A Travellerspoint blog


Istanbul to Athens - Azamara Journey


sunny 90 °F

We had a late arrival into Bodrum, Turkey today allowing the group to watch the entrance to port without having to get up early. Bodrum is another yachting and vacation spot on western Turkey famous for the Bodrum Castle.

Bodrum is located on the southern coast of Bodrum Peninsula, at a point that checks the entry into the Gulf of Gökova, and is also the center of the eponymous district. The city was called Halicarnassus of Caria in ancient times and was famous for housing the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Bodrum Castle was built from 1402 onwards, by the Knights of St John as the Castle of St. Peter or Petronium. Confronted with an invasion by the Seljuk Turks, the Knights Hospitaller, whose headquarters were on the island of Rhodes, needed another stronghold on the mainland. Grand Master Philibert de Naillac (1396–1421) identified a suitable site across from the island of Kos, where a castle had already been built of the Order. Its location was the site of a fortification in Doric times (1110 BC) as well as of a small Seljuk castle in the 11th century. The same promontory is also the probable site of the Palace of Mausolos, the famous King of Caria. The construction of the castle began in 1404 under the supervision of the German knight-architect Heinrich Schlegelholt. The first walls were completed in 1437. The chapel was among the first completed inner structures (probably 1406). Fourteen cisterns for collecting rainwater were excavated in the rocks under the castle. Each langue of the Order had its own tower, each in its own style. Each tongue, each headed by a Bailiff, was responsible for the maintenance and defence of a specific portion of the fortress and for manning it with sufficient numbers of knights and soldiers. There were seven gates leading to the inner part of the fortress. The construction of the three-storied English tower was finished in 1413. One door opens to the north, to the inner part of the castle, while the other leads to the western rampart. One could only access this tower via a drawbridge. The western façade shows an antique carved relief of a lion. Because of this relief, the tower was also called "the Lion Tower". Above this lion, one can see the coat of arms of King Henry IV of England.


Posted by rpickett 07:37 Archived in Turkey Tagged bodrum Comments (0)

Istanbul to Athens - Azamara Journey

Kusadasi and Ephesus

sunny 85 °F

Our stop for today was the seaport of Kusadasi, access point to the ancient seaport of Ephesus. The area has been a center of art and culture since some of the earliest recorded history, and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th. Originally, seamen and traders built a number of settlements along the coastline, including Neopolis. An outpost of Ephesus in ancient Ionia, known as Pygela, the area between the Büyük Menderes (Maeander) and Gediz (Hermos) rivers, the original Neopolis, is thought to have been founded on the nearby point of Yılancı Burnu. Later settlements were probably built on the hillside of Pilavtepe, in the district called Andızkulesi today. Kuşadası was a minor port frequented by vessels trading along the Aegean coast. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus, until Ephesus' harbor silted up. From the 7th century BC onwards the coast was ruled by Lydians from their capital at Sardis, then from 546 BC the Persians, and from 334 BC, along with all of Anatolia, the coast was conquered by Alexander the Great. From that point on the coastal cities in Anatolia became a centre of Hellenistic culture. During the daytime, I took a stroll through town, a typical vacation seaport in any of the world.

At 7:00pm, we left the cruise terminal for our Azamazing event - a classical concert in the Odean Theater of Ephesus.
It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates, Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It may have been rebuilt or repaired but this is uncertain, as its later history is not clear. Emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. Following the Edict of Thessalonica from Emperor Theodosius I, what remained of the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom. The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils. It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard,
The Odeon theater has the shape of a small theater with the stage building, seating places and the orchestra. It had double function in use. First it was used as a Bouleuterion for the meetings of the Boulea or the Senate. The second fuction was the Odeum as a concert hall for the performances.It was constructed in the 2nd century A.D by the order of Publius Vedius Antonius and his wife Flavia paiana, two wealthy citizens in Ephesus. It had a capacity of 1500 spectators. It had 3 doors opening from the stage to the podium. The podium was narrow and one meter higher than the orchestra section. The stage building was two-storied and embellished with columns.The podium in front of the stage building and some parts of the seating were restored. The Odeon used to be enclosed with a wooden roof.

Our performers tonight were members of the Camerata Izmir Orchestra, and they played works by Handel, Bach, Boccherini, Borodin, Mozart, Gardel and Brahms. It was spectacular and the acoustics of the theater was amazing.


Posted by rpickett 07:09 Archived in Turkey Tagged and ephesus kusadasi Comments (0)

Istanbul to Athens - Azamara Journey

Underway and Kepez

sunny 80 °F

We left our hotel at 11:00am and had a 20 minute ride to the cruise terminal. We were one of the first one's at the terminal and also the first group on board. Lunch was waiting and our cabins were available at 1:30pm. We were greeted by a wonderfully friendly staff including the Hotel Manager, who was personally walking around conversing with the guests.
After our boat drill at 5:00pm we put the Bosporus astern and headed to sea.
The Bosphorus or Bosporus is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles strait to the southwest together form the Turkish Straits. The world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, the Bosporus connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara (which is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea.)

We arrived at our first port of Kepez and the associated Sea Port of Canakkale Turkey, both located on the Dardanelles Strait.
The Dardanelles formerly known as Hellespont , literally "Sea of Helle"), is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. The strait is 61 kilometres (38 mi) long but only 1.2 to 6 kilometres (0.75 to 3.73 mi) wide, averaging 55 metres (180 ft) deep with a maximum depth of 103 metres (338 ft).[1] Water flows in both directions along the strait, from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean via a surface current and in the opposite direction via an undercurrent. Canakkale is the nearest major town to the site of ancient Troy. The "wooden horse" from the 2004 movie Troy is exhibited on the seafront. Çanakkale is the second city to be situated on two continents after Istanbul. However Çanakkale is closer to mid-division than Istanbul. The first inhabitants of the city, which hosted many civilizations, lived on the Biga Peninsula in the Last Chalcolithic Age c. 6000 years ago. However, very little is known about the identity and lifestyle of these early settlers. According to some excavations and research, the earliest settlements in the region were established at Kumtepe. It is supposed that Kumkale was established in 4000 BC and Troy between 3500–3000 BC. The real history of Çanakkale started with Troy.
We skipped the early morning tours of Troy, and opted for the complimentary shuttle into town.

After the "Officers' BBQ Buffet" on the pool deck, we headed to sea at 3:00pm. Tonight we are dining at the Prime 21 Steak House!

Posted by rpickett 06:52 Archived in Turkey Tagged and çanakkale underway Comments (0)

Istanbul to Athens - Azamara Journey

A full day in Istanbul

sunny 83 °F

Our group of 12 left the hotel a few minutes after 9:00am this morning. One couple got confused about what the correct local time was, and was off by an hour. It was fine - everyone was in good spirits.

Our first stop was the ancient Hippodrome of Istanbul, which now hosts two magnificent obelisks. The Hippodrome of Constantinople (Turkish: Sultanahmet Meydanı, was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) in the Turkish city of Istanbul, with a few fragments of the original structure surviving.

We then headed to the "Blue Mosque" - one of the most wonderful Mosques in Islam. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii) is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still popularly used as a mosque.

We then walked to the Topkapi Palace. The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign.As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a museum and as such a major tourist attraction. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's cloak and sword. and the Royal Jewels. The Topkapı Palace is among the monuments contained within the "Historic Areas of Istanbul", which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is described under UNESCO's criterion iv as "the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces [...] of the Ottoman period." The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, and covered a large area with a long shoreline. It contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. Construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. It was originally called the New Palace (Yeni Saray) to distinguish it from the previous residence. It received the name "Topkapı" (Cannon Gate) in the 19th century, after a (now lost) gate and shore pavilion. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. After the 17th century, the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosphorus. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint, were retained in the Topkapı Palace.

It was then time for lunch in a little cafeteria style restaurant that was air conditioned!!

After lunch we walked to the Hagia Sophia - absolutely one of the most spectacular buildings in the world. Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former Christian patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, its patronal feast taking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Although sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia (as though it were named after Saint Sophia), sophia being the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom, its full name in Greek is Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, "Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God".

Our final stop was the Grand Bazaar, not far from our hotel. The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ‘Covered Bazaar’; also Büyük Çarşı, meaning ‘Grand Bazaar’) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it is listed No.1 among world's most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors.

During the tour, we had the opportunity to view the Bosporus and the Mediterranean - a truly wonderful sight!

Although long due to the jet lag, it was a wonderful day - worth every minute. Tomorrow, we meet at 11:00am to head to the ship!

Posted by rpickett 08:54 Archived in Turkey Tagged istanbul Comments (0)

Istanbul to Athens - Azamara Journey

USA to Istanbul


The adventure for the past 24 hours was to get from Charleston to Istanbul on United. We were successful. We had a 90 minute delay in Charleston because the plane, coming from Dulles, had a significant ground hold due to thunderstorms in the area. This again enforces my personal and recommended policy of allowing many hours when you are connecting to an international flight. In this case we had five, which allowed for such circumstances as this. If we had a shorter connection, we would have been scrambling to find a way to Europe!
We flew through Dulles and Frankfurt. Dulles is fine - one of my more liked airports, and Frankfurt was challenging purely because of it's size. Lots of walking, getting a Lufthansa boarding pass, and going through a very thorough and tedious security screening (no passport control) was time consuming. Additionally the airport was poorly air conditioned so it was hot throughout. It took us a good hour plus in the business class lines to get from one gate to the other. I am thinking that Germany is on a heightened state of security for a variety of political reasons.
We arrived in Istanbul, and the passport control process was very organized and efficient. Turkey requires an E-visa for US tourists - about $20.00 - which made entry easy and quick, much more efficient than Germany. Our transfer person was waiting, and the car came in about 15 minutes. As it was a holiday - the day after Ramadan, a feast day - there were families everywhere. Interesting in and of itself, because the male head of the household held all of the passports and escorts the entire group through passport control.
We are staying at the Kent Hotel - a four star - not one that you would pick on a drive by - but within walking distance of the Bazaar and quite nice....wonderful shower.
Tomorrow, our group of 12 traveling companions leave the hotel at 9:00am for a full 8 hour tour of the famous sites of the city.

Posted by rpickett 08:14 Archived in Turkey Tagged istanbul usa to Comments (0)

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