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Travels Aboard Onward
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Beautiful Santorini
05/25/2013, Aegean Sea, Greece

Santorini, officially known as Thera, is about 200 miles southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago that is the remnant of a volcanic caldera. The region first became volcanically active around 3-4 million years ago, though volcanism on Thera began around 2 million years ago.

A caldera (or cauldron in English) is a cauldron-like volcanic feature formed by the collapse of the island following a volcanic eruption. I've copied in below some images of how a caldera is formed as shown on Wiki.

The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. It destroyed the earliest settlements on the formerly single island and left the large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami.

With an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and approximately 15,550 people, it is one of the two or three most popular islands in Greece. Cruise ships anchor below the town of Fira and cable cars take tourists up the steep cliff of the caldera about 300 m (980 ft) to Fira where they overlook the lagoon which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 miles).

Fira Down to Where Cruise Ships Anchor

Below, the two sets of 6 cable cars in a series can be seen rising up and down the caldera edge.

As you can imagine, the anchoring in the lagoon is limited due to the caldera edges continuing steeply into the seabed. Although there are places to anchor, it is difficult to leave your boat comfortably without worrying about it while you tour the island. Therefore, we decided to leave Onward at the marina in Crete and take the fast ferry across to Santorini, a 1 ½ hour ride.

The capital of the archipelago is Fira but we stayed at the north end of the island in a smaller, quieter village named Oia. Oia is a pedestrian village of winding, fairly steep pathways set among the white villas, tavernas, cafes and shops that "fall" down the edge of the caldera to the beautiful blue Aegean Sea.

OIA hillside

One day we hiked 14km from Oia to Fira along the top edge of the caldera. In this photo you see 3 of the villages we passed through. The views were impressive and we were guided about ½ way by a local dog.

Once we made a wrong turn, and low and behold, she came back for us and redirected us back onto the correct path! We nicknamed her "Santos". After the 3 hour hike, we enjoyed wood fired pizza and pasta (not so Greek but it's been a while since we were in Italy or had good Italian food) before returning back to Oia via bus.

A Little Side Story
The nicknaming of animals has become a tradition with us since our first lonely animal adopted our children and us on our sailboat while crossing Georgian Bay in the Great Lakes of Canada. "Roger" as he became known with the kids, found us many miles off shore on our way to Roger City, USA. He was so tired; he sat on our life lines for several hours resting. Another time, a similar incident happened with "Lion" on our way to Lion's Head, Ontario, and then again a dog we nicknamed "Monty" who followed us on a hike in Montenegro

We enjoyed the view just sitting on our patio of our small cave room villa overlooking the lagoon, walking the village paths stopping in a few of the many boutiques and shops, and looking for places to eat lunch or dinner.

One evening we were like lemmings (much to Trevor's disgust) sitting with just about everyone else in Oia at the tip of the island for the famous sunset photo opportunity that all the guidebooks refer to. Unfortunately, the sky wasn't clear enough for a really good photo.


We saw many brides having their photographs taken, sometimes the groom would be around, but never were the wedding parties. Maybe they are actually on their honeymoon and brought their clothes from the ceremony for photo's??

Donkeys are used to carry heavy loads of bottled water etc. to shops on the hillside and to carry tourists up the steep pathways.... the poor things.

After three days/ two nights, we headed back to Crete via the fast ferry, but this time the crew handed out sea sickness bags just as we left port. Good thing too! The ferry had to slow down due to the rough seas and the crew was busy the entire trip making their rounds handing out more bags (and unfortunately for them collecting used ones too)! I guess our sea legs were good enough to not need any.

We were glad not to be sailing in those conditions. I had to smile as Trevor said to me while on the ferry, "It would be nice to be able to go this fast sometimes wouldn't it." A trip that took us 2 hours on the ferry would have taken us a very uncomfortable 12 hours or more and I would have needed some of those bags for sure!

05/28/2013 | heather
jean, as always I am enjoying your journey-- perhaps as much as you are... for some reason the "photos" aren't there.. just a blank box.. I am trying to get the pictures ?? I am sure they are spectacular.... love to read your travel journal
06/06/2013 | Jean Webster
Thanks for the note about the photos not showing appears to be fixed now!
06/12/2013 | heather
yes, its fixed and gorgeous pictures.. we are looking at doing some sort of river cruise in Europe some time in the near future, my vote would be for the 8 of us to show up and travel with you all summer~!~!~ I am green with envy
In Crete but Santorini Bound

Hello to all our family and friends!
We arrived in Crete about a week ago now, after sailing here along the Greek islands of Symi, Alimia and Halki. We are going to go to Santorini tomorrow morning by ferry and will stay 2 nights. The anchoring there is very deep and it's not really a spot to leave your boat and go touring ashore, so our boat will stay in Agios Nikoloas Marina in Crete.

So we are going on holidays for a few days! See you soon with more news and photos!

Island of Halki ... on route to Crete

This village is on the island of Halki which we stopped at for 5 days on route to Crete. As you walk around the village you notice the homes are all small and many of them are old Sea Captain homes that are now being restored. This one caught my eye with the lovely coral colour.

There is only the one village on the island so it is a quiet spot to stop and relax. All around the town harbour are small cafes and taverns where you can sit and enjoy a cool drink in the shade of umbrellas and overhead trellis covered in vines.

We anchored about a 10 minute walk outside of town, at the beach where there was one tavern. As it is still early in the season, there weren't too many people at the beach but the water is lovely for swimming with temperatures around 18 and being able to see the sand bottom through the crystal clear water.

Across from the boat, we could look up to see this church and cemetery. It was a lovely setting and we became very comfortable here (not in the cemetery of course). But, as usual, we have a further destination in mind so it was time to leave and head to Crete.

Meeting Some Afghanistan Refugees

We left Fethiye on April 25 after clearing out of the country at the Passport Police and Harbourmaster's Office. Our destination for the next 4 weeks or so is Greece's largest and southern-most island of Crete. As we sailed along the Turkish coast, suddenly we were surprised by a vessel off our port side. We realized it was a submarine that must have surfaced recently. A little later, we saw a second sub. We were in the vicinity of a naval facility and both subs headed in toward it.

Our first Greek Island and anchorage is on the Island of Symi. As it is 83 miles from our marina in Fethiye,we broke the trip up into two days of travel (about 15 hours total) stopping overnight along the Turkish coast in the small community of Ciftlik.

Symi itself is only about 5 miles off the Turkish coast. We go by bus from our anchorage at the southern end of the island to the main town so we can clear Customs and Immigration. Upon arrival, we enter the Immigration/Police office and notice a dozen or so young men sitting and lying around just outside. We assume they are refugees who have just arrived on the island from a foreign country. With Greece being the eastern-most EU country it is a natural point for refugees from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other eastern countries to attempt to enter the EU.

While we get our passports stamped, the Police Officer tells us that the men have just arrived overnight and these arrivals present problems for him as the sole Police Officer on the island. Before we leave his office, Trevor asks if we can give them some money or food. He suggests food as the better option as money can create problems amongst the men while sleeping etc.

We go to a nearby small grocer and purchase a bag of oranges and bread and take them back to the men. When we arrive back, Trevor tells them we are from Canada and asks where they are from. The young man who is going to distribute the food tells us he is from Afghanistan. As we look about, we realize that more people have arrived since we first saw them, so we go and get more oranges and return to many of them saying "thank you" and one young man even wishes us good luck! Of course, we wish them good luck in return!

We proceed on to the Harbour Master's Office to complete our formalities and get into a discussion with this young man who carries out the dual role of Coast Guard and Port Police. He explains to us that depending on their papers and country of origin, some will be permitted to stay in the EU while others will be returned to their home country. They will be sent to one of Greece's two large cities, Athens or nearby Rhodes, to meet with lawyers and other officials to have their future determined. He tells us that the past few years 200-300 refugees arrive yearly on this small island but the previous years, up to 3,000 could arrive in a year.

He further tells us that he himself hopes to transfer to a town nearby his family and original home near Thessaloniki in the north of Greece. He says he's lived here three years and the island is very expensive for him as the island's main source of income is tourism and therefore, everything here is expensive. Many of his friends have had to leave Greece for other countries to find work but he doesn't want to leave his country. As we leave, outside the Coast Guard office we see the 7 metre inflatable boat that is partially sunk and which he told us arrived last September with 38 men aboard.

We leave with both of us feeling badly on many fronts. One, for the refugees to have to leave their family and country behind and to come to a foreign country must be very difficult, left alone the apprehension of how they will be handled upon arrival. Then to have some of them immediately sent back to their country must be so demoralizing. Most arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, having had to pay someone to get them on a boat to travel to the island.

It's also difficult for the Greek people as they are struggling already themselves with high unemployment and their own economic difficulties, to then have to handle this issue.

We return to our boat, our home, but cannot stop thinking about the struggles of all these people. We are so lucky to have our health, families, wealth and our country that is free of the struggles that these people are having to endure. We can't help but be thankful and feel we haven't done enough.

05/01/2013 | Kim
Great post Jean! I think your willingness to engage with the refugees, extend your generosity, and share the experience with readers all have powerful, positive effects. I look forward to more postings from Greece!
05/06/2013 | Jean
Thanks Kim!
05/07/2013 | Deb
that was probably one of the most emotional contacts you have had I would venture. All over our world now it is much unrest.
05/07/2013 | Jean
Yes, it was really quite hard not to think about these people the next few days. Hopefully not too many had to return to their countries.
Car trip to Finike, Turkey

Finike is a small coastal town of about 12,000 people and about 4 hours from Fethiye. We rented a car for the day with Finike as our destination. It is what some people call a real Turkish town as there really isn't much influence from tourism. We toured the town and marina and had lunch before heading back along the coast again.

Along the way we saw this Turkish gentleman at the roadside wearing his traditional dress of dress jacket and hat. I love to see the local people!

About half the day took us along the twisting coastal road and the other half through the interior where there is a huge agricultural influence. In fact, the first time we drove this road, we came over the ridge to see what appeared to be a huge area of white reflecting from the sun and couldn't at first figure out what we were looking at. It turned out to be greenhouses with the sun reflecting off the plastic exteriors. Below you can see our view with some greenhouses in the foreground and the mass of white in the plateau beyond are hundreds more before ending at the sea.

Turkey is one of the countries in the world that is self-sufficient in providing the nation's food and you can certainly see in this area the enormity of fruits and vegetables produced year round.

We bypassed the small coastal resort town of Kas as we stayed here during a visit with our sister-in-law Debbie and brother Harold about 1 ½ years ago, and stopped into the next coastal resort town of Kalkan. The locals were preparing for the next day's National Children's Day holiday by raising flags everywhere. In fact, flags where being strung across the streets in many communities throughout the day and is a further testament to my previous post that speaks about flags and how proud the Turkish people are of their national flag.

Although we didn't take photos of Kalkan, I've pulled a few from our day with Harold and Debbie when we visited Kas in the Fall of 2011. Hope you enjoy them!

Are you a Vexillologist?

You likely think not, nor did I when I first heard the term while anchoring at the Greek island of Patmos last summer.

That is where we caught up with our friends Barb and Con from Alberta who were cruising aboard their sailboat Big Sky.

Trevor happened to mention that I sewed our flags for the boat. The following day they introduced us to the term suggesting that I was a Vexillologist. Of course, that meant that I had to later Google it for more details and found out the term was conceived in 1957 by the U.S. scholar and Vexillologist Whitney Smith and first appeared in print in 1959. Vexillology is the "scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of FLAGS, by extension, any interest in flags in general". So I guess in broad terms, I could be termed a Vexillologist.

Maritime Law requires ships to fly the flag of the ship's country of registration which for us is our home country. So on our stern (that's the back end of the boat for you non-boaters) we fly a Canadian flag. But whenever you visit another country, a courtesy flag is flown as a token of respect by a visiting vessel while in foreign waters. The courtesy flag is typically a small national maritime flag of the host country and flag etiquette requires that it is flown above your home country flag. So, on a sailboat it is flown part way up the mast on the spreader or yardarm and on the starboard (right-hand) side. This flag is known as a courtesy flag. In the photo below, you can see our Canadian flag on the stern of our old boat with the British Columbia provincial flag flown in the courtesy flag position part way up the mast.

But when you first enter a country, before raising your courtesy flag, you are required to fly a yellow 'quarantine flag' until you have cleared Customs and Immigration. This flag indicates to others that no one is to board your boat until you are 'cleared in' and then the yellow quarantine flag is lowered and the courtesy flag of that country is raised.

When we purchased Onward, one of the many things we inherited was a booklet of patterns for many of the flags of the world. The previous owners sewed their courtesy flags so we carried on the tradition and expanded it to also sew our Canadian flag.

PS The hair style (or shall I say the lack of one) is one of the challenges of sailing in foreign language countries....but that's another story!

So, as we prepare to visit a new country, I sew a courtesy flag for that particular country. And since it isn't always easy (or even possible) to purchase a new Canadian flag when the sun and winds start to make our flag look a little worn, I always have a rainbow supply of fabric on board. This fabric is specially made for flags so it is light enough in weight to fly properly and yet strong enough to withstand the harsh environmental effects of the wind and sun. We buy our fabric in Canada or online from a company in the U.S.

Since I started on this project, we have sailed to nine countries and I have made a flag for each, plus several Canadian flags. And our tradition says that the Captain of the ship raises our flag, so here are a few photos of Trevor raising our courtesy flags.

Here Trevor is raising our "British Columbia" provincial flag which we sometimes fly (particularly if there are other Canadians in our anchorage or area). We fly it below our courtesy flag.

I've included a selection of a few other of my favourite photo's that display a variety of flags.

While in the southern most EU country of Malta, we saw the sailing yacht Maltese Falcon. Here you can see the Maltese flag flown on her stern.

Also while we were in Malta, we were able to attend an outdoor mass held by the Pope while he visited the island country. Here are a few photos from that weekend.

One thing we've certainly noticed while living in Turkey, is how proud the Turkish people are of their flag. You will see the Turkish flag flying frequently. And like all things Turkish, they are well cared for! New, bright and never tattered.

Each photo in this blog post contains a flag. Did you see them all?

04/27/2013 | heather
love this blog.... when I grow up I want to be you Jean..... and, seriously... a sewing machine on a boat... now that is truly amazing.!~!~!~!~! keep up the travels,and the story telling
05/01/2013 | Kim
Jean your beautiful Canadian flag definitely caught our attention in Monastir, Tunisia! And what a pleasure it was to meet you and Trevor!
05/06/2013 | Jean
Heather, I'd be lost without my sewing machine. She had to come with us. And Kim it was great meeting you two in Tunisia and Turkey!! Remember how excited we were to speak to someone in English in Monastir!
Some of our sites while at anchor

Sometimes I think about how accustom we've become to our lives aboard that we don't appreciate the unique sites we see on a daily basis.

I thought I'd share some photos of things we've seen while we've been at anchor in our area here in Fethiye, Turkey.

One afternoon a neighbouring boat from Australia called over to us to see the squid that was floating toward us. We think it must have been ill as it was slowly floating along the surface and appeared to be hiding among some leaves. Made for an interesting photo though!

One of the best parts of sailing in foreign waters is that people tend to interact more than back in our home waters. Cruising friends we first met in Tunisia are now in Turkey as well. We stay in touch and one day they invited us to a beachside fish fry with friends they had aboard for vacation. We had a great time, with Yolanda learning she could actually touch a fish before being cooked. And all of us dancing to the music from a passing Turkish boat that was full of tourists who were also dancing.

And if you want to shop, no problem. At least in some anchorages. When it's the height of the tourist season, in one bay we visit the local women race to the see us before our anchor even hits the bottom, to sell us jewellery and linens. Meanwhile, a local man is on the other side of the boat visiting with a Trevor and selling him honey and pistachio nuts!

One thing we love to do is sit at anchor for days on end. That can sometimes become a problem when you run out of some type of food. But this problem was solved by some entrepreneurs who make a circuit of the bays with their Market Boat. You can buy just about anything you need, up to and including frozen meat and ice. I even notice packages of Viagara peeking out in one corner of the boat. I guess they want customers to know it's available without having to ask! How many places can you go grocery shopping in your bathing suit? That's Trevor doing a little shopping in our dinghy!

and if you want some ice cream, just wait for the ice cream boat to come by. He comes along about 3 times a day.

And a day wouldn't be complete without a relaxing swim in the beautiful clear, warm, blue waters of the Med.

Erica and Alex Come to Visit (Last May of Course!)

I'm doing some updating of "old" news and photos, including our visit in May 2012 when we were so excited to have our daughter Erica and son-in-law Alex come and stay with us on Onward for 10 days during their 3 week trip to Turkey. After a long flight from Toronto to Istanbul and then Fethiye, they arrived with big smiles all around. It wasn't until they unpacked a few items that they realized their luggage contents were entirely soaked from heavy rain at Toronto. We presume their luggage sat outside for some period before being put on the plane. Mom set it right with 4 loads of early morning laundry.

Our first day was comprised of a long walk around town to show them the local sites. The promenade follows the shoreline where there is lots to see and do. A stop at one of the many monuments, this particular one highlighting the history of Turkey's many Sultans. Another stop allows us to energize ourselves on the fitness equipment located in one of the parks. This equipment is popular at many parks enabling adults to work out as well as youngsters to play on their equipment.

We had a quick lunch at our favourite doner shop and introduced them to our Turkish friends that work there. We all laughed when Alex quickly realized that what he thought were pickles, were actually hot peppers.

Tomb of Amyntas

Even though the day was heating up, we pushed on to see the Tomb of Amyntas. Fethiye is nestled between the sea and mountains, and right in town, the lower foothills give rise right behind the town. We walked up the hillside to see the Lycian tomb of Amyntas . The impressive looking tomb was built in 350 BC and today overlooks the town and harbour. Numerous smaller tombs are also along the hillside.

Given that they had just arrived from a long trip, we headed back to the boat to enjoy a leisurely dinner aboard.

A Turkish Shave

One of the many shops you'll see as you walk the streets in a Turkish town is a barber. They are everywhere! We had been told by another cruising friend of his memorable visit so Trevor and I had planned to get Alex to visit one (even though Trevor hasn't been brave enough to go himself).

So one afternoon the four of us stopped into a shop to get Alex a shave! The three of us laughed quietly in the background as we told Erica about the technique of burning nose and ear hair with a lighter and awaited Alex's surprise.
He sat back and enjoyed the elaborate lathering of his face, the shave with a straight cut razor, heated towels and massages, including his neck and shoulders. He kept looking in the mirror and his eyes would wander back to us waving, laughing and awaiting the flame. His eyes opened wide at the site of it, but he persevered and in the end enjoyed the whole affair so much, he didn't shave again for many days so he could go and be pampered again.


Kayakoy is just outside Fethiye, so we drove up to see it on our way to another nearby village of Oludeniz.
Kayakoy was built on the site of the ancient city of Carmylessus in the 18th century. The town population was mainly Anatolian Greek speaking Christians as well as Muslims of Turkish and Greek and Armenian descent. In 1900, the population was about 2,000 but was largely abandoned after a population exchange agreement was signed by the Turkish and Greek governments in 1923, after the War of Independence.

It is a museum village of rundown but still mostly intact Greek-style houses and churches which cover a small mountainside and are under the protection of the Turkish government. Kayaköy was adopted by the UNESCO as a World Friendship and Peace Village.

Today it appears more like a ghost town with the approximately 500 houses that lie in ruin with the stone walls and fireplaces less their original wooden roof tops.

The photo to the right shows the many abandoned homes along the hillside. It's a fun place to explore and for anyone that has read the book "Birds Without Wings" by Louisde Bernières, you can imagine, visualize and feel what the village was like at the end of the Ottoman empire. It tells the story of the Christians and Muslims lives who where rooted here and who they intertwined for years. It describes interesting town characters, friendships and what life was like within the village until the War of Independence destroys the lives of young men who go to war and how the population exchange between Turkey and Greece finally tears apart the families and friends and destroys the fabric of centuries-old peace in this small town.

Oludeniz and Paragliding

I think we would all say the highlight of our time together was our Mother's Day excursion..... Paragliding off Baba Dag (Father Mountain in Turkish). Only a few miles outside of Fethiye is the site of Baba Dag and Oludeniz.

Erica and Alex had planned to do this excursion as one of the activities while here so Trevor planned to join them. But not me! Jumping off the side of a mountain wasn't really something that jumped up in front of me saying "go, go".

But hearing the three of them talk about going the night before, I began to feel a little left out and thinking that they were going to be talking all about it afterward and telling me what a great time I missed. So I decide to go after all.

After a hair-raising van ride up the mountain road with the 6 pilots and their 6 customers, we arrived to the highest of 3 take off platforms at 1700 meters.
I was very surprised when I got to the top and saw a wind sock flying straight out. For some reason, I wasn't really expecting wind.... I thought I was just going to float down. It was quite scary as the pilots watched the wind conditions at the top deciding whether or not we should go and I quickly told Erica that I couldn't do it. Her quick response, "Sure you can Mom". This is the daughter that I couldn't even convince to go on a rollercoaster as a young girl.

But unfortunately, Alex's pilot said the wind conditions weren't good enough for him to go with Alex. They were right at the weight limit and there wasn't good enough updraft for them to go. We were all really disappointed as today was the last chance for him to go. Tomorrow they leave Fethiye for the rest of their Turkish vacation.

I was the first one in our group to go. Whether the pilots could see my apprehension and decided to get me going before I really changed my mind, I don't know. But everything started happening very quickly and before I knew it, Ali was telling me that when he said so, just lift my feet up.

Away we went and right away got an updraft and we starting going "up" not down as I again had predicted. Over some clouds we went and we experienced a bit of turbulence and then down into clear skies. I became more relaxed until he asked me if I wanted to do some tricks. My response: "What kind of tricks? Maybe in a while". Later in our flight he took us for a few corkscrew turns which again were a bit scary at first, but I had to tell myself to open my eyes and enjoy it. And I did!

Ali pointed out Erica following behind us. We were both floating through the sky, over the sea, over the village of Oludeniz and it's famous beach with the long spit that is pictured so often in advertisements for Turkey.

After about 20-25 minutes, I was landing with Erica right behind me. We got ready to take photo's of Trevor coming in next but got a huge surprise when we realized it was Alex. His pilot decided they could go after all.

The other surprise was that Trevor didn't go. He prepared for takeoff three times awaiting a window to go. But the clouds closed in too much and the winds were not consistent enough. He ended up taking the van back down and is now awaiting our next guests so that he can go with them. Hmm, maybe Stephanie and Aleks.

03/23/2013 | heather
looks like a great family visit.. but I must say, ArE YOU ALL CRAZY... feet on the ground, feet on the ground!! looks like a nice time for all (except the part when you are "floating through the sky~!)
New Years In Istanbul
01/05/2013, Turkey

Having now spent 1 1/2 years in Turkey, we decided to bring in the New Year in Istanbul. The first significant settlement here was founded in 657 BC and is today one of the oldest cities of the world. It has served as the capital city of various empires beginning with the Romans in 330 AD, later the Latin Empire and finally the Ottoman Empire until 1922. It has the distinction of being the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. With Europe to the north and Asia to the south, it is separated by the Bosphorus Strait, one of the busiest shipping waters in the world.

With a population of around 13 million, it is said to be one of the most crowded cities in the world following Bombay and Mexico. Having said that, we arrived at our hotel 20 minutes after leaving the airport and for the next three days walked around "Old Istanbul" (today known as Sultanahmet) and took the tram across the river known as the Golden Horn to the nearby district of Beyoglu. Little could we tell that we were in such a large (or crowded) city.

The Blue Mosque

Our first stop was The Blue Mosque. Surely one, if not the most visited of the Istanbul sites. It is known as such due to the more than 20,000 handmade blue Iznik tiles throughout the interior.

Along with a huge prayer area, 260 windows allow light into the huge prayer area through the beautiful stained glass. Today the glass windows are replacements of the originals which were a gift from the Signoria of Venice to the Sultan.

During construction of the mosque in 1609 to 1616, the demand for the blue tiles was so great, that lesser skilled craftsmen were recruited and the quality of the tiles varied. Today, some of the colours have faded and the glazes have dulled so some of the intensity has been lost. The mosque was also distinct due to the fact that it is the only mosque in Istanbul with 6 minarets.

The Basilica Cistern

In the heart of Sultanahmet is the underground Basilica Cistern. Built in AD 532, the cistern is 65 m wide and 143 m long. The columns you see here are just some of the 336 columns that support the roof.

The cistern was built to hold the 80,000 cu metres of water that was feed here via 20 km of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea. Originally it lay beneath the Stoa Basilica and provided water to the Great Palace and surrounding buildings.

The Topaki Palace

The Topaki Palace is surrounded by a great wall and within are four courtyards leading to the various sections of the Palace. It was segregrated so that the Monarch would have the 4th court as a private family area, the 3rd for the Imperial family, VIPs and palace staff, the 2nd for people on business to the palace and the first court was open to all. Built in mid 1450's, Sultans lived here until the 19th century when they then lived in other palaces along the shores of the Bosphorus.
The palace is known for a few different colourful tales including one about Selim The Sot who drown in the bath after drinking too much champagne.

The gate shown here is called Gate of Felicity and is the entrance into the 3rd court which is the Sultan's private domain.

Just a few highlights of the palace....

The Harem The entrance to the Harem is from the 2nd court. The word means "private". Women of the harem had to be foreigners as Islam forbade enslaving Muslims, Christians or Jews. The Sultan was allowed by Islamic law to have four wives but he could have as many concubines as he could support with some Sultans having as many as 300.

The young girls/women would be schooled in Turkish and Islam, make up, dress, music, reading and writing, embroidery and dancing. The favoured few would rise from being ladies-in-waiting to the Sultan's concubines and children, then to the Sultan's mother and finally the ultimate to the Sultan himself. As the throne was available to any Imperial son, each lady of the harem struggled to have her son proclaimed heir to the throne.

The Executioner's Fountain.... Yes, where he would wash his hands of blood

The Audience Chamber

Constructed in the 16th century, high business of the state was performed in the Audience Chamber with the Sultan inspecting the gifts from foreign ambassadors or other important officials who were brought here. The Audience Chamber is to the right and the Palace Library in the background.

The Treasury
Containing works of art and treasure, the Treasury was for us, the highlight of the visit. Here is the jewel-encrusted sword of Suleyman the Magnificent, the Throne of Ahmet I which is inlaid with Mother of Pearl and huge candlesticks made of gold and diamonds.

The two true highlights and most famous of the Treasury contents are
• a dagger with 3 huge emeralds which the focus of 1964 movie Topkapi (I must get a copy of this movie) and

• the 4th largest diamond in the world. An86-carat pear-shaped diamond is set in a pendant and surrounded by 49 smaller diamond. Better known as the Spoonmaker's Diamond as the diamond is thought to have originally been found in a garbage dump by a peasant or a fisherman along the shore and purchased by a street peddler for 3 spoons. Eventually the Sultan heard about it and sent his people to purchase it. I've read it is worth as much as 230 million dollars!

A Little More of Istanbul

01/30/2013 | Louise
What a great place to spend New Years. I love seeing where you have travelled and hearing the history. Keep it coming Jean. You do a fantastic job!
02/01/2013 | Kim
Great narrative Jean! Love your blog!!
03/23/2013 | heather
great info and pics
08/18/2013 | Linda Poirier
Love you blog Jean, all the travel tips I could ever want are right here!
James Bond & Skyfall in our “Home Town”
11/25/2012, Fethiye, Turkey

It was March 2012 when we first heard James Bond was coming to town. Ok, I guess I mean Daniel Craig and the James Bond movie crew.

The 50th Anniversary Bond movie was to have part of it filmed in our town of Fethiye, Turkey, and it turned out our marina was actually part of the 'backdrop' for some scene(s). There was lots of "buzz" around town about the upcoming event. So when the trucks and trailers arrived with all the lighting, costumes, actors, props, staff, security and on and on, we knew it was about to happen. But in reality not a lot happened that we could see.

I posed in front of the "Director's Trailer" but was quickly shooed away by Security. The sailing yacht that was being used was "off bonds" (excuse the pun) and even when we tried taking photos from a distance, again we were told we weren't allowed to.

Restaurants nearby were taken over by large movie catering firms to feed the endless staff that milled around for about 3 days. Who knows what they all were actually doing! Costume trailers were set up along side the marina, a few marina offices were used by ... well we are not really sure who they were, let alone what they were suppose to do!

Large red Chinese-light lanterns were hung from upright posts that had been specially mounted along one of the marina pontoons (docks) and electrical wiring run out for them. Large lights were set up. We believe these lanterns appear in the background of some scenes taken from the yacht, so if you see the movie, watch out for such a scene!

In the end, the locals were trying to get mileage from the fact that some of the movie had been filmed here. All summer, some of the day tripper boats advertised themselves as "The James Bond boat". I notice that "The Yacht Classic Hotel" next door to us that hosted Daniel Craig in their Penthouse, now shows a James Bond news release at the top of their "news" banner on their website. If you are interested, take a peak at the hotel's website.

It turns out that we were able to see the yacht Regina up close later in the summer when it was at anchor next to us at Symi Island in Greece. In this photo, you only see a small portion of the yacht (compare it to the photo above and you'll see it is only the portion behind the wood cabin). A little research tells me that you too can charter this yacht, that was built in Turkey, for you and 11 of your closest friends for just $75,000 per week during high season. Interested? Goggle charterworld gullet regina for more details!

03/23/2013 | heather
two favorite things in life,, travel adventures and James Bond~!~!~ you are the luckiest two people ever! how fun. (just catching up on the site, you do a great job with the blog)

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