Today we arrived in Istanbul, Turkey. It has been said that if you lay a map of the world out as if the world was flat then Istanbul would be the center of the world (Don't know for sure, cause I ain't got a world map with me). The ship sailed out from the island of Mykonos through a narrow straight in the Aegean Sea out into the Marmaris Sea toward the port of Istanbul. I awoke this morning to the ship pulling into The Golden Horn which is the only entry by water to the Black Sea (and port access to Bulgaria, the Ukraine and Russia). I stood out on the balcony looking at the Galata Bridge which separates Europe from Asia. In fact, the city of Istanbul straddles two continents and is the narrowest crossing point between Europe and Asia. Just some little know world history facts that I found interesting.
Ron and I went on a short tour of the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque (its called Blue because the interior is decorated with some 20,000 delicate Iznik tiles with a shimmering blue cast), the Hagia Sophia (aka St. Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom - later converted to a mosque during the Ottoman Empire), and the Grand Bazaar (the largest covered market in the world boasting over 4,000 shops and has its town school, mosque, post office, banks and police station.
Before we went into the Grand Bazaar, we went to a large shop called Bazaar 54 where we learned about Turkish carpets...how to tell a hand woven rug from a machine woven, different knots tied, how the dyes are made, how long it takes to make a hand tied carpet, and more. We were then offered some apple tea...SHOPPERS BEWARE...when you are out shopping in the market, the vendors will invite you into their shop and offer you some apple tea. THIS IS NOT JUST WONDERFUL TURKISH HOSPITALITY. If you accept, you are indirectly implying that you are planning to make a purchase is the store. OH NO! I drank the apple tea. Ron and I were in the store for 2 more hours while everybody else from our tour had left to go into the Bazaar. We spent that time looking at rug after rug for the family room (Shopping Goal #1 was a handmade Turkish Rug, Shopping Goal #2 - a piece of Murano Glass from Venice). Then it was haggle time. Man is that a process. It is definitely give and take. Ron was about to walk out when the manager made a final offer that included shipping to the states if we would use another card except Amex. He was trying to get us to take it with us on the plane and even was going to provide the luggage (pulled the bag out). HELL NO! I'm not even going to mention how much, just that Ron got him down $1100 dollars from the opening price with shipping home. I even had to sign the bottom of my new rug to prove that I got the same one that I picked when it arrives in the states. After filling out all the paperwork, they give you more to drink, show you the restroom if you need it, and whisk you away to another floor of nothing but jewelry. DAMN. I looked at charms since I wanted to add another to my charm bracelet and got a really neat one in 18k gold with a glass stone that looks like an eye in the middle (it is supposed to be the evil eye and provide you luck). Here's how the haggling went...salesman says it is $100. "No way!" I say as Ron shakes his head no. "$60 sound more reasonable." "I can't go lower than $85." says the salesman. "$70 is the best I can do." I counter. He say, "Sold, to the lovely lady."....as he pulls out some Sultan Rings for me to look at. Ron is like LET'S GET OUT OF HEAR before they clean us out. We escape the jewelry floor when they try to usher us to the leather floor. HELL NO! RUN FOREST RUN. And Ron and I make a beeline for the door. We then walk down to the Grand Bazaar and you have NEVER seen a mall/bazaar anywhere like this. You can LITERALLY get lost inside (and we almost did). The vendors work the heck out of you.
-DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT.
-DO NOT WALK INTO THE STORE UNLESS YOU HAVE THE GUTS TO WALK OUT.
-WEAR SUNGLASSES SO THEY CAN'T SEE YOUR EYES OR WHERE YOUR ARE LOOKING OR THEY WON'T LEAVE YOU ALONE.
-YOU MUST BARGAIN OR YOU ARE NOT PLAYING ALONG AND YOU WILL GET ROBBED.
Back on the ship, we relaxed (me by the pool and Ron in the cabin), went to dinner and then watched Happy Feet at Movies Under the Stars. We are now sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey in Asia Minor where we plan a tour to Ephesus where St. Paul (my favorite Apostle) preached against the shrine build to Artemis ( the mulit-breasted goddess, symbolizing fertility). St. Paul later wrote his Letter to the Ephesians. Talk to ya.