It’s been quite the hiatus here for the knitter on the loose. That’s because Meredith and I have been on holiday, as they say in England. Can you guess where?
Istanbul and Athens!
Meredith had a week and a half for Spring Break so we had enough time to do the 12 hour flight to get there. Istanbul hadn’t even been on my radar, but then I met 2 people within a week of each other who had just moved to Shanghai from Istanbul and I thought, hmmm, that sounds interesting. Meredith suggested we add on Athens since it is so close.
Unfortunately, Mark could not come back to join us. I was a little nervous about Meredith and I venturing out on our own, but everything went just fine. Turns out Meredith has the eyes and map-reading abilities that I lack (why are those street names so tiny??), so we were able to find our way around everywhere we went.
We arrived in Istanbul at 5 am. Our first obstacle was getting our visa. I had assumed we would be able to exchange money before that happened, but no, the exchange places were much farther along in the process of getting into the country. There was a money machine, however, and amazingly my credit union bank card worked in it–it doesn’t work in China!
Next obstacle was exchanging money, so I could pay the driver who was taking us to our hotel. I had assumed I could exchange rmb, but no, that wasn’t going to be possible (the exchange places in Athens did take rmb, however). It was back to another bank machine where, miraculously, I was able to take out quite a bit of Euros before it refused me anymore.
We got to our hotel at 6:15am. Not surprisingly, our room wasn’t ready yet! And of course, the “sights” weren’t open yet either. The hotel kindly let us hang out next to the fire in the lobby and then let us have breakfast when they started serving. (It was fabulous, btw)
Our plan was to go to Topkapi Palace first. Imagine our surprise at 9:00 as we walked past the Hagia Sophia to see a line about an hour long waiting for tickets to get in there! Were we going to have to wait that long at the Palace?
Fortunately, no. There was no line at all and we were able to get a ticket that would get us into all the sights, so we wouldn’t be faced with that long line the next day. So clever of us, don’t you think?
All that script is pretty, isn’t it?
According to Wikipedia some of the script says:
By the Grace of God, and by His approval, the foundations of this auspicious castle were laid, and its parts were solidly joined together to strengthen peace and tranquility […] May God make eternal his empire, and exalt his residence above the most lucid stars of the firmament.
Wow! They’re really serious about security here!
A hint of what was to come.
A model of the entire complex-not too shabby digs, right? This palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. It was like a self-contained town and was home to the government at times, as well as 4000 people.
We entered the Harem first as we had read that there would be a line later. The Harem was the private quarters of the Sultan, all 100 to 400 rooms (depends on who you ask)! Actually he was sharing them with his mother, wives, daughters, female relatives, and young sons, as well as eunuchs (basically the security guards) and slave servant girls. They say that behind every powerful man is a woman and that’s certainly the case here. The sultan’s mother or Valide Sultan had nearly as much influence over what happened in the empire as the Sultan did, especially if the Sultan happened to be very young.
Her room was next to the Sultan’s and she decided which of the concubines he slept with. And you think your mother meddles in your affairs!
The concubines couldn’t be married to the sultan as they were Christian slaves, but by Islamic law their offspring could become Sultan.
More of that pretty script.
Two gigantic mirrors in one of the first halls
One of the courtyards
All the ceilings were fabulous. Perhaps they were encouraging people to look heavenward?
You wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be a good idea to have so many patterns going on in a small room, but it kind of works!
These fancy shelves were throughout the Harem
Competing patterns and angles!
The lighting was terrible in here, but this is the privy chamber of the Sultan
The bed where future sultans were made.
What the Sultans saw when they looked up from their bed.
Another room in the Harem with a slightly different color scheme. The rooms were decorated with a combination of tiles and paint, and often tromp-l’oeil.
View out to the Bosphorus
This was a dining room and had been painted with “foody” pictures. (Yes, I know it says no pictures, but everybody was and nobody yelled at us!)
These are the fabulous windows in the “living room” (or twin kiosk as it is called) that was used by the crown prince.
The royal couches
As I said, it’s all about the ceilings!
This was called the Golden Road. It linked all the major rooms of the Harem together. It is thought that it got it’s name because the Sultan would throw gold coins on the ground on feast days for the concubines to pick up.
I’ll end today with some of the beautiful flowers that were growing at the Palace.