Istanbul or Constantinople?

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Once again my fellow cadets and I joined the excursion ashore to see this time the sites of Istanbul.

We visited St Sophia’s  (pictured above) – the first church on this site being built in 360 AD, the second church was built in 415 AD, the third church was opened in 537 AD and remained a church until 1453 when Constantinople (Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans, and St Sophia’s became a moscue.
In 1935, thanks to Kemul Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the building became a museum.
St Sophia might be better remembered by many people, because it was used in the making of the James Bond movie ‘From Russia with Love’, you can watch the scene from the film.

We also visited the Blue Mosque, which is not blue on the outside,

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but due to over 20,000 blue tiles inside the mosque.apc9vvdlhlr11Beside the historic sites of old Istanbul, the one thing that does stick in my mind about my visit to Istanbul was that I nearly sold one of our passengers.

The coach party that I had joined was given free time to enjoy whatever we liked as along as we were back at the coach meeting place at a certain time. We were warned not to wander off on our own, but to stick together in little groups.
Angela, one of the girls on the coach had taken a shine to me (it must have been the uniform), and she had made sure that she was in my small group.
I asked what they wanted to do and Angela, who was I think eighteen, wanted to see the Grand Bazaar, but she was reluctant to go on her own. The coach party had already visited the bazaar, but my small group consisting of myself, another cadet, three girls, and a male student, wanted to return to purchase souvenirs.
The bazaar was crowded – as it nearly always is – so one had to be careful with our wallets and bags, and also of a number of strange characters.
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The girls found the leather area, and started to try on various jackets and to chat to the stall holders.
While at one of the stalls, a middle aged man came up and started to squeeze Angela as if she was a piece of meat, using just two fingers. He squeezed her arms and around her waist.
I moved forward and told him to stop what he was doing, at which point he asked me in broken English, how much. It dawned on me that he wanted to buy her! I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t!
At this point I stated that he must be joking and called the stall holder to help translate. He spoke to the ‘buyer’ sharply in Turkish and pushed him away with much waving of arms.
Fortunately, Angela laughed off the whole episode as a joke, but I think she was glad that she was part of a group, and not on her own.

As foot note to the story – some weeks later, after Angela had flown home, we docked in Southampton, and in the mail waiting for me, I received an invitation from her to a birthday party at her father’s home. Her family lived on a converted MTB on the Avon River in Christchurch.

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There were a number of converted MTB boats (see picture above), all converted after WW2, perhaps the owners were history buffs. Both above and below pictures are from the internet.
The picture below illustrates the MTB being converted, but it was not the boat that I visited.

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I arrived on board and was introduced by Angela to her father. As we shook hands he said to me – ‘I believe that you had the opportunity to sell my daughter in Istanbul?’

I tried to apologise and say how sorry I was to put Angela in to such a situation.

At the end of my babbling he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, with a ‘smile’ in his voice – ‘The next time you have the opportunity to sell my daughter, take her mother as well!’

I was lost for words as I tried to look shocked, at the same time I could not stop laughing.

We planned to sail from Istanbul in the early evening. Lines ashore were singled up, the pilot was aboard, and the order was given to raise the anchor. We had dropped it during the manoeuver of going along side. If the wind had strengthened it might have inhibited our efforts to leave the wharf, so by hauling on the anchor this would assist us to move clear of the wharf, regardless of the wind’s effort to keep us alongside.

The clank, clank, of the links being hauled through the hawse pipe could be heard on the bridge as I updated the log book.

Suddenly we heard shouts and two strikes on the forecastle bell indicating a light on the port side. The Captain moved quickly to the port wing of the bridge, followed by the officer of the watch and the pilot. I picked up my log book and stood just inside the door of the bridge, on the port wing. I could see a very large well-lit vessel getting closer and closer. One glance was enough, it was a floating restaurant, heading towards us, but the problem being that the restaurant didn’t have power.

What had happened was that our anchor had fouled the restaurant’s under water moorings, and we were dragging the restaurant towards us by raising our anchor. It took some time for us to leave the wharf and sail very slowly towards the restaurant paying out our cable to allow the restaurant to easy back to her normal mooring position. Once our anchor cable was vertical it was easier to slowly gently haul in our cable link by link. Fortunately, we were able to raise our anchor as well.

Farewell Istanbul, as we sailed for Piraeus, which is the port for Athens.

The sea was so blue it was unbelievable . .

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Island Princess

Although we joined the ship at 1.00 pm on Thursday we didn’t sail until lunchtime on Friday.
What a departure as we sailed along the Grand Canal past St Marks’ Square. The weather was perfect, the passengers on the ship were friendly; we all shared good spots for the taking of just one more photograph of Venice.

Approaching St Mark’s Square (top picture) and passing St Mark’s Square

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Our first port of call would be Istanbul in Turkey. My last visit to this city was in 1965, and it would be my wife’s first visit.

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As we watched the sunset during our pre-dinner drink the Captain spoke to the passengers and ship’s crew over the loud speaker.
The Greek coast guard had requested the Island Princess to divert, because a small vessel was in distress.
Because the law of the sea demands that all ships will go to the aide of those in distress that Captain didn’t have a choice.
We watched some of the crew make ready a fast tender, while donning life jackets and preparing the tender for launch.
As the evening light turned to darkness we waited, but couldn’t see anything as full night arrived so made our way to the dining room.
After dinner we checked again and little had changed re the crew and the fast tender, so we went to bed.
During the night (which we slept through) the ship had stopped in the Ionian Sea to pick up 117 Syrian refugees from a small sailing boat. I did hear later that the small boat sank shortly after the refugees were rescued due to the increase in the wind and the waves. Our new passengers were confined in the aft area and  were given food and hot drinks after their ordeal.They were kept under guard by the ship’s security.
We then sailed to Katakolon, which is a sea port near Olympia, where we were met by  military and coast guard vessels.

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The Island Princess lowered two tender boats (each able to carry 150 people) and waited for instructions from the port authorities. We remained at anchor in the bay for most of the morning.

The picture of the tender boats was taken from our balcony.

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Later I found out that the delay was due to the refugees refusing to leave the Island Princess and it was a mixture of persuasion and force that resulted in them all being sent ashore.

Our diversion to rescue the refugees meant that we would not be able to visit Istanbul because we had run out of time, and we had to maintain our schedule. While at anchor off the Greek coast we waited for information of our replacement destination. In the afternoon we were told that we would be visiting Santorini instead of Istanbul. This would allow us to return to our normal schedule of destinations. It was unfortunate that we would miss Istanbul, but the safety of those in distress had to take precedence over everything else. We can try again next year, the refugees, if their boat had sunk with them still on board, would not have had a next year.

The following morning we steamed slowly to an anchorage off Santorini, we had company.

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Local tender crafts came out to the Island Princess just after 9.00 am and disembarkation took place of those passengers who wished to go ashore. The whole operation was very efficient, yet friendly.

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Once ashore we bought tickets for the cable car to the top of the cliffs. We could have used the zig zag trail and walked up via 500 steps, but even though it was only 10.00 am it was already getting quite hot. The alternative to walking up the 500 steps was riding on the back of a donkey, which we didn’t fancy. We’d also been warned of the donkey ‘eggs’ (droppings)  making the wide steps slippery.

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View from our cable car

The cable car cost  Euro 5.00 each way and it didn’t take long before we were at the top and walking around the various shops. Some of the restaurants, with spectacular views, ripped off the tourists when charging for drinks. A small glass of local beer in a bar with a limited view was Eu 3.00, (AUD $4.30), but in the bar with the view it was Eu 7.50 (AUD $10.70). There were plenty of viewing spots where we able to take photos of the views, so our custom with the rip off merchants was limited.

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Shopping streets in Santorini

The sea around Santorini seemed destined to be filled with various types of sailing vessels. The chance to sail around the islands, under sail, is obviously very popular. I only wished that we were there longer so that I could have experienced one of the short sailing cruises.

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The colour of the sea was such that one never tired of looking and photographing – it was as blue as any picture post card in a travel agents window.

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