Today was the final day on the Grand Turkey Tour. It was fitting to end it here in Istanbul, at the Topkapi Sarayi (Palace), the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. After a successful wrestle with Pacha Tours to undo a plan of theirs to split off four of our core group into another day tour plan, we all headed with a new tour guide (Ciya) to the Topkapi Palace. Built between 1453 and 1820, it was the royal residence to 24 of the Ottoman's 36 Sultans. Consisting of four gated courtyards, and an increasingly complex set of buildings leading to the Sultan's personal home, it takes over the end of an entire peninsula.
Despite the fact that most of what belonged to the the empires which occupied Turkey for almost 4,000 years have been stolen from her, the remaining collection housed within these walls is breath-taking. Diamonds, rubies, jade, china, silk, thrones, robes, mosaics, swords, medallions, and rooms and rooms to display them in. Harems bedrooms, kitchens, pavillions, libraries, armories, mints, parliament meeting rooms, gardens, and fountains.
After lunch back at our hotel, we next went not far away to the Blue Mosque. Built in ten years by Ahmet I (who ascended to the throne at 14, and died at 28) to top the grandeur of the 500 year-old Hagia Sofia Church (see yesterday's review), its 260stain-glass windows, 30,000 blue tiles, and the biggest columns in the world certainly deliver the visual punch.
Outside the Mosque stand two large obelisks. Constructed to facilitate a hippodrome (oblong chariot race sort of like our present-day barrel racing), the most impressive of the two is the oldest monument in Istanbul. It was carved in Egypt in 1530BC and erected at Karnac. The Byzantine Emperor, Theodosius, had it brought from Egypt in AD390. It's one of the few war spoil treasures, and probably was too large for the crusaders to steal back.
Finally, we went to the Grand Bazaar. Neither Pat nor I were interested in buying anything, we just wanted to see this supersize ancient mall. It has over 4,000 shops lining kilometers of labyinthine alleyways. I planned on taking photos of faces and products, but soon realized that it was filled with rather normal looking people not looking very photogenic. The chaos wasn't very pretty, and the merchandise being purchased wasn't very local, authentic, or particularly interesting. Not grand or bazaar.
For a look at the day's photos, click on: Turkey Saturday May 24