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Istanbul, Turkey

While living in the Philippines we made some really great friends. One couple works for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was asked to move to South Africa after serving for three years in the Philippines. They told us that we should come visit them so we said ok. When planning for our trip to South Africa we had a layover for a few hours in Turkey, flying on Turkish Air. For an $40 extra each, we were able to turn the short layover into four nights and basically have two vacations in one. Matt again did his vacation magic and we had a fantastic itinerary. We stayed at the Hilton in Istanbul and the kids loved it. We took full advantage of the indoor swimming pool and the hammam where we had family water fights! We hired Emine Filiz through Viator.com and she put together a great package for us and made our trip enjoyable and memorable.

Day 1

We made it to Turkey and because of a terrorist attack that happened 7 weeks prior, there weren’t many tourists and that meant no long lines!

Making our way to Hagia Sophia

After hundreds of years of people walking on this step, it shows the wear.

Hagia Sophia was first a Christian cathedral. Then a Muslim mosque. And now it is a museum and under renovation.

We got to see Gli, the famous cat that stays at Hagia Sophia

In order to enter The Blue Mosque, the girls had to cover their heads

Just outside The Blue Mosque is the Istanbul Hippodrome where the Obelisk of Theodosius is found.

We got to visit the Topkapi Palace

We ended our first day by visiting the Grand Bazaar where we bought some souvenirs

Day 2

We took a day trip to the city of Ephesus, home of the biblical Ephesians

This is the library in the ancient city of Ephesus

We paid the extra fee to visit the “house on the slopes” where they are uncovering old homes. It also gave us some relief from the sun

We had a fantastic lunch at a home where the family makes traditional Turkish rugs and we got to see the whole process

All of the rugs here are made by hand and takes months to complete

We were able to experience the displaying of rugs and there were many beautiful rugs that we wanted to take home

We visited the house of the Virgin Mary where it is believed that she spent her final years

Our final tourist destination in Ephesus was to the temple of Artemis where not much is left

Day 3

Our last day started by going up the Galata Tower to get a good view of the city and later we took a ferry boat ride to get a different experience to look at the city

Walking around the streets of Istanbul we felt safe and the people were very kind

We came upon this old trolley that still runs

We walked through a spice market and bought us some “Turkish Delights” from this shop owner who thought Kalani looked Turkish

We got to visit the largest cistern in Istanbul

Inside the cistern there are two “medusa head stones

We stopped by a pottery shop and watched a master potter create a vase that he then turned into a water pitcher within minutes

Some of the pottery in the shop glows in the dark since they used some special crushed material in the clay

As we were walking back to the car we walked through a park and the kids had a great time playing and running around

Everyday we would visit the hammam in our hotel and fill up these sinks with warm water and throw bowls of water on each other or ourselves

We had a wonderful experience exploring Istanbul and our tour guide, Emine, was a big reason why we had such a great time.

More photos of Turkey here.

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