(I am herewith correcting some of my previous statements, and I want to thank the contributors for their help).
I must say one thing more about this cruise.
Now, before I even booked a ticket, I had absolutely no idea about, or even the slightest inclination to want to see Turkey.
It just wasn't in my mind as something to want to do.
Well, it turned out that Istanbul and Kusadasi were my most favorite ports of call.
What an interesting and facinating city Istanbul is!!!
As you can see from the picture of me on board ship, it was breathtaking!!!
As you come into Istanbul up the Bosphorus, looking directly ahead you see a bridge linking western Istanbul (which is in Europe) with eastern Istanbul (which is in Asia).
I believe that Istanbul (Constantinople) is the only city in the world physically situated in two continents.
Our tour group that day was to see only the more modern parts of the city, in the European part of the city, (but I didn't fret because the next day when we went to Kusadasi, I got to step foot in Asia so I can check it off my list of continents I have been to).
(I'll tell you more about Ephessus later, but while we're at it, I'll mention that having seen the site of the Colossus of Rhodes, and the next day going to Ephessus (in Kusadasi), I can now check off 2 of the 7 ancient wonders of the world on my list).
The bus met us at the ship when we got to Istanbul, and we were wisked off to our first tourist destination, the Sultanahmet Mosque.
Driving through the streets of Istanbul was fascinating.
The tour guide pointed out that we were passing the terminus of The Orient Express there at the waterfront.
I believe Istanbul has over 11 million people, and unfortunaltely a majority of the people are quite poor, compared to us Americans.
The per capita income for each individual is 1/12 that of ours here in the United States.
When we got off the bus in front of the Sultanahmet Mosque, (or Blue Mosque as it is more commonly called), all of a sudden about 10-15 small kids (only boys.....where were the girls?) surrounded EACH adult passenger, trying to sell tops, yo yos, candy and other things.
If I remember correctly, I bought a couple of tops for my nephews.
(The interior of the mosque is a bluish color due to the stain glass windows all over the place).
When the kids took off, the adults suddenly appeared to try to sell us things (but only men, no women).
One man walked up to me and started speaking Turkish, thinking I might be Turkish (which incidentally also happened to me in Greece, I guess the people there thought I was Greek because of my dark complexion and hair).
Well, he also spoke English and when he realized he could practice his English on me, he wouldn't stop talking or leave me alone until we went into the mosque.
(Apparently his brother moved to America many years ago and he just had to tell me all about him). (Actually he was a very pleasant man and he was very warm and friendly to me).
The guide gave each of us a plastic bag to carry our shoes in when we entered, because we were told not to leave our shoes outside with the masses', because they probably wouldn't be there afterward!!!
(Just a quick aside------I can understand why John Kennedy Jr. and his new bride went to Turkey for their honeymoon. I guess people "in the know", and even the "money privileged", (or rich) know that Istanbul and Turkey are a "must see in your lifetime".
As I said before, I think Istanbul and Kusadasi were my favorite and most fascinating ports of call on the cruise!!!
(Another quick aside------as I always do before a trip to Europe, I ordered some Turkish Lire from my local bank so I'd have some pocket money upon arrival and not have to search out a "cambio".
If I remember correctly, I purchased about $250 in Turkish Lire, which came to several million Turkish Lire.
Now here's the thing, at this time my conversion rate was about 33000 Turkish Lire to the Dollar.
Now, here's the tough part,..... from when I picked it up at the bank to my arrival in Turkey was only a matter of about 2 weeks.
Well, when I arrived in Turkey the conversion rate was about 43000 Turkish Lire to the Dollar.
I didn't do too good on that one!
Apparently, the Turkish economy is so unstable compared to ours that this type of dramatic swing in the rates is not uncommon.
What's more, I went to Turkey in 1995, and when I check with michaeltop's "Currency Converter" these days (only 3 years later) I see the conversion rate is now about 383000 Turkish Lire to the Dollar!!!
Be that as it may, I probably didn't even need to convert any money to Turkish Lire, because in Istanbul as well as Kusadasi they would rather I pay for things in American "greenbacks" over the Turkish Lire (no wonder, with their economic instability).
So if you are going to Turkey, don't worry about converting to Turkish Lire before you leave.
You can shop till you drop at the Grand Bazaar with only good ol' American Dollars in your pocket.
In this country, cash is truly king!!!