Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nieuw Amsterdam 2012 - The Dardanelles and Istanbul, Turkey

Joost and the kids slept through the “scenic cruising” of the Dardanelles. Jolanda was up early en went on our balcony filming. Fortunately for the sleeping most of us, the Dardanelles were not as spectacular as other scenic cruising moments like the Bay of Kotor. We were not due to arrive in Istanbul before 16:00 so actually this is sort of a sea day with eating and relaxing. Kim and Rhodé went swimming with their on-board friends and we went to the main dining room for the Mariners Lunch. A nice initiative for everyone who has cruised on a HAL ship before. We shared a table with a couple from Israel, two couples from the USA and two very nice American ladies traveling together after their husbands passed away. The food was delicious. Amazing how they do it; serving hundreds of guests at the same time and with food of this superb quality. We got a Delft blue tile of the New Amsterdam as a souvenir.

After lunch we went to the Future Cruise Consultant and booked our cruise for next year. We get a nice on-board credit for the next cruise and the rest of the handling is done by Cruise Travel in The Netherlands, our usual travel agent.

Together with the kids we then watched the sailing into Istanbul.

Time to explore yet another city. At first we wanted to take a taxi to the city, but the taxi driver asked way too much for the short trip and bargaining didn’t really work. The stop of the Tramvay (the local tram) was pretty close and quite cheap (2 Turkish Lira per person so not even 5 US$ for the four of us). The tokens for the tram were very easy to get at a Jetonmatik (you need Turkish Lira of course). We were quite impressed: The trams are very clean, air-conditioned and a great way to travel to the city. They are also probably much safer than taxis; the taxi drivers drive like madmen in Istanbul.

The weather was a bit cloudy and very humid so we were prepared for a transpiring event. Therefor we started underground at the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici). That was very impressive and beautiful to see. Loads of pillars in water and beautifully lit. We took a lot of photos with slow shutter speed, because it is very dark there.

Then we went to the plaza where the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia are. Joost and Rhode visited the Blue Mosque and were guided by an imam who was fluent in German (he used to be an imam in Vienna, Austria). The ship stays in Istanbul overnight so tomorrow we visit the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul is beautiful but a very busy city. Enough city for today, we went back on the tram to the ship. On the aft deck they had organized a barbecue with Turkish specialties. From the deck we had a magnificent view over the city. In the showroom they played the movie The Hunger Games which Kim saw, together with her friends. We were on our balcony enjoying the view of Istanbul by night. The city was beautiful with all the lights. The Bosporus bridge (connecting the continent Europe with Asia) was one big lightshow.

Coming up: Istanbul, Turkey

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