All Around Turkey

This past weekend we were in Turkey which was amazing! We sailed from the Greek island of Samos to the Turkish port of Kusadasi. While in Kusadasi we went to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus was really amazing because the Library of Celsus is a well known ruin but I never knew what it was or where it was before we went there. The ancient city was huge and only a small fraction of it has been excavated which is disappointing because what has been excavated is really amazing. The ruins in Turkey were better to visit that the ruins in Greece because you could get so much closer to them. There was not nearly as much stuff roped off in the Ephesus sites as there was at the Acropolis and there was much, much more to see in Ephesus than there is at the Acropolis.

Aside from visiting the ruins we also took a break from the ruins and went to a pottery shop and watched Turkish pottery being made and panited entirely by hand. Turkish pottery is very colorful and very pretty. Most of it is decorated with tulips and carnations because tulips represent love and carnations respect. Ashley was able to make her own small vase and she was allowed to bring it back with her.
After we left Kusadasi we drove to Izmir and spent the day wandering around the city with our trusty tour guide. He took us to the world’s largest market and took around the corner from where we had entered the market. Just walking around the corner took a half hour and there was every kind of shop imaginable in the tiny corner of the market that we saw. Pet shops, bridal stores, spice stores and butcher shops were all side by side in the market which made it very impressive and overwhelming all at the same time.
After our day in Izmir we flew to Istanbul. I think I saw more Turkish flags in the few days we were in Istanbul than I have seen American flags in my whole life. And every place we went into there was a picture of Ataturk, and he is on all of the money. Istanbul was okay but would have been better if it had not been raining for pretty much the entire time. I liked watching the runners in the Istanbul marathon finishing the race. The finish line was right outside the Blue Mosque which we went to visit. I had never been inside a mosque before and it was gorgeous. It was extremely ornate and lavish, or at least the part for the men was. The women were given a tiny space along the back wall to worship which was separated from the part where men are allowed to worship.
After the Blue Mosque we crossed the street to visit the Hagia Sophia which was a church and a mosque but was converted into a museum. The Blue Mosque was built to rival the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia was being renovated so it was difficult to see some things. It was okay but not the best museum. It is hard to call it a museum because basically we went to look at the building itself rather than things that had been added to it. It was still a neat site however. After the Hagia Sophia some of us tried to visit the Topkapi Palace which is absolutely enormous. We weren’t really all that interested in the museum here however because there were some parts that you had to pay extra admission in order to see and no photographs were allowed. And on top of this we were all drenched and cold from the pouring rain. So we wandered around a small portion of the palace and then left.
The next day we went to the Grand Bazaar and spent several hours there. The Turkish Bazaar was really awesome because there was so much stuff that was being sold and all of the shop keepers were friendly to talk to and were easy to haggle with. Some of them were extremely pushy though and were basically yelling at you to go into their shop and buy from them. And everyone in Turkey is your friend. They were always calling someone “my friend” which is very different from the Greek shops. In Greece the shop keepers usually won’t talk to you.
Overall I liked Turkey more that I like Greece. I think it has something to do with the fact that Turkey has grass and actually looked like people could live there. Greece just looks like dirt and rocks which is not as nice as greenery.
Yesterday we went to the New Acropolis Museum with Ioanna which is so new that nothing was really opened in the museum yet except for an exhibit that had just arrived from Italy that was all returned cultural treasures that had been illegally excavated and removed from Italy and Greece. The collection, though small was nevertheless impressive because there were some really beautiful pieces that were on display. I did not like that the museum had glass floors that allowed you to look down on ancient Roman ruins that looked like they were from a bath house. It is a really unique feature and a great idea but it was disorientating and I was afraid of falling through the glass and landing on the jagged Roman ruins below. And it was difficult to try to look down and walk and look at all of the surrounding things even if there weren’t many surrounding things to look at.

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