20 September 2003 Saturday - Istanbul - 126 Photos
This morning we got up early, showered (hot water this time!), ate breakfast and waited for Tendu
to pick us up at 9:00am. She picked us up with the bus driver, and we set off for our first destination, which was the Sulemaniye Mosque.
It was beautiful inside,
with much more subtle colors than the Blue Mosque. We took a few pictures,
then went back to the bus. We were starting to get frustrated that Tendu was not giving us much information. She didn't like to volunteer information, so we had to get it by asking questions.
From the mosque of Suleman, we drove back to the Blue Mosque. We had seen this on our own earlier, and when we did, we had taken lots of pictures. Consequently, we didn't spend much time asking questions or taking photos with Tendu.
From the Blue Mosque, we drove to the beautiful Topkapi Palace,
which is basically the palace of the very rich sultans for hundreds of years. The palace is not just a building, it is a wholly enclosed city for a king, just like the Forbidden City in Beijing.
There were large, meticulously groomed grounds, huge swimming pools, decorative fountains
and several buildings to explore.
Then there is a palace inside the palace: The Harem, which is the private living quarters of the Sultan and his women. From inside the palace, you could get a pretty good shot of the harbor
and from another angle, two huge mosques in the distance.
From a different spot, you could get a beautiful photo of the Bosporus harbor.
Inside, we took lots of pictures, from many angles of the various chambers and meeting rooms, but Tendu said that the Harem was closed to the public.
Kathy was bummed because she had specifically asked Mark, our contact at Helenic Adventures, whether we would get to see the Harem, and he said that it was included. This was even in our itinerary.
Again, Tendu took us around and talked very little. She brought us to the room with all the sultans' riches and jewels, and basically just told us to look for twenty minutes and she would wait outside.
At the end of the tour, we told Tendu that we wanted to stay at the palace and find our own way back. After she had left, we rented one of those portable electronic guides and walked around the palace getting the information that our guide didn't give us. One of our first stops was the entrance to the Harem, where we found out, contrary to what Tendu told us, that the Harem was open for tours, for an added fee. We gladly got in line to buy tickets.
Two American women pushed their way in front of the line, even after we yelled at them and told them they were being rude. There was another tourist, probably French by her accent, who was ahead of us in line, and these rude women pushed their way in front of her. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be an American. People in foreign countries think of Americans as arrogant, pushy, etc., so Kathy and I are always friendly and courteous when traveling. Many Americans think that the French people are rude, and there we were with two American women being rude and making all Americans look bad. Needless to say, we were very unhappy.
Then, when we got to the ticket window, the guy closed the window and put up a sign saying "Open in 10 minutes." So these two rude women got into the last tour, and forced us to wait ten minutes for the next one. We were pissed. Not only at the rude women who cost us time, but also at Tendu for saying that the Harem was closed.
The Harem tour was only a half-hour long, but it was the best part of the palace, because it contained the private chambers of the sultans and their wives and concubines.
We took lots of photos,
and that whole thing made us feel better.
We spent a long time visiting the many cool places in the palace,
and it was a very enjoyable time. Then I realized: I hadn't been taking enough "people shots." In an attempt to get a few, I photographed a cute girl who was walking around the palace with her mother.
Outside, I took a photo of a man selling grapes from his cart.
I filled my 256MB flash card today, and it was empty when we started. That's a hundred photos at near-photo quality, jpeg format. It's a good thing I have a second flash card (128MB) or I would be more conservative with the photos.
After we left the Topkopi palace, we walked down a hill in the direction of the spice market, but decided to stop for lunch at a cute sidewalk café.
After lunch, we walked to the spice market,
which was crowded, both inside and outside
but it was very fun with lots of interesting people and things to see. For example, I took a photo of a popcorn vendor
and a pomegranate vendor.
There was even a vendor selling seeds so that people could feed the pigeons.
Afterward, we decided to walk back to the hotel, which was a very long way. The scary part is that we're starting to know our way around downtown Istanbul!
Tonight, we are going to a cultural show we bought tickets to, at a restaurant called "Sultana's" and I've got to go now to that. I emptied my flash card onto the Fiva, so hopefully I'll get some good pictures.