top of page

Istanbul Day 2

Day 2 in Istanbul is more interesting. I mean, it has to be, right? Our tour today was of the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. Starting with the Palace. It's in the "Old Town" part of Istanbul, no surprise there, and was the home of the sultans during the period of the Ottoman empire. A view from the palace is shown above. The Ottoman empire, by the way, formally ended just over 100 years ago, officially in 1922. The last sultan died in exile in Paris in 1944.

The palace grounds were significantly large, as was the palace. One of the largest areas of the palace, and the one we spent a significant amount of time in, was the harem. It housed, not only women, but the sons and daughters of the sultan. Sons were allowed to stay until they were about 7 years old, when they were moved to a palace outside of Istanbul.

 

The women in the harem had a hierarchy. At the top, was the mother of the current sultan. Some stories have her as the most important person in the empire, and one whom the sultan often listened to for advice. 

Pictures above were rooms in the harem quarters.

 

There were also other places displaying artifacts of the sultan's life, like the one below showing some of the sultan's robes, worn for official meetings. 

And my favorite picture was taken from a room displaying various objects used during the day. I call this one the "Genie Storage Room". 

That's mostly it. I have some more pictures, but they are all variations on a theme.

So, it's on the the Grand Bazaar.

This stop was about a 20 minute walk from the Palace. The walk took longer than was anticipated because we needed to go through some police checkpoints. Turns out there was a surprise visit upcoming. Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, had decided to visit the Topkapi Palace, and was arriving that afternoon. We did not see him, but did pass through some checkpoints that were being configured for his protection.

During the walk, it was also getting close to the time for noon prayers, which start at 1:30. There are five calls-to-prayer in a day. Walking past the Hagia Sophia mosque (the big one here), the lines to get in were long and many more of the women were in traditional Muslim attire.

We eventually get to the area of the Grand Bazaar. We had about 25 minutes until the next bus left to go back to the ship. Our cruise line runs busses every 30 minutes between the Grand Bazaar and the port.  Turns out, that was about 24 minutes too long.

 

As we get close to the entrance of the bazaar, a friendly (maybe) man approached us and started talking about his relatives in Carmel and Seattle. Strange how he guessed those two places. While Vicki kept mouthing the word "no", I was unable to take the hint as this guy and I talked. We were soon in front of his small shop.

Here's how it works. They sit you down, give you some tea, and give Vicki a bracelet. Made by the owner's wife. Or maybe not, but that's what he said. We have to take it. It's an insult if we don't. Then he asks us what size rug we want. "None" does not appear to be a choice.  They are all made of silk. Then he shows us three designs and gives us one as a gift. We have to take it. He says that is the Turkish tradition, we are in his country, and it is an insult not to accept. "It's not only about the money" was his next line that did not ring true. Well, we got one rug for free, so he gave us a price for the second similar rug. A price provided in Turkish Lire. I never got any Turkish money, so was not sure of the conversion rate. I guessed he was asking for $1,000. I was wrong, it was $1,500.

 

Nope, not interested. So, it got reduced to $250. Not interested again. He asked me to name a price. I said I did not want a rug and offered him $0. Seems that was too low. He countered with $100. I thanked him and said, according to our culture, we could not accept the rugs as a gift. 

We left. Turns out we couldn't accept Vicki's bracelet as a gift either, That was forcefully removed as we exited.

We did get something. A story. Quite a bizarre one.

Exit the store. Exit the Grand Bazaar and return to where we started, Then we saw the best sight in the entire area.

Our cruise line is Silversea.

Before all this happened, while we were still on the guided part of our tour, our guide told us a story about World War II. Turkey was neutral in that war and, for some reason, Germany did not want to upset Turkey. The Turkish government saw what was going on and issued Turkish passports to any Jewish person who managed to get to their offices. The Germans honored those passports and many escaped. Then, there was a case where a train was getting ready to transport many people to a camp. Even though some on the train had Turkish passports. The Germans were ignoring that fact, and the Turks were upset. Then, as the story goes, the Turkish ambassador got on the train and said he was going to go along with the other passengers. Eventually, the Germans allowed the train to be rerouted to Istanbul.

I did not verify this story, but was told there is a book entitled The Last Train to Istanbul. We plan to get a copy on our return to the United States.

bottom of page