Travel in Turkey – Istanbul

When we visit Istanbul, we try to stay in the Sultanahmet area since it’s in easy walking distance of many major attractions, including the Grand Bazaar. And  Hagia Sophia is a short walk towards the Golden Horn, while nearby is the sprawling complex of the Topkapi palace which takes a day in itself.  Topkapi host everything from the sultan’s harem, Mohammed’s sword, jeweled clothing of the sultans,to the famous Topkapi jewels and the kitchens that fed thousands of Janissaries.  And that doesn’t include time for the separate museums on its ground such as the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Middle Eastern Countries. Splendid imperial mosques include the Blue Mosque, the Suleymanie, and Hagia Sophia. Vivaldi played in the background as we toured the enormous Basilica cisterns.

Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Ancient columns in water

Ancient columns in water

Sometimes magnificent works of art are preserved by a quirk of fate. An Ottoman pasha had the mosaics of St. Saviour whitewashed, and they were only recovered in the 20th century. These mosaics and frescoes of the Chorae  Church form one of the visual highlights of any tour. If you’re interested in calligraphy, you’ll want to visit the small museum devoted to this artform near Bayezit.

In addition to the imperial mosques, many exquisite, smaller mosques are scattered thru the city, and display incredible Iznik tiles and other decoration.

In the Taksim area, Gezi Park was quiet on our most recent visit. There was a small protest near Galatasaray, but the police presence was much larger. Several dozen police and a water cannonvehicle nearby. A hundred yards up the road, a similar detachment of riot police; repeated several times all the way back to Taksim Square itself where there were more police and tanker trucks to re-supply the water cannon. Luckily the day ended peacefully.

Best Way to See Seattle …. Is to Leave It

After boarding, go to what will be the aft of the boat – the end attached to the dock – and go out on the viewing deck. As you leave Seattle, there are great views back to the city skyline, showing the sprawling city from Seattle Center and Queen Anne hill on the left (north), then south to the  stadiums and dockyards. On a clear day, you can even see
Mt. Rainier, over 50 miles away.

Seattle ferry, leaving waterfront
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One of the best ways to see and explore Seattle is to leave it! Take one of the Washington State ferries. The boats run frequently.. There may be waits for cars on weekends and holidays, but bikes and walkers always get on.The ferries bound for Bremerton and for Poulsbo leave from the same dock in downtown Seattle. In 2017, adult fares are about $8 for adults, half that for seniors. There’s a $1 charge for bicycles, and about $12 for a car and driver. On the return, passengers and bicycles are free.When we bicycle, we load our bikes in the car and park on the street either to the north or south of the ferry terminals where parking is free, then bike the mile or so to the ferry. Otherwise you can park across the highway from the ferries and walk on or, if you plan to explore beyond the ferries, drive on.
When you tire of these views, grab a coffee in the snack bar, and then walk the length of the ferry to the forward viewing decks.  Now you’ll get views of the many Puget Sound islands, and the Olympic mountain range in the distance.  The ferry is likely to be followed closely by seagulls, and cormorants can usually be seen on the pilings drying their wings. Other shorebirds, coots, ducks are frequently seen. There are whales in the area, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see one. Sunset panorama, Seattle skyline, sailboats

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    Seattle

Once you reach the terminus, you have several choices. You can stay on the ferry and return right away, or  you can walk or bicycle in the small towns nearby, returning for the ferry. There’s usually a short steep hill to get away from the dock, but it flattens out after that. You can drive to visit nearby cities of Port Gamble, Port Orchard or Port Townsend. The latter has several music festivals during the year and  many antique shops. It also has a ferry that goes to Whidbey Island so you can drive a loop trip. On Whidbey you can go north over Deception Pass bridge [the pass is the narrow bit of water under the bridge]. Or drive south to pick up another small ferry to Mukilteo, just north of Seattle. Port Gamble also hosts an annual Civil War re-enactment that offers a fun weekend, with 2 battles scheduled every day, and the soldiers’ camps to visit in between. These towns are also famous for their many Victorian houses. Many of them are now open as Bed & Breakfasts

Yet another option is to drive to nearby Olympic National Park for hikes. There are trailheads near the Hood Canal bridge link up to Highway 101. The park headquarters is atop aptly named Hurricane Ridge, with the best views of this wilderness park. But, since there are no roads into the main parts of the park, unlike Yellowstone or Yosemite, you really need to hike to appreciate everything the park offers. You can hike in the rainforest to the glaciated volcano, Mt. Olympus and then explore the Pacific Ocean beaches in just a few miles, without leaving the park. If you’re going to the Olympics, you’ll probably want to stay overnight. There are many campgrounds, and inexpensive motels in towns like Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks.

With a little forethought, you can come back into Seattle at sunset, or view the city lights at night.