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    Benedicts in Turkey: Istanbul

    We’ve made it to the final installment of our two-week Turkey tour with David’s family! We had two and a half days in Istanbul and I think we were all happy to be in one spot for more than a couple of hours. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and David and Sam returned the rental car. (I was glad to have it off of our hands. Driving in Istanbul is nuts!)

    We stayed at Antique Hostel in the Sultanahmet area and recommend it. It was in a perfect location and had a yummy breakfast and a great price!

    Istanbul is one of my favorite cities. David and I visited many times while we lived in Turkey. (Check out our previous posts with more travel details here, herehere, here, and here.) It was always a great getaway and change of pace from Ankara. And with $30 flights from Ankara to Istanbul, what could be better? It was a place where we could explore and relax at the same time. We were glad to share our favorite spots with the family and explore a few new places, too.

    Blue Mosque:

     

    Blue mosque

     

    Blue mosque ceiling

     

    Hagia Sofia:

     

    Hagia Sofia ceiling

     

    Hagia Sofia from second floor

     

    View of Blue mosque from Hagia Sofia

     

    There was an awesome open-air bazaar while we were there with a long stretch of vendors from all over Turkey selling handmade goods and food:

     

    Art bazaar in Istanbul

     

    Art Bazaar locksmith

     

    Mom posing with Gaziantep tie sellers

     

    Basilica Cistern and the Medusa head:

     

    Istanbul cisterns

     

    Medusa head

     

    Medusa head and tourists

     

    Grand Bazaar and lunch at the Fes Cafe:

     

    Grand Bazaar Fez Cafe

     

    We were there during Ramazan. After the sun set, all of the Turks came out to the square with their picnics:

     

    Blue mosque during Ramazan

     

    Sultanahmet during Ramazan

     

    Whirling dervish performance

     

    Corn vendor in Istanbul

     

    Stack of Turkish Bakalava

     

    David holding Turkish Coffee Cup

     

    Taksim:

     

    taksimsunset

     

    Taksim Tunel

     

    Fish sandwiches on Galata Bridge:

     

    Galata bridge fish sandwich boat

     

    Galata Tower:

     

    Galata tower

     

    We celebrated our fourth anniversary along with the family’s final send off meal. It was a huge spread of döner, kebap, hummus, prizola, meze, and more. We left stuffed and happy.

     

    Anniversary dinner in Istanbul

     

    After a few fun and shopping filled days, the family’s time in Turkey came to an end. They took the Friday 6:00 am flight. We sent them off on their shuttle bus, went back to bed for a few hours, then left for the airport ourselves to head back to Ankara to pack up our lives and close our time in Turkey.

    We were thrilled to share Turkey with David’s family. These two weeks were also a farewell tour for David and me. I never could have imagined how deeply I would fall in love with this country… how quickly the people and culture would work their way into my heart. Turkey challenged and grew and changed me for the better, and I count my time there as one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. I pray we’ll be able to go back again one day! Until then, I’ll look forward to that next glass of çay.

    Teşekkür ederim, Türkiye. Türkiyem çok seviyorum.

     

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    Ottoman Bridges and Hagia Sophia Trabzon

    After a cozy night by the wood burning stove, we left our cabin, said goodbye to Ayder, and stopped by three more bridges on the way back to Trabzon. Our flight was supposed to leave that afternoon.

     

    ayderpicnics

     

    Cow in the road

     

    Rize river

     

    Sunny day and Ottoman bridge

     

    bridge4curve

     

    Turkish cay fields

     

    Because we were in the mountains, we drove through a lot of tunnels. The Ordu Nefise Akçelik Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Turkey at just over 2.3 miles:

     

    Rize tunnel

     

    This bridge wasn’t as old as the Ottoman stone bridges, but the wisteria was so pretty:

     

    Bridge with wisteria

     

    Wisteria

     

    Broken bridge path

     

    David walking on an old bridge

     

    David and Leah on a wisteria bridge

     

    This was the Taskemer Köprü. People road zip-lines under its arch!

     

    Ottoman bridge path

     

    Girls on a bridge

     

    Bridge with Turkish flag

     

    Drying plants

     

    Back in Trabzon, we made one last stop at Hagia Sophia. One of our friends visited the 13th century church a couple of years ago. We were disappointed to find that it had been converted into a working mosque. Large panels covered the majority of the frescoes.

     

    Hagia Sophia Trabzon

     

    Women were not allowed to enter the prayer area:

     

    Hagia Sophia Trabzon

     

    A few of the frescoes were still visible. I would have loved to have seen the church without all of the panels.

     

    Hagia Sophia Trabzon

     

    Hagia Sophia Trabzon art

     

    To add to our adventure, we received a text that our flight had been canceled. After walking around Hagia Sophia, we headed to the airport to drop off the car and figure out a new flight. Three other flights had been canceled and there was a mob of people by the Turkish Airlines desk. We finally made it to the front and found out the next flight didn’t leave until the next day, Monday. We didn’t think our boss would appreciate five teachers being out.

    We decided to rent another car and drive the 10.5 back to Ankara. Fortunately, our original flight was early enough that we left Trabzon at a decent time of day and made it to Ankara by midnight. (And even though it added extra time, we ended up saving money from the flight refunds!)

    I will never forget our mountain adventure with our wonderful friends!

     

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