Istanbul, Turkey…Story and photos…

Mosques and churches are abundant in Istanbul.

 

What a view of Istanbul!

 

The contrast between old and new is breathtaking in Istanbul.

It was not an easy decision, deciding not to visit Istanbul, Turkey today. Tomorrow, while our ship will have docked in Izmir, Turkey we are going on an excursion to Ephesus, not returning until late in the day, posting the story and photos on Thursday. 

As our ship overlooks this magnificent city, it is quite tempting, to simply walk off the ship and venture out on our own.  From the information provided to us by the excursion desk, it’s about a 30 minutes vigorous walk through the city to arrive at the mosques, the Grand Bazaar, the Underground Cistern, and many other renowned historical sites of interest.
We were able to zoom in on many historic sites from the deck of the ship.

 

Google Maps
Taksim Square wherein lies the political unrest in Istanbul, Turkey, is across the bridge from the Blue Mosque.  The far-left point of the blue line is the Port of Istanbul.  The end point of the blue line toward the right is the Blue Mosque and an area of most of the tourist attractions, a little too close for comfort by our commitment to safety.

Staying behind is not based on fear as much as on practicality and logical thinking. Most likely, if we did go out, we’d be safe. The odds are in our favor.
Honestly, it’s more my being cautious than Tom. 

Looming in my mind is all the bus bombings and terrorist attacks that have occurred whereby tourists have been killed, injured, and captured. In many ways, Turkey is safer than in many other countries.  But, in our own US, who would have thought the Boston Marathon would be a high-risk area, on that particular horrifying day?

When we planned this year’s long adventure, we made a commitment to each other: we will protect ourselves from the “things we do know” since we have no control over “the things we don’t know.”

Today, Istanbul falls into the category of “things we do know.” Thus, we stay behind, perhaps viewed as overly cautious and “chicken” by some and sensible by others.  Whichever the case, we’ve made peace with our decision.

Here again, old and new intertwined in Istanbul, Turkey.

We reminded ourselves that only four weeks ago, we traveled the Middle East, visiting many high-risk areas, reveling in the adventure of it all, grateful for the experience.  We’re not pushing our luck to see yet more mosques, shopping areas and historical buildings, however magnificent they may be.

We find this French style of architecture not only in parts of the US, but in other cities throughout the world.

We remind ourselves of our personal travel objectives: to focus our time, money, and energy experiencing amazing wildlife, vegetation, natural wonders. And most of all, living in and learning the culture of people all over the world.  This makes us happy.  Historical buildings?  Nice to see, but not as life-changing for us as it may be for others.

This simple church spire adds to the Istanbul skyline.

The Panama Canal, Petra, and Mykonos tell us a story that fills our hearts and minds with awe and joy.  Wearing the burka and thobe in Abu Dhabi visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque gave us a gift of cultural differences that will remain with us forever. 

Mingling with the Mayan people, eating their food from their shops and markets in Belize was so meaningful to us.  Tom getting a haircut from a Creole barber while sitting under a tree on a plastic chair atop cement blocks was a delightful experience for us both. 
Also, on our trip to the Monkey River in Belize, seeing the howler monkeys, the manatees, crocodiles, dolphins, the unusual birds and vegetation, the likes of which we’d never seen before, left us reeling with pure pleasure.  And, the lunch at Alice’s Restaurant will be etched in our minds forever, as Alice and her family ran circles around us to serve us their perfect version of local lunch.

Who’s to say what “trips one’s trigger?”  Luckily, both of us have similar expectations.  Five days from today, we’ll plant our feet in Italy for the summer, living for two and half months in a non-English speaking area, learning their ways of daily life, eating their locally grown foods, attending their summer festivities, enjoying their rolling hillside all the while and making friends along the way.

The Port of Istanbul, where we sit today, a 20-minute walk from the unrest in Taksim Square.

Yes, we are doing what we want, when we want, what feels safe to us while enriching our lives daily to the world around us. It’s not perfect.  It never will be.  But for us, this, our friends, is as good as it gets.

 

Sea day…On our way to Mykonos Greece, arriving in the morning…

No photos today due to poor Internet connection on a sea day with many passengers on the ship using WiFi.

On our prior seven cruises since 1/3/2013, our captains were rather chatty, announcing destinations, weather condition, points of interest plus generally anything at all that may peak the curiosity of the passengers and crew. Not so much here on the Norwegian Spirit. 

He’d hardly said “boo” until today when we attended a “Latitudes” members only, cocktail party at 1:00 pm for the 419 passengers on board who have attained a certain number of points starting at Bronze, then to Silver, Gold and ultimately to Platinum. 

Currently, we are Silver members, but when this cruise ends, we’ll be Gold members, allowing certain privileges, none of which are relevant to us at this point, other than the 15 minutes of free Internet time and invitations to a few cocktail parties with free drinks and appetizers.

Thus, today at the party, the captain finally spoke at the party as many of us eagerly await the cruise line’s decision to as to whether or not we’ll be allowed to get off the ship safely in Istanbul with the news of ongoing
civil unrest. He didn’t provide us with a definitive answer at this point. From there, we’ll have to make of our own decision, should they give us the “go ahead,” as to whether or not we’ll choose to get off the ship to tour
Istanbul.  With all the amazing comments we’ve heard, we’d love to see Istanbul.

However, if we can’t get off the ship in Istanbul in a few days, we’ll hopefully be able to venture out in Izmir, Turkey in order to take advantage of the tour to Ephesus, supposedly comparable in its wonders to Petra, Jordan, my favorite all time places to visit since we began our travels over seven months ago.

We’ve made it through the Middle East without incident (aside from illness), one would think an eastern Mediterranean cruise would be relatively safe. But, as we continue to watch the BBC world news daily (only news we can get on the TV), violence continues to rage everywhere in the world, including in the US (based on the latest shootings in Los Angeles county a few days ago). 

Tom and I have a theory that perhaps some share with us: that the terror throughout the world has been going on for years and its only the media’s constant announcements of these events that bring it forefront in our minds.  “World at War” then and “World at War” now, generation after generation, leaving each civilization suffering the ravages of political, religious and social unrest. 

When will it ever end? Never. As long as humans have the ability to think, to be coerced and manipulated and to strongly uphold their  beliefs, right or wrong in society’s view, this state of terrifying expression will continue, leaving those in its wake at dangerous risk. 

Drive-by shootings occurred only 1/2 hour from us in our “old lives.”  We chose to avoid these areas as much as we possibly could. Tom’s mother, a dear woman, passed away in 2008, having spent many years living in that kind neighborhood. In many cases, it’s poverty that increased the risks in certain areas. Perhaps, in many of these worldwide high risk areas, it’s not only the criminals, but where you happen to be at any given time.

Tom and I don’t know any “high risk” people (that we’re aware of) but we’ve increased our exposure as to where we will happen to be at any given moment.  We proceed with caution…possessing a desire not to diminish our experiences while we continue to grow our range of experiences.

After all, in the past month we’ve been to Egypt, Jordan, the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, Strait of Hormuz, United Arab Emirates plus we’ve traveled past Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and Oman, albeit with a bit of adventure, coming out safely on the other side, having loved every moment while feeling safe most of the time.

Soon, we’ll know how as to the safety of visiting Istanbul, Turkey deciding from there our course of action and sharing it all with you here.

Tonight, a dress-up night on a sea day, we’ve been invited to join a party of four from the US for dinner in the Windows dining room. With our dressy clothing long gone to lighten our load, we’ll make the best of it, me in a casual long dress, spruced up with accessories and Tom, in black long sleeved dress shirt and dress pants.
With this as our last cruise for the next 17 or more months, we’re at ease to no longer hauling dress up clothing. 

Updates: Xcom Global responded to our frantic inquiries, explaining they have reset the MiFi and it should be working by tomorrow morning. Secondly, the property owners of the house in Tuscany have graciously agreed to accept our credit card payment for the two and a half month rental, making paying the balance much easier for us. Plus on the 16th, they’ll meet us at the property at 3:00 pm to let us in and familiarize us as to how everything works. 
Moving right along, photos coming after tomorrow’s visit to Mykonos, Greece!