Istanbul in Turkey is one of the world’s great cities. This ancient port, which links Europe to Asia across the Bosporous, is actually the only city in the world to have parts on two continents, never mind two countries. With a rich history encompassing Roman, Byzantine and Ottomon eras, as well as the development of modern Turkey, anyone cruising the Eastern Mediterranean should make a point of stopping and taking a shore excursion here.
One place that should be included in any excursion of this type is the Kariye (Chora) Museum. This venue originally formed the centre of a monastery complex during Istanbul’s Byzantine era. The church section of this complex, which was dedicated to Jesus Christ the Saviour, has survived largely intact. When the Turks arrived in the city, this complex was converted into a mosque. In 1948, however, it was converted again, this time into a museum with very little left in place as testament to its Islamic past except a 19th century minaret which stands in one corner.
For visitors who want to know more about the Byzatine era of the city’s history, then the St Sophia Museum is a top venue to take in on any tour. This was built when the city was still called Constantinople, in the days of the Emperor Justinian. This building has a stunning interior, decorated with pillars from Ephesus as well as marble and precious stones. The dome is a massively imposing and impressive structure.
The Sultanhamet Mosque, also called the Blue Mosque, also makes for an interesting stopping off point for anyone taking a shore excursion in Istanbul. There are no less than six glorious minarets adorning this elegantly designed mosque, which enjoys a status as one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks. As well as the outside features of this building, there is also plenty to enjoy in its interior. The stunning decorations feature over 20,000 Iznik tiles.
The Grand Bazaar is a magical place which is an essential part of any trip to Istanbul. Shops selling similar products tend to congregate together in the same street, a legacy of Ottomon days. There is a dizzying array of items for sale in its 61 covered streets. There are over 3000 shops to browse, all in the unique atmosphere of this most impressive location. Some local trade organisations claim that this could be the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Between a quarter and half a million visitors come here each day, making it a hectic and exciting slice of Turkish life.
Istanbul is a great place from which to start your Mediterranean cruise, but it is also a good idea to end your holiday here. The facilities for shopping for souvenirs and other things are superb, whilst there are also plenty of places to socialise. Make sure that a visit is inked onto your itinerary and complete your cruise with some time spent in one of the world’s most arresting and interesting cities.