From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Istanbul, Turkey Spring 2011

Jamie and I left the compound following some co-workers to the Bahrain airport at 10:00 pm for a 2:30 am flight from Bahrain to Istanbul.  We had planned a trip to Turkey and plan to see Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia in 7 days.  The drive to the airport was pretty easy despite going through various barricades with armored vehicles and tons of guys with Kevlar vests and machine guns.  The protests in Bahrain are still going on, and they are taking their protection seriously.

A 4 hour flight dropped us in Istanbul at 6:30 am.  We took the Metro to the center of the city near the Blue Mosque and then found our hostel by 9:00 am.  We dropped our stuff off and headed out immediately to begin touring this amazing historical city. 

Some has asked, “What is so special about Istanbul?” This question can take several books to answer, but here is Jamie’s short answer, “Istanbul is the cultural crossroads between the East and the West. It has been the capital of several major world empires which means that the city has seen a great mix of different cultures, food, architecture, and religion.”

Among the empires that have controlled the city include: Romans, Byzantines, and then the Ottomans before the current Republic.  If you want, you can read the entire history in any site by Googling it; but for any historian, it is the place you want to go to see history come alive.

Today was such a day that I’ll remember forever.  Reading and teaching about the city, the empires, the religious significance, and the cultures is one thing, but actually touching, walking, and sitting in the midst of the history of Istanbul is really indescribable.  Nonetheless, I’ll tell you what we saw, post the pictures, and try my best to narrate this day.  I am amazed this is the first day in such an amazing country.

Our first stop was the Blue Mosque.  The mosque was built during the early 1600s in the reign of the Ottoman Empire.  It is also known for its blue tiles in the interior and its 6 minarets.  Traditionally, Muslim mosques have 4 minarets.  The sultan at the time ordered for 6 to be built to mimic Mecca, but then ordered one more to built in Mecca.  It took several pictures outside and inside.  The thing that bothered me the most were the wires that were all over the place inside supporting the lighting.  It really distracts from a beautiful structure.

Across the street from the Blue Mosque is perhaps the most famous landmark in Turkey.  The Hagia Sophia was first built in the early 300s by the famous Roman Emperor Constantinople.  It was a fairly modest structure then, but has since then been destroyed and rebuilt by three different groups.  It was first controlled the Christian Roman Empire, then when the Ottomans overthrew the last of the Byzantine Empire, they converted it into a mosque, plastering over the mosaics, restructuring it, and adding minarets.  When the Ottoman Empire ended, Turkey secularized the Hagia Sophia and turned it into a museum.  As a result, they have begun to uncover the plastering of the mosaics.  This is a difficult process and only some of the mosaics remain.  Nonetheless, what remains is an absolute fusion of a Christian temple and a Muslim mosque, symbolizing the battle that was waged and continues to be waged in this region. 

Perhaps what struck me the most was the beautiful mosaic of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus (which looks a little scary) that would be right over the alter of a regular church.  Below it, the Muslims had plastered over this mosaic and built an area recognizing where the prayers should face toward Mecca.  When it was restored, what now remains is both: the direction of where the Muslims pray toward Mecca but right above, the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus looking down. 

To the southwest of the Hagia Sophia is a mile marker of the Roman Road.  You can still see some of the bricks used for the road under some of the sediment, but a tower still remains.  The Romans were famous for their road building and aqueduct building, so our next stop was next door to the Roman Basilica Cistern, an enormous underwater cistern that was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 527.  While not used for water anymore, you can tell how it was a water source for the people.  The most interesting part were the Greek Medusa heads carved into the bottom of two of the columns.  The exact origin of the heads is unknown, but they are amazing to see.

We then strolled down the road to eat a Turkish “shwarma” before going to the Grand Bizaar, the largest underground shopping center in the world.  We didn’t buy anything yet.  We brought an extra suitcase just for souvenirs from this place. 

We napped for a while since all of this was on about 2 hours of sleep, then headed out with some friends to a local restaurant around the corner.  What was special about this place was that as they were expanding their store a few years ago, they found the remains of the old Byzantine Palace first built in 372.  You can now go underneath the restaurant and see the original walls of the palace.  Crazy!

Be sure to check out our pictures in the photo album and check back for more on our trip to Turkey

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