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The travel to piece of this Mediterranean cruise is well worth forgetting after the zipper on a brand new piece of luggage failed en route to the airport and after the jet lag one feels at our age when traveling to a country that is 10 hours ahead and after spending almost 21 hours either in the air or in an airport. 

Blue Mosque at night

When you take the whirlwind taksi (taxi) trip in the dark from the airport through an exotic city and slip into cool white sheets to the sound of adhan (Muslim call to worship) from the Blue Mosque that's towering just outside your window those inconveniences start to become less important.

My husband had no strong desire to go to Turkey.  Part of it was due to the present state of our perceived safety in traveling.  The other part was probably just not having much knowledge about visiting Turkey or the city of Istanbul.

For me Turkey was an itch that had been growing since a close friend had visited a couple years ago and had a fabulous trip.  I'd also had other friends through the years include Turkey in their vacation plans and they always talked glowingly of the beaches and food.

Sometimes the best way to see a new country that you're not sure you want to spend a lot of time is by cruising.  You spend your nights on board the ship and can eat all of your food on the ship or try the local fare.  We've found eating at least a light lunch locally is fun and gives you a chance to try the food which usually is not found on your ship.  Sipping a glass of wine and eating also slows you down so you're enjoying the view and picking up on the vibe of the place.

Turkish Buffet In an earlier post I described how my husband surprised me with this special cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona for Christmas last year.  It was to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  The biggest shock was that he'd included Turkey and Greece.  My heart did one of those pitter-patters and tears came to my eyes, because I knew he'd done it for me.  In fact as time got closer he even said he wasn't much looking forward to the trip.  The distance was a huge factor.

Well, boy was he surprised!  He absolutely loved Turkey.  The food is full of spices and flavors we hadn't experienced before.  Eating is a relaxed social experience in Turkey, like many other older cultures than ours.  We found the wait staff at many spots to have great senses of humor and if they had the time they loved to chat with you.  In Istanbul most Turks speak English which makes everything so comfortable for those of us that don't speak Turkish.  The east meets west flavor to the city (only city to reside in two continents:  Asia and Europe!), as well as the incredible centuries and centuries of varied cultural history through wars and various religions is fascinating.  There is so much to learn and love about Turkey that I will be barely touching the surface I think in these posts.

Street scene in Sultanahmet

We stayed 3 days in Istanbul before boarding the ship, because we wanted to get over some of the jet lag without missing an excursion and to have a chance to explore Istanbul.  This would be the minimum amount of time I'd recommend for the city.  We only got outside Sultanahmet, the old city where most of the tourist sites reside, once for dinner.  We also went in October which brought inclement weather, but far fewer crowds.

Next post we'll see more of the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya.

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.  Alphonse de Lamartine, French Poet, Writer, and Statesman (1790-1869)

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