Friday, November 4, 2011

Our Walking Tour of Istanbul Continues

Holy moly…can you believe we did all that in a morning? By now we were dying for a break, and we stopped at the Pudding Shop for lunch. Interestingly, it said Lale Restaurant, the same name as our tour guide. She explained that Lale is very common in Turkey and means tulip. Although we associate tulips with the Netherlands, commercial cultivation of tulips began in the Ottoman Empire.

We had a delicious leg of chicken and the best baklava I have ever eaten. When I put it in my mouth, I actually closed my eyes when I savoured the honey.

With that it was “chop, chop” and off Lale went. It’s a good thing she had a red umbrella so that we could keep track of her.

Look at the delicacies in the store window…yum!

This was originally a camel station on the Silk Road dating from the 17th century. The camels were kept in this portion of the building.

And this was the trading area of the building where goods were exchanged between the East and the West.

It is now a carpet store, and it probably was then as well.

Here we are at the Grand Bazaar, one of the most visited covered markets in the world with over 500,000 visitors per day! I still find that incredible. It was constructed in 1461 and has 22 entrances and over 4000 shops, mostly jewellery.

I bought a silver bracelet and, if I do say so myself, I think we did some pretty good bargaining. My new theory is that if they are willing to let you walk out of the shop, they’ve reached their bottom line.

The sounds of the bazaar...

Mmmm…turkish delight!

LeNae, Mary and Ann taking a break at one of the small tables you see outside many of the shops. We had only seen men sitting at them having their coffee, so I am sure we broke some rules here.

And our last stop of the day (and we were on information overload by now) was the Topkapi Palace. For over three centuries, the palace served as the grand palace for the Ottoman Sultans and their harems. It was built in six years, starting in 1459, and is now a museum.

The Imperial Gate...

The Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III is one of the most famous sights in Istanbul because of its beautiful decoration. Muslims believe that water is the source of life.

The view of Istanbul from inside the palace walls…

The outside wall of the palace…

An interesting tree...

A model showing the expanse of the palace and grounds. It had four courtyards leading up to the palace.

The divan or council chamber is where high ranking advisors to the Imperial Council met to discuss business and political affairs.

These were names of notable advisors, somewhat like a Hall of Fame…

The marble and decoration inside the divan…

Handmade Iznik tiles decorated the harem. They were made of quartz giving them a vivid white colour and making them extremely valuable. These are the same tiles that were found in the Blue Mosque.

This is the entrance to the harem. Other than the Sultan, the only males allowed in the harem were eunuchs. Sometimes castration of the eunuchs was not perfect, and it is believed that some children born in the harem were not fathered by the Sultan. Therefore, the new rule was that all eunuchs would be black, ensuring that there was no doubt as to the father of the child.

This fireplace was pretty but not too effective in a palace this size!

The mother of the Sultan was the most powerful woman in the palace and her rooms were beautifully decorated. She selected the concubines for the harem, which numbered anywhere between 80 and 1000. The Sultan would choose a favourite to have a son with and she would become his wife. The Sultan didn’t necessarily have relations with all the concubines.

The mother of the Sultan…

The Sultan’s chamber in the harem was magnificently decorated. Look at the work in the ceiling. 

The Sultan’s sitting area would have been filled with cushions. The thick walls helped to regulate the temperature in the palace.

Calligraphy on the tile work of the walls.

The courtyard of the harem with the bedrooms above. There were 260 bedrooms in the harem. The concubines were never allowed outside unescorted. Although some people might think this was hard on them, in fact life in the harem was so good there was much competition to be chosen.

The swimming pool for the harem.

The Library of Ahmet III was erected in 1719….

We left along the tree-lined road from the palace…

And, of course, no day would be complete without cat pictures!

Back at the hotel, we were exhausted after our whirlwind tour, but met Rosemary in the lobby who was making dinner reservations. Once again, they were kind enough to include us. Sarnic Restaurant is one of the best in the city and we had a wonderful evening. Jim outside the restaurant…

Our Canadian group!

One of the waiters took a picture of the other waiter who was taking our picture!

On our walk home, I saw eyes glowing in the dark. I took a picture thinking there were two cats and was quite surprised to see how many were actually there. Too many cats!

What an information packed day!! Next two of touring with Lale. Thanks heavens we'll be driving tomorrow rather than walking!

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