Archive for the ‘Istanbul’ Category

Cruise Discount Tool

Monday, November 8th, 2010

With the Economy still acting anemic, the Cruise Lines are trying to increase sales through discounts. They even have wireless so you can access this site from your cruise. The secret is the deals other nonrev sites are advertising are not the best deals. You can find them but you need to dig.

You know how Priceline lets you name your price but then tells you what hotel to stay in? The worst part is not only do you not have a choice of where to stay, but you must take the hotel. What if you could bid and see what you get BEFORE you submit to the program? Well, we figured out how to do that for cruises on the web. First, you need to got to our search engine where we have partnered with Google: .Put in what you want, like Carnival Cruise, and then put in the price like this, Carnival Cruise Caribbean $899…$799. Make sure you put in the three dots, … , between the range of price you want to pay. But don’t stop there, try it again with $799…$699 and see what you get. Keep going and see how low you can go!

The great thing about this function on our search engine is it resets everything in the results to your price range, even the ads. That means that the sponsored links on the top and side of the results page are even better deals. They are motivated to sell to you since they bought ad space. They HAVE to pay Google so they really, really want your business which may mean you can bargain for more perks for the price. To quote the competition, “now that is negotiating!”

The Hippodrome, Historic Spin?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Right by Aya Sophya is place that for thousands of years rulers watched to gauge the mood of the people. Since they didn’t have political polling, they needed a way to find out people’s concerns and what was important to them. They used the Hippodrome as a sample of the population to tell how they where ruling. The landmarks can be looked at as the spin rulers put on issues to sway the opinion.

This is the place of several “Political Dramas” starting with the chariot races. Rival teams, the Greens and the Blues, also had rival political beliefs and a race victory had important effects on policy. An Emperor might lose his power because of a loss and the subsequent riots.

The Obelisk of Constantine VII is at the furthest part of the park. It originally had a bronze pinecone on its top and several brass plates on its sides when created in the 4th Century. The Pinecone fell during an earthquake in 869 and the plates were stolen in the 4th Crusades. This is a good example of the rule of Constantine. It originally was a majestic object adorned with expensive metalwork. As the empire deteriorated, so did the obelisk. As you look around the monument, look down at the base. This is the original floor of the Hippodrome. Over the years, the level was raised to where it currently is.

As the barbarians were threatening Rome, Constantine was trying to increase the influence of his city. What better than bringing a monument to the victory of roman city states over the Persians at Plataea. Originally it stood in the front of the  temple of Apollo at Delphi, but was moved here in 330 AD, probably as a way to sway opinion of the citizen against those who threatened the city.  Heads of serpents, which were believed to be stolen around the 4th Crusades, show the fall of Constantinople.

The Obelisk of Theodosius is originally from Egypt in 390AD and is the oldest monument in Istanbul. It was originally created in the 15th Century BC for Thutmose III. Here is the attempt to show the public in 390 AD that Constantinople is taking the place of Rome as the center of civilizations. Around this period, Rome was in decline and it can be said Constantinople was making a power play for the rule of the Roman Empire. As a tribute to itself, the base shows the effort to move this obelisk to its new location.

The area without monuments stand as a tribute to the rise of the Ottoman empire. It is interesting that there is no monuments from the Obelisk of Theodosius to the Fountain. It is like a reflection of the Muslim religion which believes it is heresy to pray to any object relating to a person. The Ottomans watched the Hippodrome carefully to make sure that talk did not lead to unrest that lead to riots that lead to revolt.

Finally, there is Kaiser Wilhelm’s fountain at the other end. A gift from Germany in 1901 as a token of friendship to the Turkish people, the German emperor who it is named after, presented this on his state visit to Abdul Hamit II. Soon after Turkey signed a treaty to protect each other in case one of them was attacked.  

Today our elected officials sample their constitutes with sophisticated mathematical tools. In ancient Turkey the Hippodrome was the tool. Visiting the park with its landmarks you can get an idea of the influences of the people and how it was done.

To see more information about the mosque or other FREE Attractions in Istanbul, go to the Istanbul Section of To see more FREE Attractions around the world, go to

Blue Mosque; Examining Islam

Monday, April 19th, 2010

See Video Tour

Many people I talk to are curious about the Islamic Religion. These people are no different than the tourists who go to Notre Dame that are not Catholic but want to see the beauty of the church and maybe learn a little about their beliefs. The Blue Mosque is one of these places designed to get a glimpse of Islam for FREE.

The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet in 1603 and took 14 years to complete. He set out to surpass Aya Sophya which was the Church converted to a Mosque. What Aya Sophya is on the inside, the Blue Mosque is on the outside having the largest courtyard of all the Mosques in the Ottoman Empire. But that does not mean that the inside is any less beautiful.

The inside adorned with Tiles and lights. There are no figures in the mosque because Islam believes that images with an ‘immortal soul’ cannot be revered or worshiped. That is why there are tens of thousands of blue tile which is where the mosque gets its unofficial name. The floor is carpeted with rugs that have intricate patterns and those entering must remove their shoes to enter. Muslins must was their feet, ankles, hands, arms, heads, and necks before entering the Mosque. This is the reason for the numerous taps outside. The ware on the marble underneath shows how popular this mosque is. There are over 260 stained glass windows that give the inside a beautiful rainbow of color adding to the serenity.

There are no chairs since they would be in the way for service. The huge dome is held by 4 enormous “elephant feet’ which are also decorated with color only. There a wooden rail which is ornately carved to mark where tourist should stay behind in or for people to have a place to pray. Unfortunately, non-Muslims cannot stay for prays which happen 5 times a day. These times are dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk and after dark. This also means the mosque may be closed to the public at these times also. And if you enter, tourist use the South Entrance that is to the right of the main courtyard.

Once you exit, you can make a donation just like at other churches. The most interesting part is they give receipts. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. I thought it was very interesting that they were so accommodating to modern society. Once you exit you can go strait forward to the SultanAhmet Park or go to the left to the Hippodrome.

 To see more information about the mosque or other FREE Attractions in Istanbul, go to the Istanbul Section of To see more FREE Attractions around the world, go to

Aya Sophya, Connecting Religions

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Aya Sophya Video

I was lucky enough to go to Istanbul and visit the Church/Mosque/Museum called Aya Sophya. It is a great place to go on a layover or if you decide to non-rev here. What is incredible is this huge dome was first a Church. Then it was converted to a Mosque, not by any archeological changes, but by changing a name and then plastering over the Christian Mosaics. Later it was converted to a Museum to preserve the history of both religions. Aya Sophya in English means the Church of Devine Wisdom which is ironic since it represents two ideologies which seem diametrically opposed but in reality are extremely similar in beliefs and there are many examples. Here are a few.

First commissioned around 530AD by Emperor Justinian, its goal was to restore the grandeur and power of the Roman Empire. It was finished in a remarkable 7 years and was the greatest church in Christendom. It is similar to the Pantheon, a huge Attraction in Rome which was a temple to the Roman Gods until it was converted to a Christian Church. What is fascinating is that in Milan there is a domed church built around the same time with a statue of Constantine in front and Roman columns behind that. It is much different from the modern churches in Europe that are in the shape of a cross. But then in 1453 the city of Constantinople was conquered by the Islamic Turks. Instead of raising the Church to the ground, Mehmet the Conqueror converted it to a Mosque… just like that. No destruction was brought upon the church. Only the tiled mosaics where covered in plaster because Islam does not believe we should draw the picture of the prophets. To this day, Aya Sophya is the crown jewel of mosques and all others are compared to it.

Today the Church/Mosque is a Museum which means it can be preserved for posterity. The cost may be a little steep, but the history you are seeing is incredible. This was the Rome of the East. It is where the New Testament of the Bible was created. It is, and always will be a mystery that will be unfolded for years to come. They are finding mosaics that have be covered up for  over 500 years. If you come to Aya Sophya, you will discover that we have a lot more in common in the world.

To see more on the Attractions in Istanbul, go to the Istanbul Section of To see more great attractions like these, go to

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

I had my first trip to Istanbul and was lucky enough to see the Grand Bazaar. I thought I would be able to walk right through and see everything, wrong. The place is huge and every shop is jam packed with goods. Many of the shops have similar goods but there are so many stores, it takes for ever to see the whole spectrum.
One of the things I was told of was the haggling. First they try to get your attention. If you happen to be looking at their goods, they will shout out a price. If you are not, they might say “my fried look at this. It is very good quality…” Just keep walking unless you hear something you like, then the negotiation have begun.
If you are a large group, or you are about to negotiate, they will offer you tea or something else to drink. This is a huge Turkish Tradition and almost all the places do it. It is to help you relax and signal that the negotiations have begun. A word of advice, don’t except the tea unless you feel comfortable and may want to bargain.
There are several things from inexpensive souvenirs to reproductions of jewelry. The big thing you see at the low end of the price rang is the “Evil Eye.” This is defiantly the wrong word to use since the Eye is to absorb all the “Evil Spirits.” On the other end of the spectrum is the rugs and jewelry. The jewelry can be of the highest quality, but you must know what you are looking for. If you are there several days, they can reproduce or create anything you want. Remember, you get what you pay for.
One other thing you need to do is look up! Don’t miss the architecture. This place has been around for hundreds of years. The history in the Bazaar is incredible and there are many frescos and arches to see. To see more information about Istanbul, go to We will be updating the information regularly. And if you need tips on other places, make sure you visit our site. We get tips from crews around the world.