Travels to Turkey

My incredible travels to Turkey in 2007

Archive for the ‘Topkapi Palace’ Category

Day 2 in Istanbul

Posted by Mardee on May 6, 2007

Saturday morning I woke up around 5:30 am. I used the time to keep up with my travel journal until it was time to get ready for breakfast. And what a breakfast! After I trudged up 5 flights to the rooftop terrace, I was greeted with hard-boiled eggs, thick creamy yogurt, a variety of cheeses and olives, fruit, vegetables and wonderful bread. As good as the food was, the view was even better – a rooftop view of the Sea of Marmara. Boats chugged along as I ate, and the occasional seagull would stop in for a visit. Katrina, Tennen and Ari came up shortly after me so we chatted for a bit. We mentioned how few Americans there are over here. There are lots of tourists – I’ve seen Germans, Aussies, Asians, and Brits all over the place. I’m not sure why so few Americans come – it’s such a gorgeous country. We then discussed our plans for the day – they are planning a walk along a historic Roman route described in Lonely Planet. I’m planning a trip to Topkapi Palace.

Before I begin, I have to mention feet – my feet. My feet that keep tripping over everything. There are no pavements over here to speak of. Everything is either brick or tiled or centuries-old cobblestone – and my feet keep finding every nook and cranny there is. This morning I almost killed myself when I tripped while walking down a steep incline. I have GOT to start being more careful!

Moving on…the Imperial Gates at Topkapi Palace opened at 8:50 am. There is a long walk through some beautiful grounds before you reach the ticket booth. This is where the sultans received the hoi polloi – more officious visitors were taken inside. After buying my 10 lira ticket, I headed for the Harem. This requires a separate 10 lira ticket and admittance is regulated so I wanted to make sure I was first in. I had to wait about 45 mintes so I headed for some other areas, including the illustrious Treasury rooms, which house some of the most beautiful and ornate pieces I’ve ever seen (and unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed, even without flash). By the time I was done drooling, it was time for the Harem.

Topkapi PalaceBecause I was in the first group, I had the blissful experience of going through the place virtually on my own (I managed to stay one room ahead of everyone else). The history and visual impact of these rooms is incredible – it is so hard to imagine that a room you are now walking through was once a place where a 16th century sultan’s mother inspected her son’s concubines. It was quiet and peaceful and I regretted leaving it for the ever-increasing crowds of tourists coming into the rest of the palace.

My feet (remember them?) were killing me when I left. I decided to wear a pedometer to log my miles while I was gone. On my first day, I logged in over 26,000 miles – and that did not include the fateful run at the airport. At any rate, I stopped for tea at a small cafe outside the Aya Sofya (aka Hagia Sofia). The tea was bitter and cost twice as much as it did the day before, but at least I coud sit quiety for awhile and relax.

One strange thing I’ve noticed – I’ve been trying to speak Turkish in any situation where my limited vocabulary comes into play. However, when I start speaking Turkish and don’t know the word, for some reasons I lapse into Spanish. Weird – especially since my Spanish isn’t all that hot either.

After tea, I planned on visiting Kariye Müzesi (aka Chora Church). This is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantina church and dates back to the 11th century. However, on my way to catch a bus there, I lost my way and wound up walking up to Taksim Square in another section of town. To get there, I headed over the Galata Bridge, which was interesting in itself. There were several hundred people – mostly men – with fishing poles lined up side-by-side fishing off the side of the bridge. This would be like people fishing over the side of the Big Mac bridge in Cincinnati. I don’t think anyone caught anything but I’m assuming it’s not a total lost cause or they wouldn’t be there.

Fishing off the Galata Bridge After my walk over the bridge, I started going uphill – and uphill. The grade eventually increased to around 40% and was at least a mile or more. By the time I got to Taksim, I was about ready to die. Instead, I kept walking and eventually found a small lunch place where I had sausage pide (this is good stuff – it’s like pizza but better. The dough is in the shape of a flat boat that is then covered with meats and vegetables and sheep cheese and baked in a hot oven. It’s to die for…). After that, I left Taksim – too much traffic and too many people, not to mention the 50+ police I saw in riot gear.

The treck back was downhill all the way, although by this time my feet didn’t care – they were screaming at me. (FYI – on my 2nd day, I logged around 25,000 feet on my pedometer, which is approximately 12 miles. Good feet.). As I neared my hotel, I heard loud music playing and hurried over to see what was up. Standing on a corner were approximately 9-10 men playing various brass and wind instruments along with a couple of drummers. The music was loud and good and infectious – everyone was nodding their heads and clapping along. As the night wore on, I continued to see the band playing around the neighborhood – they were still playing when I went to bed at midnight.  Band playing

Before that happened, however, I headed back out to find an internet cafe then find dinner. The internet came first and I spent about 90 minutes checking email and updating my blog. Next came dinner – I found a place nearby and had some vegetables and meat dish that was supremely tasty, along with a glass of red wine. As I mentioned, the wine is certainly drinkable but it’s very light without much body. After I left the restaurant around 9 pm, I decided to have some dessert and coffee and stopped by a little shop recommended by Lonely Planet. While savoring my sütlaç (baked rice pudding) and cappucino, I met a couple from Richmond, VA, and we started talking. It turned out we had something in common – we have one daughter who graduated from college with a degree in fine arts and specializing in ceramics. Pretty strange – it’s not that usual of a degree. By the time we finished talking, it was close to 11 pm, so I said goodbye and headed out. It was pleasant walking back – the night was cool and half the population was still out enjoying the evening.

Tomorrow – the whirling dervishes and women covering their hair… stay tuned!

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