SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2009 – 122/23 – ISTANBUL
The plan for the day is to get an early start to see Topkapi before the hoards of tour buses dump their passengers. For a change, we actually are up early enough to meet our goal. We have a continental breakfast in the hotel for the ridiculous price of ₤68 ($43US). That beats the full buffet price of ₤110 ($70US). As we have said before, tourists are here to be taken. I just wish they were not quite so blatant about it.
We arrive at Topkapi Palace shortly after it opens at 9:00AM. It cost us ₤40 ($25US) for tickets to the grounds and museum. Tickets to the Harem buildings are another ₤40.
We were here in 1984 but neither of us remembers much about it. The exhibits are well done and interesting. The treasures exhibit contains the famous “Topkapi Dagger” from the 1964 movie and it is really something to see. We both enjoy the “Sacred Relics” exhibit. While neither of us believe that we have actually seen the “Staff of Moses”, “Two Swords of the Prophet Mohammed”, his bow, a hair from his beard or his broken tooth, we do find the displays well done get an immersion in the belief of Muslims in the reality of these items. We see the council chambers, the kitchen, the library, the garden area over looking the Bosphorus along with the many rooms that are now used for displays. The Harem is also a very interesting look into the lifestyle of Sultan. The entrance is behind the eunuchs' apartments. The Sultan's mother had very ornate apartments as did the prince and the Sultan. The bath was very modern looking and all marble and gold.The exterior walls of the Haren are just as ornate as the interior.We spend about three hours at Topkapi Palace and then return to the hotel, only several hundred yards away, to use the WC and get some lunch. We return to the restaurant where we ate dinner last night for a shared pizza along with a coke for Carolyn and two small beers for Dick.
Now we head for the Haghia Sophia. This building was built in over a period of less than six years and was dedicated on December 26, 537AD. It was the center of the Christian religion in the Byzantine Empire, then served as a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and is now one of the world’s most popular museums. Tickets cost us another ₤40 ($25US) and we spend over an hour exploring the first and second levels of this huge building. It is the fourth biggest basilica following St. Peter’s in Rome, The Doumo is Milan and St. Paul’s in London. On the upper level there are some interesting views out the windows like this one of the Blue Mosque. Leaving Haghia Sophia, we head for the Basilica Cistern, also known as the Underground Palace. Here, tickets only cost us ₤20 ($12.50US). This giant, covered reservoir, built in the 6th Century AD, could hold 80,000 cubic meters of water and supplied the nearby Topkapi Palace and environs. Now, it only holds a few feet of water and there are raised walkways throughout. It is lit in a very pleasing manner and is pleasantly cool. We now head back to a shop we visited yesterday to reconsider a small painting to add to our collection but find it closed on Sunday. We pick up some sandwich wraps for supper and head back to the hotel. On the way, Dick trips and falls heavily in the street. After gathering himself, his camera and other items, we return to the hotel. Carolyn dresses his skinned knee and ices it down. I hope that he has not hurt himself too badly.