge with no map in the car?
... we put petrol in our diesel rental car? In rural France?
... we picked feathers off of our brown grocery store eggs. Every time?
... we had to get a physical on our house hunting trip and the doctor said after about 3 sentances, "I need you to take all your clothes off", and there was no paper wrap!? And I was expecting Ashton Kutcher to jump out and say I'd been punk'd?
And the list goes ON and ON! haha..

Traveling to Turkey definiltey had it's share of dinner-party-stories.
like the one where...
... we split up and took each kid to our first Turkish hammam (bath). The women's side was all topless and we both got a real scrubbing by an also topless bather that did NOT look like Gisele.
... at the above Hammam, when miss priss tells me her eyes are burning a little and I say, "because of the steam or because of seeing all the big boobies?" ;)
... getting caught in the rain in Asia and waiting under a playground fort for a good 30 minutes with a couple of gypsies and a smoking pandhandler.
... sitting at a restaurant all with wet feet for no less than 3 hours, outside, while cats were fighting and trying to get K's food. Only to be told after we'd been waiting about 2 hours that the waiter forgot to put our order in. (we actually had amazing food much of the time.. this was the exception!)
... being chatted up by no less than 4 men our first day trying to take us to a carpet shop. Maybe we looked less green on our 2-4th day because it seemed to subside after that.
... running across the set of a James Bond film and then seeing later that week in the news that a freakish wind storm had torn it down a few days later.
... hearing the call to prayer for the first time in the streets. It was so loud we just had to stop and sit and watch (and listen). By our 3-4th day, it was old hat and we strolled on about our business smiling at the few others you could tell were hearing it for their first time..
... we took the kids to Asia for their first time?

And now for Day 3 of our Istanbul adventure.
We started out by heading to the Church in Chora, famous for it's Byzantine mosaics. It did not dissapoint and it was a treat to share our Christian faith with our children right there in Istanbul, thanks to these stories that have been preserved for hundreds and hundreds of years, thru such an amazing art form.
A bit of browsing outside of Chora up some fantastic colors and textures.
We then headed across the Golden Horn to the Galeta Tower. Built in 1348, we'd read that it was a great viewpoint to see the mainland, and thankfully the rain hadn't begun and we could see what all the fuss was about!

We boarded a ferry and decided to head across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul. It's the only city to straddle 2 continents! The kids were super excited to check a continent of their list! We had a great fish lunch and hid out from the rain as long as we could.
As you can see, the clouds were rolling and in and it rained for much of the afternoon and into the night. We got drenched as the traffic was horrible and we couldn't get a taxi. So we ducked into the hammam and warmed up, got a good scrubbing, only to put on our wet clothes and walk another few miles back to the hotel... only to get all good and dry to put on wet shoes and go sit outside for what turned out to be a 3 hour dinner with feisty cats! Oy vey! Needless to say, we slept GREAT that night and were ready for our last adventure: to the Princes' Islands. Final report coming up tomorrow!

Wednesday
Apr252012

Istanbul walking tour: {traveling with kids in Europe and Asia}

our 2nd day in Istanbul, we spent on a private tour of the major sites. The morning was spent exploring the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Hippodrome area, while the afternoon was mostly in Topkapi Palace and then on to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. We'd seen a couple of these the day before, but it's always more interesting with a guide telling you the cool stuff you'd never know on your own! ;)

The inside of Hagia Sophia was amazing. A mesh of the Christian and Muslim influences abound.
The light pours in and you can't help but stand in awe of such an amazing masterpiece that's been inspiring it's inhabitants for over 1500 years!
I've always been a sucker for mosaics and boy did I geek out here. When you visit any place with a Byzantine history, you're guarenteed to find amazing mosaics. It's such an incredible art form. The one photo above where the pieces are missing clear up to their faces has somewhat of a sad story. They were all covered in the Muslim period, and in the 20's when Turkey became a republic, they opened Hagis Sophia as a museum and unearthed the mosaics that had been hidden for 500 years. That particular mosaic was intact, but the early curators would give break off a piece to give to vistitors for a small fee. So it lasted for 1400 years only to be dismembersd for a few cents!? So sad!
However, there were several more (out of arms reach!?) that we can still enjoy today.
Next up was Topkapi Palace. Construction began in the 1400's and it's very opulent and filled with gorgeous tile and eastern Ottoman beauty.
we spent some time in the Harrem, which was romanticized by western poets in the 1800's. Yes, the sultan had a few wives, but the Harrem was explained as more of a boarding school for future wives than what we assume when we hear the word. (i'll keep this post G-rated) ;)   It's true though, that girls as young as 6-7 would be brought here to be trained to be future child-bearers. If they had a child, they were set. If they had a son, it was like winning the lottery! The crafstmanship was truly amazing here.. oh the photos ops I had!!
A few pics in the spice market to close our full day! We all discovered our favorite Turkish delight flavor and called it a day. Check back tomorrow for more fun on the Golden Horn!