April 4, 2013

Istanbul - Day 2

Day 2 began bright and early at 9:30am! The group met up in front of the Hagia Sophia and then we walked to Topkapi Palace. It was only a ten minute walk to the palace - you can also take the metro.

Topkapi Palace is huge. It took us a good 3-4 hours to get through the entire palace and the Harem. There is so much to see in the palace. Inside some of the collections at the palace photography is not allowed. However the perks of traveling in a group is that you can get everyone to huddle around you as you snap a picture of the display. 

One of the collections was the Sultan's Clothes. I found this collection very interesting because you are able to take a glimpse at the fashion of the Ottoman period. I concluded that baggy heavily embroidered clothes were totally in during that period. Also men had no problem wearing floral.

Another interesting area of the palace was the Chamber of the Holy Relics. As state don the palace website this camber contains religious objects sent to the Ottoman sultans at various times between Sultan Selim the Grim’s assumption of the caliphate in the 16th century to the end of the 19th century. Among the most important holy relics to be collected in this way between the 16th century and the first half of the 20th century were the Holy Mantle of the Prophet; the hair from the Prophet’s beard; the reliquary in which was kept the Prophet’s tooth, broken during the Battle of Uhud on 19 March 625; and the footprints, letters, bow, and sword of the Prophet. There are also holy relics attributed to other prophets and to the companions of the Prophet Muhammad: the tray used by Abraham; the staff of Moses; the sword of David; the robe of Joseph; the swords of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions; and the shirt, mantle, praying mat, and chest of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah. However Counselor believed that some of these artifacts were too good to be true - especially the staff of Moses. Counselor claimed it was bought at the dollar store - a good amount of laughter and debating took place amongst us on discussing the validity of these artifacts.

After exploring the palace we headed to the Harem. The Harem requires a separate ticket than the palace. However if you purchase a museum pass - as mention in my last post - the entrance to the Harem is included. I personally like the Harem a lot more than the palace. It was beautiful. I loved all the tile work and glass windows. I felt that in the Harem you had free access to roam around and appreciate all it has to offer as opposed to the palace.

After goofing around and exploring the palace we wrapped up our visit and hopped on the metro to head to the Eminönü district of Istanbul. 

First we visited the New Mosque. We arrived at the mosque right at noon prayer therefore we had access to an empty mosque. This mosque was covered in tiles and was beautiful! The perks of going to mosques right at prayer time is that you get to avoid the tourist crowds and truly appreciate all the detail on the inside of the mosque. 

After the mosque we grabbed some lunch at a cafe outside the mosque. My uncle was in charge of picking out where we had lunch. Every day he picked out great restaurants! We order two variety platters in order to taste a little bit of everything. The rice in Turkey is phenomenal! 

After lunch we walked over to the Spice Bazaar. This was by far the most memorable shopping experience EVER! The shop owners will hound you and follow you to get you to purchase their products. If they so much as catch you pointing or staring at what they have to sell they won't leave you alone! It was funny and annoying at the same time. The interesting thing was that the shop owners try to guess what nationality or country you are from. Once they figure it out they start yelling out random words to get your attention so they can advertise their product and get you to buy something. When it came to the 6 of us they were confused because they couldn't figure out if we were Arab, Iranian, Turkish or American. We definitely had a few laughs going around the bazaar. We bought some tea from the spice bazaar and saved the rest of our shopping for the Grand Bazaar.

Afterward we walked across the Galata Bridge to go to the Galata Tower. You can take the metro or a cab but honestly it is definitely worth the walk!

Once we crossed the bridge we followed the signs toward the Galata Tower. It costs about 13 TL to go up the tower. First you take the elevator up to the ninth floor and then you go up a set of spiral staircases. We were lucky enough to make it on top of the tower right at sunset. The view from the top was incredible. You are able to see the Europe & Asian side of Turkey, the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, Maiden's tower, and much more. There is no time limit as to how long you can stay on top of the tower - however the space is so small that it becomes claustrophobic after awhile. 

After the visit to the tower the soul sisters called it a night and took a cab back to the hotel. Doc, Counselor, and I decided to be adventurous and walked back toward the Galata Bridge. Walking back it was already night time and we were able to see the same view at night. I'm glad we walked back instead of cabbing it because we were able to see the beautiful Istanbul skyline at night. Once we crossed the bridge I encountered some shoe problems therefore we took the metro back to the hotel.

After a quick shoe change and some added clothing layers we decided to skip dinner and go out for dessert. We went to Edebiyat kıraathanesi - also known as Hafiz Mustafa - which was only a five minute walk from our hotel. We ordered everything! I'm pretty sure our waiter thought one of us was pregnant! We ordered apple tea, fresh pomegranate juice, Kunafa, and raspberry jello with rice pudding. It was all delicious!! 

Afterward we were on a mission to find Counselor some boots. Istanbul was rather wet and cold and Counselor was unprepared in the shoe department since she currently lives in a desert climate country. Doc was able to bargain and find a great deal on some boots for her BFF. Once we acquired proper footwear we were in pursuit to find a hookah (nargileh) cafe. When in doubt ask the locals. We had no idea where to go therefore we asked a shop owner if he could recommend a good hookah cafe. He said there is a big tourist cafe we could go to or a small local place. We opted for the local place - which was a great choice! He recommended Derviş Nargile Cafe. We loved the place! It was an authentic Turkish hookah place that was chill and not super crowded or filled with tourists. They had awesome hookah, turkish coffee, apple tea, backgammon and free wifi - score!

The night was filled with laughter, jokes, being silly, and even some people believing that Suge Knight was in the house - I'm not kidding. Doc was hell bent on this one guy being Suge Knight. Counselor was a bit confused because she didn't know who Suge was but she knew who Sooooog Knight was - once the confusion and pronunciation of his name was cleared up these two were hell bent on snapping a photo. Gotta love my two older sisters! I should mention that they are HIGHLY educated and sometimes when smart people puff too much hookah they start to envision regular people as being Suge Knight. 

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