Our last day in Istanbul was spent at the Topkapi Palace. We had great weather and it was a wonderful way to finish off our visit. Topkapi was built on the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement of Byzantium. Started in the 1470s as a military complex, in the 1500s it became the home of Suleyman the Magnificent. It was enlarged by each Ottoman sultan for over 400 years.
Inside the Harem, the part of the complex where the sultan and his family lived, almost every surface is covered in beautiful tiles.
On the street outside of the palace we saw a man with this rooster and rabbits. They are sitting on a raised box that holds little slips of paper standing in rows. We saw similar set ups around town with just rabbits. We think it’s some sort of gambling game but we forgot to ask someone who spoke English at our hotel so it will remain a mystery.
Cute picture though …………….Along with two sweet kitties napping on a Turkish chair.
The cruise begins...
We spent a day at sea traveling to our first port, Heraklion on Crete. We took a cab to Knossos, a large archaeological dig with finds dating as far back as 7000 BC! It was first excavated in 1878. The archaeologist who did long-term excavations here also made extensive reconstructions which would never be done today. It does give you a better idea of what it might have looked like than just looking at rubble. The first Minoan palace was built at Knossos around 1900 BC. This was destroyed probably by an earthquake around 1700 BC. A larger palace was built on the ruins and that eventually was destroyed about 1340 BC. The site continued to be occupied until Roman times.
As you can see, our weather took a turn but we had umbrellas and carried on to the Archeological Museum where we saw some amazing items recovered at Knossos.
We walked back to the ship in the rain, past the Morosini Fountain, built in 1628 as part of the town’s water system, and the Koules Fortress built in the 1500s.
The rain must have sent all the Greek cats under cover, not a one in site!
After a day at sea we arrived in Tunisia. Will set up a tour for us and 3 other couples. We met our guide outside the port gate. We thought we’d be in a large van but it was a nice new bus! Everyone got their own seat.
First we went to see the ruins of Carthage. It was sacked by the Romans in 146 BC. A hundred years later, the Romans came back to settle the area. As they rebuilt they covered up the old city with building rubble which happened to help preserve parts of it.
On Byrsa Hill there is a French cathedral, St Louis, and remnants of pre-Roman Carthage. These attached houses would have been three stories tall.
A little ways away, right on the coast and through lovely neighborhoods, is the Antonine Baths that the Romans built when they returned. What has been uncovered is the “”basement” where the water was heated. The pillars are renovations to show the height of the the building above.
From here we went a little farther up the coast to the town of Sidi Bou Said. It’s a very pretty village with blue and white houses built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean.
New doors, old doors, lots and lots of blue doors!
The blue and white motif is a city ordinance begun by a rich Frenchman who lived in the town in the early 1900s.
We finished our tour with a stop in the medina, the old city in the middle to Tunis. There are a labyrinth of Souks, collections of market stalls, surrounding the mosques. Everything is so close that you can only get glimpses of the mosques. We walked through one Souk that must have had 30 little shops selling only gold jewelry. It wasn’t too crowded as lots of people had closed up shop early for a big holiday tomorrow. Our guide is going to buy a sheep on his way home tonight and have a butcher over to fix it up for their feast. I guess it’s something like if everyone took home a live bird for Thanksgiving.
And there’s another blue door!
Great weather and a great visit to Tunisia.