We recently returned from a vacation to Turkey, which was a very interesting and beautiful place to visit. The country is filled with fascinating history and ruins from significant times in history, the food was excellent, and we were fortunate to be there to enjoy some beautiful fall weather! While in Turkey, we traveled to Istanbul and the Cappadocia region in Central Anatolia.
Istanbul is known as the crossroads between the east and the west. It is the largest city in Turkey with a population of close to 18 million people. The city was founded around 660 BC as Byzantium, until 330AD when it was established as Constantinople. Since then, the city served as the capital of four empires: The Roman Empire (330-395), Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). Istanbul played a major role in advancing Christianity during the Roman and Byzantine times, before the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 and transformed to Islam. The Ottoman Empire served as the last caliphate, and in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was formed and ruled under Ataturk.
Street vendors sold corn, fruits, roasted chestnuts, and fresh juices which made for some nice snacks during the day.
One of the major sites we visited was the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque. The mosque began construction in 1606 and completed in 1616. It has 6 minarets, which is unique for a mosque. It has an enormous main dome inscribed with the names of the caliphs, that is 23m tall, 8 smaller domes, and 260 stained glass windows in total. The mosque is a mix of Christian elements and Islamic architecture, and is considered the last great mosque of the classical period.
The mosque is surrounded on 3 sides by courtyards, and the main courtyard had a large fountain.
Before entering the mosque, was a place for ablution, which a procedure that Muslims perform in preparation for formal prayer.
The mosque gets its name as the Blue Mosque because of the blue colored wall panels inside.
The interior of the mosque has more than 20,000 ceramic tiles and beautiful blue paint. It is decorated with calligraphy verses from the Qur'an and carpets. We were visiting during a prayer time, and got to observe people praying. The mosque was packed with visitors, so we were only able to walk through and take pictures.
View of the minarets.
It was an interesting mosque to visit!
Apple and pomegranate tea is very popular in the country, and many places sold the tea leaves.
We found a nice backdrop to take lots of pictures and let the boys stomp around in the puddles.
More pictures of the Blue Mosque
And while dad and mom were admiring the beauty, all of a sudden we heard a lot of people laughing. Turns out Caleb had to use the bathroom and found the perfect spot. And like any good mom, I quickly grabbed my camera :).
All throughout Istanbul, people were fascinated with picking up Ben. It was kind of odd, but he really liked it. It gave us a neat opportunity to talk to a lot of people. Ironically, of probably the 30+ people that asked where we were from, only 1 person asked if we were American. Most people thought we were Russian, Italian, or Spanish. We are proud to be American, but in the times and circumstances of the region, I was ok with people initially thinking otherwise.
After visiting the palace, we walked down to the Bosphorus River, which forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia, and connects the Sea of Maramar with the Black Sea.