Honors Grecian and Turkish Odyssey - Days 10 & 11 - Istanbul

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in Saint Chora Church
Saint Chora Church
Istanbul Spice Bazaar entrance
Day 10 was the last non-travel day of our trip.  Ali met us at the hotel and we loaded into a van that took us to the Saint Chora Church.  The original church at this site was built in the early 5th century and though most of the current structure was built in the late 11th century.  The interior of the building was very beautiful, covered with numerous mosaics and frescoes.  The church has a total of 6 domes.  Our next destination was the Pierre Loti Hill, providing wonderful views of Istanbul and the Golden Horn.  Pierre Loti was a French novelist and naval officer who supported the Turkish War of Independence in the early 20th century.  Unfortunately, a few downpours forced us to take some quick pictures before seeking shelter.  Next up was the Spice Bazaar for some more shopping.  Almost everyone in the group ended up buying some Turkish delight to take back home after being wooed by the various merchants.  I had one merchant give me 6 different pieces of Turkish delight to eat before I purchased a box to take home.  Some students learned how to haggle while others were content with paying the prices that were listed.  Upon exiting the Spice Bazaar, we followed Ali to the ship that would serve as our vessel as we cruised the Bosphorus River.  Unfortunately, due to the poor sound quality of the speakers on the ship, I wasn't certain what the sites were along the banks of the river.  However, we saw a number of mosques, palaces and castles.  We returned to our hotel in the early afternoon and had lunch at a restaurant on the same block of our hotel - the host referring to us as neighbors and inviting us to eat at his restaurant every time we passed his restaurant finally worked its magic on us.  We had a wonderful authentic lunch including baklava and complementary chai tea at the end of the meal, though we were disappointed to not receive any napkin roses this time.  After having dinner at the hotel, we returned to see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque at night, sitting, talking and reflecting in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque for a while.
Students on Bosphorus cruise
Cruise stop in Asia resulted in quick photo opportunity

Day 11 had us traveling back to the Istanbul airport to fly back to New York.  We departed at 12:15pm (Istanbul time) and landed in New York 11 hours and 5004 miles later.  Our 3 hour layover at JFK International airport turned into closer to a 5 hour layover after our flight was delayed due to weather and the beginning of Memorial Day weekend.  We were all relieved to finally land at the Cleveland airport and I made it back to Ashland around 1:30am, approximately 22 hours after we left the hotel in Istanbul.
Lunch in restaurant near our hotel
Students at JFK airport, hoping for no more delays

On behalf of the students on the trip, I would like to thank Ashland University for providing funding to make this trip possible.  I would also like to thank Witte Travel for making all of the hotel, travel and tour guide arrangements.  This was an adventure of a lifetime and I am already starting to make plans for the next Honors trip in May 2015.



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