Sunday, September 29, 2013

A farm outside Dubrovnik

We signed up for an excursion in Dubrovnik that would take us out into the countryside of Croatia, to a family farm where we would see a traditional dance and music concert.  Then we'd get some time to explore the city.

The area around the port was beautiful and I loved how light colored all the houses are!  They all have terra-cotta colored roofs.

The coastline is dotted with small towns right up against the water.

There were beautiful estates along the highway.

We passed some buildings that had been destroyed during the war in the early 90s.  It's so strange to think that this area had a war so recently, and has rebounded so quickly!

We saw this winding road close to the airport.

This language looks really difficult!

The house we were visiting was made out of old beautiful stones and had many additions over time.

We were greeted with music and singing by people wearing traditional Croatian dress.

That's quite a cork collection!

Another windy photograph!

This guy played this  3 stringed instrument with gusto, sometimes stomping his foot while he played.

After the music we went inside for lunch.  Maverick wanted Maddox to leave him alone!

Bread, cheese, meat, and wine.  It was delicious!

Later in the day we headed back to Dubrovnik.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back across the Mediterranean

It takes a while to get from Istanbul back around Greece and up to Dubrovnik, so we had another day at sea.  Luckily for us we were further South, and the weather had calmed down, so although it was windy it was nice and warm for our day at the pool. 

Here is the view of the pool area from the upper deck.  This was before it got really busy!

We put our towels on some deck chairs when we went to breakfast to reserve them for later.  We had noticed people doing this during the first day at sea, and if you don't grab your deck chairs early then they'll all be taken by the time you get to the pool.  Maddox didn't want to stay with us, she wanted to go to the kids club- but Maverick wasn't allowed to go because he was only 2 (another reason MSC wasn't that great for us).  Maddox loved the kids club, and was always upset when we got there to pick her up.  Maverick wasn't too upset to have us to himself, but it still would have been nice to get some kid-free time on our cruise!  Definitely keep that in mind if you are cruising with kids under 3!

We got to the pool around 10, and brought Mav's toy cars.  He attracted some attention driving them back and forth across the benches.

We had forgotten his sunglasses, so he was happy to wear Maddox's.  This game kept him busy for a long time!  He did play in the splash pool a little bit- but since it was really early in the cruising season the water was still very cold!  I'd imagine in the summer it is wonderful!

In the afternoon we got Mdx back from Kids Club.  She had won this stuffed animal playing bingo. It is the MSC Mascot- named DoReMi.

Kids love free stuff!

We finished the day with some ice cream!

Next stop: Croatia!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Turkish Rugs, Grand Bazaar and the Hagia Sophia

After the Blue Mosque we were taken to a rug gallery, where they provided a brief history of rug making, and a demonstration.  It is really amazing how much work goes into a handmade rug, how many hours, how many people, etc.  We couldn't buy a rug because it just wasn't in the budget (and we had no way to get it home on RyanAir), but we'd love to have one someday.  

For a normal living room sized rug it can take a team of 4 people six months to make one!

They rolled all these rugs out in front of us for us to see- of course they didn't tell you any prices until you acted interested in one. We decided to head out and find the Grand Bazaar, which we were told was right down the road.

After going around in a circle, we finally found the Grand Bazaar after seeing this entrance.  It didn't look very grand from the outside to me!

Once inside we quickly got lost in a maze of hallways and tunnels.  All the shops and corners started to look the same!  We couldn't even find our way back to the entrance that we came in to, so we had to just leave and wander around until we found our way back.  We were so worried our tour group was going to leave us, and we cut it really close!!

Maddox really wanted a scarf, but we kept getting quoted these ridiculous tourist prices, and the shop-owners didn't seem to want to haggle much.  I laughed in one man's face when he asked for 20 Euro for a scarf I could buy in Germany for 10.  We stopped and asked another shop where we could find a cheap scarf for Maddox, and they just opened a drawer and gave her one!  :)

After joining up with our tour group again we headed to the Hagia Sophia.  This is a much older Mosque than the Blue Mosque, and in fact it was a Christian Cathedral before it was turned into a Mosque.  It was built around the year 500 I believe.

The ceilings were so gorgeous, but I was a little worried they might fall down.

The central dome has some beautiful Arabic writing.

Part of the church is constantly being restored, so there were scaffolds blocking a lot of it.  But you can see the difference in the cleaned up ceiling, and the dirty wall.

It's really impressive that when they turned the building into a mosque, they did not deface or remove the Christian symbols and murals.  They preserved them for historical and artistic value.

This urn was carved with water, from one block of Marble.

We LOVED Istanbul and would love to go back and spend more time there.  It was an amazing place filled with friendly people, and beautiful things to see.  Here is the view from the back of the boat, after we returned in the afternoon.

The kids love their T-shirts, and Mdx got her scarf!  

Next up- another day at sea!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good Morning Istanbul!

When we arrived in Istanbul we were shocked just HOW MANY mosques there are, all over the city.  In every direction, in every neighborhood there were minarets from a mosque.  It was really impressive!  I was really looking forward to this shore excursion the most, since it was covering the biggest highlights (in my opinion) of Istanbul.

Our bus headed off towards the Blue Mosque first, and this was another mosque that was up on a hill.  I don't know which one it is.  Sorry the picture is crooked!  

We drove past the Blue Mosque, but we knew we'd be coming back later.

We drove around Istanbul and saw the ancient city walls.  People built their houses right up to the walls, and some are still connected.

The courtyard leading up to the Blue Mosque has this awesome Obelisk.

This obelisk originally stood in Egypt in around 1500 BC before it was brought to Istanbul (then called Constantinople?) by Emperor Theodosius in the 4th Century.  It came on a boat.  That's hard to imagine!

Marshall is really good at wrangling children in a crowd!

There were birdhouses way up in the top of these bare trees.

This is the courtyard entrance to the Blue Mosque with beautiful gold signs.

There is the area for worshippers to wash their feet before they enter the mosque.  Women had to cover their heads to enter, but they provided a shawl for you if you didn't bring one.  They gave me one, and didn't give Maddox one because her jacket had a hood.  She was sad and really wanted a scarf, so we said we'd look for one at the Grand Bazaar later that day.  You also had to keeps your legs covered- no shorts or short skirts allowed.
 This is the amazing ceiling!  All of those chains are holding the lighting system.  It's very distracting to see these wires everywhere, but the view is still breathtaking.

Here you can see the huge worship area in the middle, and the rug for people to pray. The lighting system is really impressive, but not very pretty.  The room had a lot of outdoor light from all the windows!

The Blue Mosque has six minarets, but I couldn't get them all in a picture.

After we left the Mosque we were heading to a rug making demonstration!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shopping in Izmir

After we left Ephesus, our bus headed to a few places to shop.  I'm sure they were all putting on a show for us, and the prices were certainly higher than I was willing to pay- but it was nice to see real Turkish stuff being made.

This is the pottery before it is glazed and fired.

These guys put on quite a show explaining how Turkish pottery is the best in the world.

It is definitely beautiful!

These were like cookie jars.

And clocks.

On the way back to the boat we passed this, but I don't know what it was.

There were many hills and valleys along the way.  I can see why so many people fought for this land.

I snapped a picture of the ship right before we arrived back at the port.

We changed and then headed to the lobby to listen to some music before dinner.

Mdx loved these stairs with crystals in them.

The kids were ready with their bags of toys.

But, one of us barely made it through dinner.

The next day we headed to Istanbul!