In 2006 my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Greece with some friends for a self-guided “In Paul’s Footsteps Tour” visiting historical sites where the Apostle Paul preached as recorded in the book of Acts. Since much of Paul’s travels took place along routes over the Aegean, Ionian, Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, we traveled by cruise ship from the port city of Piraeus, Greece not far from Athens.
While Istanbul was never on my “bucket list” and there’s no record of Paul ever visiting there, the city, formerly known as Constantinople during the Ottoman Empire happened to be our ship’s first stop. As we made our way through the Dardanelles Strait, the narrow waterway in northwestern Turkey that forms the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, I was smitten by the beauty of Istanbul. For sixteen centuries during the Roman/Byzantine period, Istanbul was the crossroads of the world and a beacon on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked the Western world with the Middle East and Asia.
As our ship docked along the Bosporus Strait we enjoyed incredible views of the city’s two, iconic landmarks, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two continents and the next 24-hours were a whirlwind for us as we spent time in Asia and Europe.
We began our evening on the Asian side of the city and then spent the next day visiting the “must see” landmarks which, in addition to the two previously mentioned, included; the Topkapi Palace; the Basilica Cistern and the Grand Bazaar.
We sampled much of the local cuisine including numerous versions of Locum also known as Turkish Delight, a family of confections that can include chopped dates, pistachios, hazelnuts or walnuts, bound by a gel of starch and sugar. One of the couples in our party even visited a Turkish Bath House.
While our visit to Istanbul will be forever seared in my memory, it was all brought back to me the other day while watching a recently released movie on Netflix entitled My Father’s Violin, which takes place in Istanbul and features many of the sights and sounds that we enjoyed during our visit 16 years ago.
Until you can visit Istanbul personally, I highly recommend a virtual visit by viewing the movie.