Istanbul had long been on our list of places to visit. We were not disappointed at all. In fact, due to rough seas we had to bypass our stop in Chios, but that turned out to be a benefit as it gave us more time in Istanbul. The city is remarkable as it manages to blend the very old and the modern together. Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque are not to be missed. The tram that runs not far from the cruise ship docks was easy to use and took us right to the Hagia Sophia. From there we walked to all the other sites. One of the sites that we visited that may not be on the regular tourist checklist was the Bascilica Cistern. It was an amazing site to see the underground cavern system.
We visited Ephesus with a private tour guide from Hello Ephesus. It was wonderful being able to see the sites with only 4 of us on the tour. Our guide was well versed in the history of the area and really took the time during our visit to the Terrace Houses to explain what we were seeing as well as talk about the restoration that was on-going Although we were there on a very rainy day, it did not dampen our enthusiasm for the history of the place.
This was our opportunity to see the Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx. Having seen so many pictures of these sites, it was remarkable to be able to be there in person. We took a tour offered through the ship as it seemed that Cairo was the type of city that it was better to be in a larger group. This feeling was confirmed in as much as there was a guard on each of the tour buses. One of our favorite experiences was the Tourist Police Officer who volunteered to take our picture so that we looked like we were holding up the Pyramid. It was well worth the $2 tip for the memory of that picture. The other stop on the tour was the Ramesseum. For those who have read Shelley's poem, Ozymandias, seeing the statue of Ramses brings it to life. Of course, the cruise ship tour includes the obligatory stop to shop. It didn't seem quite right that we got 45 minutes to shop and 20 minutes to see the Sphinx.
We had arranged to be part of a private tour to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Like our stop in Egypt, Pompeii is one of those places that you have read about and seen pictures of over the years. To walk the streets of the city and see how much was left intact was amazing. Our tour guide provided a wonderful commentary throughout the tour and made sure that during our couple of hours at Pompeii we had the opportunity to see the most important sites. No doubt, you could go back multiple times and see new things each time. After Pompeii we drove to Ravello, along the Amalfi coast for lunch on at a restaurant perched way above the town. After that we drove back towards Sorrento and marveled at the coastline and the beautiful villages that draw so many visitors every year.