Tag Archives: Istanbul

19 June 2015
 Istanbul, Turkey: Astride Two Worlds

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

On this series of cruises aboard Silver Spirit, we are sailing in the pathways of the tangled and intermingled histories of Europe and Asia.

Istanbul is where they come together.

One of the great cities of the world, Istanbul is where East meets West, Asia meets Europe, Islam meets the Judeo-Christian world, and where ancient culture meets—sometimes smoothly and sometimes not—with modernity.

It never fails to fascinate.


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To those guests leaving us here, we wish safe travels and arrivederci: Until we meet again.

And to new guests: Welcome aboard. We’re headed for the Greek Isles and on the cruise after that to Istanbul’s one-time great rival, Venice. Here’s the plan for the coming cruise:


Text and images copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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22 October 2014
 Istanbul, Turkey: Back Through the Strait

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We are back in Istanbul after completing an unusual Mobius-strip of a cruise that took us into the Aegean, back through the Dardanelles, into the Black Sea, and back to Istanbul. It was an itinerary made necessary by the disorder in Ukraine and Crimea.

I think the key is to remember George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts about travel: “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”

Safe travels to those disembarking here in Istanbul, and welcome aboard to new friends.

Here are some recent additions to my huge collection of wonders from Istanbul, the massive Suleimaniye Mosque. It’s not nearly as often visited as the Blue Mosque, but it is no less wondrous:

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We will head from Istanbul through the Dardanelles and work our way down the coast of Turkey with a few stops at Greek isles on our way to Piraeus, the port of Athens.

Because of bad weather at Mytilene, Lesbos we are unable to make our first port of call on Thursday but we expect to add a stop at Marmaris, Turkey on Saturday.


All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


12-13 October 2014
 Istanbul: An Ending and a Beginning

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul. Over the millennia, this place–sitting astride the narrow gap between Europe and Asia–has been both a starting and ending place on a major scale.

Ancient tribes, the Greeks, the Romans, early Christians, rising Muslims, the Crusaders, the Venetians, the warring powers of the first World War, the shadow of World War II, and even today the lines of demarcation between the West and places like Syria and Iran.

I’ve spoken about all of this in my lectures on board ship. And more lies ahead.

This port call marks the end of a great expedition that began in Civitavecchia, the Port of Rome and passed through Sorrento and the islands of Sicily, Malta, Mykonos, and Santorini. For guests who are leaving us here: safe travels. And to new friends: welcome aboard.

The original itinerary for the upcoming cruise had called for a circuit of the Black Sea including calls in Crimea at Yalta, Sevastopol, and on the mainland of Ukraine at Odessa. It should be quite obvious why that is not going to happen now.

It may be a while before cruise ships and tourists can visit Crimea, and Ukraine has larger concerns than entertaining guests right now.

Let’s hope for a return to peace and stability and tourism. If not now, then soon.

And so our itinerary calls for an exit from Istanbul to several interesting and less-visited ports: Kavala, Thessaloniki, and Volos in Greece, a stop at the port of Athens at Piraeus, and then Izmir, Turkey. After that detour, we’ll head back into the Dardanelles and make a visit to two ports on the Black Sea that have come out from under the Soviet thumb: Constanta, Romania and Nessebur, Bulgaria. And then we’ll be back in Istanbul.

Here’s our planned itinerary:


And a few photos from recent visits I have made to Istanbul: these from Dolmabahçe Palace, the last Ottoman palace, just up the coastline from where Silver Cloud docks.

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All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution copy any photo, please contact me. 

3 October 2014
 Civitavechia, Italy. A Voyage of Bookends: From the Port of Rome to the Wonders of Istanbul

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived in Civitavecchia, the Old City, the ancient port of Rome. Some of our guests will leave here, and we wish them safe travels.

To guests just joining us, welcome aboard. And for those who have been with us since Monte Carlo, prepare for a change of view: from elegant or gaudy modernity to classic Greek, Roman, and Ottoman culture and history. Add to the mix the Venetians and the Crusaders.

We are sailing first to Sorrento, from where we can see Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum in one direction and the lovely island of Capri in the other. There is so much to see and do here: add to the mix Naples to the north, the Amalfi Drive to the south. And for the adventurous: Paestum.

Continuing down the coast we arrive at Trapani on Sicily, the largest island of the Mediterranean. And then Valletta on much smaller Malta; smaller but of unmeasurable fascination.

We round the corner and head to two of the best-known of the Greek Isles: Mykonos and Santorini. The first a pleasant place of windmills and beaches. The second, a handsome setting atop a ticking time bomb, the site of one of the largest volcanic explosions of our planet.

And then Kusadasi, a Turkish delight and gateway to the spectacular ruins of Ephesus. Once a seaport and an important Greek and then Roman holy site, it became one of the foundational churches of early Christianity.

We end with a passage through the Dardanelles, alongside the trenches of Gallipoli, one of the most horrific killing fields of World War I, and then arrive at Istanbul.

I’ve sailed this itinerary many times and happily do it again; it is like floating through a course in ancient history…done in fine style.

Here is our scheduled itinerary:



3-4 May 2014: Constanţa, Romania and Istanbul, Turkey

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Our politically adjusted tour of the Black Sea has come to an end. Because of bad weather in Nesebar, Bulgaria we are headed now for Istanbul.

I want to wish all of our guests—old friends and new—safe travels. I will be going home for a brief vacation, returning in June on our sister ship Silver Whisper in the Baltic.

We enjoyed a spring-like day in Constanţa, Romania. I went with a group of guests to an unusual part of Europe: the Danube River Delta, a thicket of willow trees and other flora. We were escorted by a flotilla of frogs alongside and flocks of birds (eagles, herons, hawks, and more) above.[whohit]-Constanta and Istanbul 3-4May-[/whohit]

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In the Danube River Delta of Romania. Photos by Corey Sandler

The delta reminded me a bit of river deltas in Costa Rica. Without the crocodiles and caimans.

Romania—like Bulgaria and Turkey— straddles the crossroads of history. Its past, and to a great extent its future, hinges on the land and sea bridge between Europe and Asia.

Romania is roughly the size of the United Kingdom but with only about one-third the  population, just 20 million people.

Hungary and Serbia are to the west, Ukraine and Moldova to the northeast and east, and Bulgaria to the south.

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Riverboats and a floating hotel in the Danube Delta near Tulcea. Photos by Corey Sandler

Its eastern portion, which includes the capital city of Bucharest is relatively flat and easy to traverse.

But running through the mid-section in a rambling “S” are the Carpathian Mountains heading down from western Ukraine and southernmost Poland…and heading west toward Serbia…the Transylvanian Alps.

In August 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Romania declared neutrality. Two years later in 1916, under pressure from the Allies eespecially France, which was desperate to open a new front), Romania joined with Russia and the Allies, declaring war against the armies of the Central Powers which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans.

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Tulcea, and a field of rapeseed. The crop is used to produce canola oil for cooking as well as biodiesel fuel, a renewable crop for a renewing nation. Photos by Corey Sandler

As the price for their entry the Romanians demanded recognition of their claim to Transylvania, which had been controlled by Austria-Hungary since the 17th century and under Hungarian rule since the 11th century.

The fighting did not go well, and the Allied front collapsed when the Bolsheviks took Russia out of the war.

Romania, left surrounded by the Central Powers, signed an armistice.

In just a bit more than a year, about 748,000 Romanian civilians and military died in the war.

At the end of World War I in 1918, Romania was larger than it had ever been or would ever be again.

During the Second World War, Romania again tried to remain neutral, but on June 28, 1940, it received an ultimatum from the Soviet Union.

The Soviets were carving out spheres of influence, part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed with Germany in 1939.

Under Nazi and Soviet pressure, the Romanians were forced to retreat from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina.

And then Romania went one step further, joining the Axis powers.

And Romania shrunk further. Southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria, while Hungary received Northern Transylvania as a payback from the Axis.

Then as is now, oil was a major factor in war. Romania was the most important source of oil for Nazi Germany, which brought bombing raids by Allied forces.

In August 1944, with Soviet Russia moving to retake Romania, Romania changed sides and joined the Allies.

King Michael was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria by both of his parents, and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Still alive at age 92, he is one of the last surviving heads of state from World War II, along with the former King Simeon II of Bulgaria.

But Romania’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized at the Paris Peace Conference of 1947; even though the Romanian Army had suffered 170,000 casualties after switching sides.

And now Romania was held by the Soviets.

In 1947, King Michael I was forced to abdicate and leave the country, and Romania was proclaimed a people’s republic.

Romania remained under military occupation and economic control of the USSR until the late 1950s.

During this period, Romania’s vast natural resources were drained by the Soviet Union. Private firms were nationalized, and agriculture collectivized.

The Communist government established a reign of terror, carried out mainly through the Securitate secret police.

Many “enemies of the state” were killed, deported, or sent to forced labor camps and prisons.

Records show hundreds of thousands of instances of torture or murder by the state.

In 1965 Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power and started to pursue a path somewhat independent of the Soviets.

Ceauşescu’s small separation from the Soviet Union drew the interest of Western powers. They saw him as an anti-Soviet maverick, or at least a pawn that could be played to widen a schism in the Warsaw Pact.

Romania received massive loans from the West—more than $13 billion—to finance economic development.

Ceauşescu ordered the export of much of Romania’s agriculture and industrial production to repay its debts. Food rationing was introduced and gas and electricity black-outs were common.

Ceauşescu shut down all radio stations outside of the capital, and limited television to one channel broadcasting two hours a day.

He enveloped himself in a cult of personality: Ceausescu was Romania, and the other way around.

By some accounts, in his final years Romania was the most Stalinist regime in the Soviet bloc.

In late 1989, demonstrations broke out.

Ceauşescu went on a state visit to Iran—another paradigm of democracy at the time—and left the job of crushing the revolt to his wife and cronies.

When he returned, he blamed the problem on foreign interference.

Ceauşescu and his wife Elena fled the capital by helicopter, but were eventually arrested by the army. On Christmas Day 1989, they were put on trial on charges ranging from illegal gathering of wealth to genocide.

The trial lasted all of two hours. They were found guilty and immediately sentenced to death, taken outside the building and put up against a wall.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the 1989 Revolution, Romania began its transition towards democracy and a capitalist market economy, a process that has been somewhat successful.

Romania joined NATO in 2004, and the European Union in 2007.

And today, though Romania is better off than when Ceauşescu was in power, it still remains desperately poor in many regions.

We wish Romania (and its neighbor Ukraine) well. And to our guests: arrivederci. Till we meet again.

All photos copyright 2014 by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.

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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:


Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)


24-26 April 2014: Istanbul, Turkey

The Bridge Across Time and Continents

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Istanbul, one of the great cities of the world, is a place where ancient history comes alive.

Across its long history, Istanbul served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire from 395 to 1204, the Latin Empire (1204–1261), again the Byzantine Empire from 1261 to 1453, and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922).[whohit]-Istanbul 24-26Apr-[/whohit]

It is the place where East meets West,

Where Asia meets Europe.

Where Islam meets the Judeo-Christian world.

Where ancient culture meets—and sometimes intermingles—with modernity.

Here in Istanbul we wish safe travels to many guests who have been with us since Monte Carlo and before, and welcome new friends who will sail with us through the Bosporus Strait and into the Black Sea.

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Our voyage from Istanbul into the Black Sea. Because of the unrest in Ukraine, we have had to rework our itinerary, removing Yalta and Sevastopol in the Crimea; we have added Sinop in Turkey.

Istanbul is on the European side of Turkey, straddling the Golden Horn and fronting the Bosporus Strait that runs from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea.



The 6th century cisterns of Istanbul, near the Blue Mosque and the 5th century Valens Aqueduct built by the Romans. Photo by Corey Sandler

Kapalıçarşı, the Grand Bazaar, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, encompassing more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. As many as half a million people visit daily.

It opened in 1461.

Three decades before Columbus.

Nearby is the smaller but very colorful and flavorful Spice Market, at the western side of the Galata Bridge.

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Scenes from in and around the Spice Market and across the Golden Horn along Istaklal Avenue near Taksim Square. Photos by Corey Sandler

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Sultanahmet, is known to the outside world as the Blue Mosque, named for the colorful tiles within. It was completed in 1616.

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Inside the Blue Mosque. Photos by Corey Sandler

The Blue Mosque melds two centuries of Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church building. Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback.

On the western side, a heavy iron chain spans the entrance, so that even the sultan had to lower his head in religious acknowledgment.

Within, the walls and columns are lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles in more than 50 designs. Those at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level they become flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit, and cypresses.

Süleymaniye is Istanbul’s second largest mosque. It is actually a bit older than the Blue Mosque, completed in 1558.

Again, it combines Islamic and Byzantine architecture. The design of the Süleymaniye also plays on Suleyman’s representation of himself as a ‘second Solomon.’ It references the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

Here are some scenes of Süleymaniye. All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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Topkapı Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. The name means “Cannon gate Palace”.

Construction began in 1459. The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people.

The palace functioned almost as a city within a city, encompassing dormitories, gardens, libraries, schools, and mosques.

Within the palace, the sultan and his family could enjoy privacy, making use of secret passageways and grilled windows.

After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed into a museum of the imperial era. Only the most significant of the hundreds of rooms are open to the public today.

Hagia Sophia began as an Orthodox Christian basilica, converted to a mosque, and now a museum.

The Emperor Justinian had materials brought from all over the empire: Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, large porphyry stones from quarries in Egypt, green marble from Thessaly, black stone from the Bosporus region, and yellow stone from Syria.

Hagia Sophia’s massive dome is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.

It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

The Greek name for the original cathedral was “Church of the Holy Wisdom of God.” From its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except for the period between 1204 and 1261 when it was a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Latin Empire.

And then under the Ottomans, the cathedral was made a mosque in 1453, a role it continued until 1931.

In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and first President, determined to separate Islam from politics, transformed Hagia Sofia into a museum.

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums has three collections in the Eminönü district, near Topkapı Palace: The Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art.

One of the great sights of Istanbul is relatively young, Dolmabahçe Palace. This was the last of the Ottoman Palaces, heavily influence by European designs and customs in the mid-19th century.

Here is an album of photos from inside and outside of Dolmabahçe. Photos by Corey Sandler

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All photos copyright 2014 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:


Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)