Moby Obie Memorial Mediterranean Cruise, Day 6

ISTANBUL

8-27-13-2

[The supervisor likes to be served.  So, on some mornings, we went to our dinner restaurant.  And served we were.  A line of wait staff greeted us at the door.  Then approximately 27 of them would monitor our table – stuff like fresh coffee poured after each sip.  Actually, I found it a bit overwhelming.  But our first photos of Istanbul, coming up, were shot through this window.]

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[The first photo coming into Istanbul.  A bit of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  The ship is the Lauritzen.  Libby Lauritzen of Omaha bank fame donated the funds to build the practice putting green at the Alexandria Golf Club.]

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[Dominating the Istanbul “skyline” here is the Blue Mosque (on left, 6 minarets) and the Ayasofya (on the right).  These two mosques dominate the “must see” list of things to see in Istanbul.]

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[Blue Mosque]

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[Ayasofya]

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[Topkapi Palace, closed while we were there.  Contrary to the movie of the same name, this is pronounced “top-cap-ah” (like the “i” at the end of Kusadasi).]

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[Drat, some other ships got here first!  The Galata Tower (the Tower of Christ when built in 1348) with the conical top is on the left.]

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[The Blue Mosque, Ayasofya, and Topkapi, from left to right.]

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[The Galata Tower was the tallest structure in Istanbul (then Constantinople) when it was built, about 200′.]

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[Rounding the bend . . .]

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[Coming into port.  So, how we got here – coming up from the south through the Aegean Sea, to the Dardenelles, then the Sea of Marmara (where we took the first photos of the mosques), and rounded the bend into the Bosphorus, which connects to the Black Sea to the north.]

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[Looking back into the Sea of Marmara.]

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[Looking north up the Bosphorus.]

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[The Bosphorus Bridge connects Europe and Asia.  Istanbul is the only city in the world on two continents – and it is rather large at 14 million inhabitants.  Its location made it the crossroads of the world, which is why, over the millennia, it was conquered by everyone – except the Ojibwa (who just weren’t interested).]

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[We began parallel parking a vehicle longer than three football fields.]

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[Our first close-ups of the city.]

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[You know the tower!  😉 ]

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[Parking complete, we were less than 15 meters from the ships in front and behind us!]

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[The supervisor, Anne, and Bill at our favored back porch.]

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[Ashore and on the move.  The Turkish tour guide asked me where I was from (a Canadian later asked me why all Americans when asked that question respond with a state – though on the trip I asked the same question of a couple who simply responded “Calgary”).  I said Minnesota.  He said, “Timberwolves!”  It’s a small world.  😉 ]

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[We’re heading to the mosques, crossing the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.  Cool!]

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[Ayasofya]

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[Golden Horn Metro Bridge]

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[Traveling a coastal highway, the driver’s troll riding shotgun.]

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[Sea of Marmara Drive?]

I would like to digress to briefly discuss an issue of universal import.  To my knowledge, however, it has never been discussed in a serious manner ever before.  I have never seen any coverage of it in National Geographic, Scientific American, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Wear Daily, or Mad?  I have to wonder if it’s top secret, protected government information such as Area 51?   The issue is “Shoe-In-The-Road” syndrome.  It came to mind again while we were travelling in Europe.  We would be busing down an otherwise limited-access major thoroughfare, and there, in middle, or on the side, of the road would be a shoe.  Not a pair of shoes . . . but A shoe?  Now we have always noticed this phenomenon on the U.S. and wondered . . . how does a single shoe end up in that particular spot.  Did its wearer decide to jettison one, and only one, there for a specific reason?  If so, what could that reason be?  If the single piece of footwear was accidentally jettisoned, why would its wearer not realize that and try to recover it?  Do people travel down roadways and randomly toss shoes from moving vehicles?  It’s remains a total mystery to me, and I recommend DNA studies be conducted to apprehend the offending parties to determine motives.  Well, after 66 years, I’m glad I finally got that off my chest!

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[Blue Mosque (yeah, there’ll be lots more of it).]

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[We’re there!  🙂 ]

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[It was about here that our guide, “Mr. Timberwolves,” told us we were going with another group.  Turned out great!  We were now in a group of six with just the Joaquins!]

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[An inner court yard.  Our new guide was trying to move us to the front of the line for entry into the mosque.]

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[Just another beautiful domed ceiling.  Ho-hum.  😉 ]

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[It was waaaayyyyy high!]

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[Remember, this was done in the days before Intel and Microsoft.]

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[A couple of locals provide perspective.]

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[Oh, it’s the girls in their “pick them up as you enter scarves and drop them off when you leave.”  My naked head was fine as it was.   Of course, we were also shoeless – I believe the supervisor was carrying them in her “Princess Cruises” complimentary bag.]

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[They were vacuuming the rugs.  This is an active mosque where daily prayer sessions are held.  Not sure of the logistics of running large groups of tourists through in spite of that?]

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[Exiting the back door, taking the garden mall to Ayasofya, upper center of the photo.]

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[A last look back at the Blue Mosque?]

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[Through the archway to the distant past.  A time portal?]

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[Our new guide, soon to be seen, noted that although Turkey is 98 percent Muslim, Istanbul really is a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan city.  And if we saw women in traditional Muslim abaya garb, they would likely be foreign tourists themselves.]

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[OK, we haven’t stopped looking at the Blue Mosque.]

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[Ayasofya as seen from the mall.  Another lovely 90-degree day!  Oy!]

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[Bill snaps a shot.]

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[Inviting, on a hot day?]

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[Still not giving up on the Blue Mosque.]

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[Good-bye ole Blue.]

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[And now to the Ayasofya.  And as impressive as the Blue Mosque is, and probably better known to tourists, this is THE place.]

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[And here’s our guide, Cemil (ja-MEAL), explaining what we’re going to see inside.  He lived in Toronto for 9 years; thus, his English was better than ours!  🙂  He is also a guide used by Rick Steves and leads tours all over Turkey.]

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[An opening fresco.  Yup, Christ.  In a mosque.]

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[The place is ginormous!]

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[Ayasofya was built in 537 AD.  It is more than 1,000 years older than the Blue Mosque.  The dome is an incredible 182 feet above the floor.  The finest example of Byzantine architecture, it is said to have changed the history of architecture.  For some reason thereafter, domes fell out of favor for a thousand years.  And when humanity decided to build them again, they had forgotten how?  I guess the original guys forgot to leave instructions on a flash drive.  Ayasofya became a secular museum in 1935.]

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[It’s amazing to think this place was built more than 1,400 before the Golden Arches?]

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[The chandelier was size equivalent.]

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[I was getting a stiff neck from looking straight up.]

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[The mihrab in the apse facing Mecca.]

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[A golden phone booth?]

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[The mihrab, up close and personal.]

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[Bill marveling at the marvels.]

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[A great place to go to feel small.]

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[Let there be dark.]

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[The view from the “second floor.”]

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[Hey, anybody seen a restroom?]

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[Fresco (see the following).]

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[Hey, what’s everybody lookin’ at?]

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[The Blue Mosque, again?]

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[I’ll be darned!]

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[Meanwhile, back inside Ayasofya, the wonders of modern lighting.]

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[One last shot before we have to meet Cemil.]

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[We went back outside . . . and then underground.  When Cemil said he was taking us to “the underground,” I assumed the Istanbul subway?  Nope, the Basilica Cistern!  😉  One of several hundred, this is the largest at 453′ by 212′ and supported by 336 marble columns (recycled from other places) all 30 feet tall.  The place held almost 3 million cubic feet of water, making it a difficult place to defeat by siege.  An amazing sight!]

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[The lighting casts an eerie, yet warm, glow to the place.]

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[The only known (in Turkey?) example of a teardrop column.  They don’t know where it came from?]

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[Hey, I think I saw a tarpon?]

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[And a place where an upside-down Medusa head forms a column base . . .]

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[And a sideways Medusa head.  You never know what you’re going to get from recycling?]

8-27-13-80

[A farewell to the cistern.]

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[Back above ground, don’t get hit by the light rail train.]

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[Cemil’s leading us to the Hippodrome Square.  If you’re old enough, think of the place where they held the chariot race in Ben-Hur.]

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[The Square is loaded with obelisks.  We’ll pay a brief visit to each (because who knows which one may be your favorite?).]

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[The building is perched on the sphendone, an area that was raised to support the curved end of the track to race back to the starting point.]

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[Cemil and the supervisor enjoy a break in the shade.]

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[You guys ready for lunch?]

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[Cemil leads us down “Lombard Street” (OK, think San Francisco) around the curve of the sphendone.]

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[We’ll check out the rug place later.  For now, we’re in front of our restaurant.]

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[And here’s the sphendone (note the building on top) that was built to level out the track at the U-turn end.]

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[I vote for this place.]

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[Teri in front of the restaurant recommended by Rick Steves (from Cemil, no doubt).]

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[I believe a chicken kebab for the supervisor . . .]

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[And a veggie kebab for me.  Good eats, if voluminous!]

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[Cemil and Bill dig in.]

8-27-13-105

[Mmmmm, and a gigantic loaf of lavash (Turkish bread).]

8-27-13-106

[On to the neighboring rug store.  The weaver is making a silk rug, double knotting so fast she had to slow down for the demonstration.  It will take her two years to make this rug, and it will last 300 years.  The cost will be about the same as a year’s tuition at St. Olaf.]

Little Known Fact (I say “little known” because I did not know it; thus, by definition making it “little known”) learned from the store owner:  You have probably wondered how the marble was cut in the manufacture and construction of all the antiquities displayed herein?  I know I always thought by diamond-encrusted ban saws powered by solar panels.  But I was wrong.  The marble was cut by silk thread!  That stuff has to be stronger than 30-pound test monofilament fishing line!  And it may explain why silk rugs last for 300 years . . . and why dry cleaners charge so much to clean apparel made from it (and, honestly, I have never tried to cut anything with a silk tie or shirt)!

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[Although they weren’t giving us “the hard sell” (wink, wink, nod, nod), they had several guys roll about 20 different rugs – plus they gave us Turkish coffee and Bill & I accepted a small “adult” beverage.  The rugs were beautiful, in silk, wool, or cotton – but none of us were willing to make that kind of 5-figure decision on such short notice.]

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[We figured this store had to have several million euros worth of rugs, pottery, and jewelry in stock – hope they have good insurance!]

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[Up on the store’s roof to enjoy the views.  There’s the sphendone again on the right.]

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[The ubiquitous Blue Mosque, again?]

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[A Hippodrome obelisk and “Lombard Street.”]

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[The boats are gathering in the Bosphorus.  Apparently the limited width of the strait requires one-way traffic – so these ships are waiting their turn for when the flow reverses.]

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[Good-bye to our restaurant.]

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[Now we’re being led to our last stop in Istanbul.  A place of danger and intrigue.  A place where shoppers of the supervisor’s ilk could get lost for months.  We heading for the Grand Bazaar!]

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[Down “Rodeo Drive” to get there.]

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[An “opening” ahead.]

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[Keep going, we can make it!]

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[Heed ye, all who enter!]

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[A final glance down a side street before we enter.]

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[We’re in, and not a single security check.  The ultimate place for “Let’s Make A Deal!”]

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[This goes on for  . . . well, who knows.  I forgot how many shops and miles of aisles there are herein.]

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[Shop till you drop!]

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[Need a lamp?]

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[Oh-oh, I think we’ve ventured off the main “aisle.”  I hope someone laid a trail of bread crumbs.]

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[If you can’t find it here, it doesn’t exist.]

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[Anne found something to take home to colleagues.]

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[I left the Bazaar early (shopping makes me dizzy) to find a table for us out on “Rodeo Drive.”]

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[I was sharing a table with the gentleman on the left.  I was a little concerned.  He was always on the phone, and people would occasionally come up to him and exchange money for small packets?]

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[We had a walk back to our bus, but our driver had parked in an area where we wouldn’t be caught up in tour bus traffic!  🙂 ]

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[Good-bye, Galata Tower.]

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[Back on board our ship, going up the glass elevator looking down on the atrium.]

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[There’s lots of ferries between Europe and Asia.  They’re working on a tunnel.]

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[Looking to the Sea of Marmara.]

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[Good-bye, Istanbul!  It’s been good to know you.]

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[The Bosphorus Bridge. as we head to Mykonos.]

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[Good-bye, dock.]

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[Let us gather at the railing.]

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[Bill shares the back railing with Mickey Mantle.  I didn’t even know he was on board?  😉 ]

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[Anne joins Bill.]

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[A final good-bye to Ayasofya.]

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[A final good-bye to the Blue Mosque.]

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[We all say good-bye.]

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[OK, a parting shot of Ayasofya (I liked the lighting).]

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[The parts of the cityish city we didn’t see.]

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[And we still have Mykonos, Naples, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Cannes, and Barcelona to go!]

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[Back in the atrium for our evening cool down . . .]

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[With the Alegria String Quartet.]

Up next:  Mykonos (or the Grape Stomp)

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