After working numerous contracts as a glassblower on Celebrity Cruise ships, there is always so much anticipation waiting to see what itinerary the ship will be on when I arrive, and which amazing ports I will get to explore. When I received my current contract I was ecstatic to find out that I would be traveling to numerous ports in Greece, Turkey, and Italy for the next 3 months! Since many of these ports would be new to me, I always begin by researching the cities and countries, and planning possible activities long before I get onboard the ship. One of the stops that I was most excited to explore on this itinerary was Istanbul, Turkey.
Istanbul is the second largest metropolitan city in Europe (after Moscow) and has a population of 13.5 million people. It has 17 palaces, 64 mosques, and 49 churches. There are many other attractions such as the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque, but one of the stops I wanted to visit the most you probably won’t find on any travel website or shore excursion onboard. It is a large glass teaching and production studio called The Glass Furnace.
While attending the Glass Art Society Conference in Toledo, Ohio before I left, I received information about the Glass Furnace and made contact with several glassblowers from the studio. Knowing that Istanbul was on my cruise itinerary, I made sure to stay in contact with the studio to set up a tour. I could not wait to tell the other glassmakers, Matt Decker and Gabe Bloodworth, when I got to the ship. After I received an e-mail from the studio confirming our visit, all 3 of us could not stop talking about this upcoming opportunity. Gabe even said he couldn’t sleep the night before because he was so excited! The Glass Furnace sent us a cab and a contact person to meet in Istanbul to make sure we arrived to the studio without any trouble. We were overwhelmed with excitement as we travelled outside of the city taking in all of the beautiful views of the countryside, and being able to see both the European and Asian side of Istanbul.
When we arrived at The Glass Furnace we got a grand tour of all their equipment and the teaching facility. All three of us were impressed by the grand size of their facility and their beautiful location. While walking past their basketball court, swimming pool, and housing area, there was a small room with a furnace that instantly caught my eye. This functional wood-fired glass furnace was built from firebrick, clay and straw, and was used to create what is known as the Evil Eye Bead which holds a tradition to eliminate any bad luck in your studio or home.
The furnace had several small pots melting different colors used in the bead. The beads were made by master glassblowers who used the power of fire and the power of the symbolic eye figure to create this talisman.
After walking down a trail we arrived at a scenic outdoor patio setting overlooking a waterway. This was a great place to lounge, and to reflect on all that we had seen and learned after a long day with our new friends at the studio. We sipped on some local Turkish coffee and found out that the body of water we were sitting right next to is connected to the Bosphorus waterway which travels from the Mediterranean all the way to the Black Sea. We watched several glass demonstrations and looked through their collection of glass before making our journey back to the ship.
Thank you Elif and Guclu of The Glass Furnace for all of your help in making Istanbul, Turkey a truly memorable stop for 3 Corning gaffers!