My first trip to Turkey took place in the nineties. We stayed at the Hilton on the Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul. This narrow, natural waterway located in northwestern Turkey forms a continental boundary between Europe and Asia.
Breakfast and lunch in Istanbul consisted of baklava, kadaifi, loukoumi, and other delicious sweet pastry, accompanied by a bitter Turkish coffee.
This first picture shows a panoramic view of Istanbul with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia– a Byzantine Basilica that was transformed into a mosque.
We spent three days discovering the huge city on our own and took two guided tours to visit the palaces. Our first guide welcomed us on the modern tourist bus and casually asked if our room had a balcony. When I said, “Yes,” he replied, “Have you heard strange noises coming from the Strait at night? They are the late concubines’ sighs and moans.”
As we looked at him, confused, he explained that the Ottoman Empire was ruled by a Sultan. The Sultan’s mother, the Vadim Sultana was the most powerful woman in the empire and the only one not wearing a veil. She was in charge of his harem. The Sultan’s first wife was the kadin and her first son the heir to the throne. Having accomplished his royal duty, the Sultan indulged in as many concubines as he wanted — often more than a hundred. Most were foreign beauties captured as slaves. When a Sultan died, the new ruler made space for his own harem by getting rid of the former group of concubines. The women were shoved into sacks weighed down with heavy stones and tied with ropes, and then thrown into the Bosphorus, screaming and crying. I couldn’t sleep well that night.
Here are pictures from the Topkapi Palace.
One of my favorite memories of Istanbul was my two-day visit to the Grand Bazar where I bought several souvenirs: a hand-made bedside rug with the tree of life, a copper pitcher, and small Turkish coffee pot called kanaka, and others…
I never went back to Istanbul, although we booked a cruise in 2016 that included this unique city, the ship canceled the stop because of unrest at the time. Instead we docked in Kusadasi that we have already visited.
The highlight of Kusadasi included a guided tour to the historical city of Ephesus where we saw the ruins of the Library of Celsus, the temples of Domitian and Hadrian, the Great Theater, and the temple of Artemis, the multi-breasted goddess of fertility. St. Paul preached against her shrine, and wrote his Letters to the Ephesians there.
St. John the Evangelist wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. Tradition says that the Virgin Mary and John lived in Ephesus during their final years.
The day in Kusadasi ended with shopping and a break at a café for coffee and pastries.
I didn’t write any book set in Turkey yet. Maybe some day… But I would like to offer you two romance novels I particularly love:
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Mona lives in South Florida and has traveled to more than eighty countries on business or vacation. She writes contemporary romances, medical romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal fantasy. Sprinkled with a good dose of humor, her stories are set in the fascinating places she visited or more simply at home.
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