Today is a rainy day in Istanbul – still jetlagged, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5 am and pounded the wet pavement, looking for an open coffee shop. None was to be found … sigh. One of the guys at the hotel said that people from North America are all the same when it comes to early morning coffee – they all want one and never get one. Since it was pissing with rain, I decided to visit the Topkapi Palace in the morning. This place was the home of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries; inside I saw their voluminous caftans and pantaloons and exquisite jewellery and objects d’arte. The most interesting part to me was the harem quarters where the sultans housed their many wives and concubines, as well as the court eunuchs. The tilework on the walls here is exquisite, fantastic blues, greens and golds with flower and geometrical motifs. Although the palace as a whole was not too crowded, the harem was packed with Spanish and French tour groups.
After that, I ventured out to the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of passages, arches, and streets with more than 4000 shops selling everything imaginable. On the walls and ceilings are beautiful mosaics, in some cases decaying into dirty splendour. The colours of all the merchanise are incredible, especially the ceramic, porcelain, Turkish lamps, tilework and fabric. Since I was still freezing and the boots I brought with me had holes in them, my clothing required remedying. I bought a fake fur Russian cossack hat, thick woven socks, and red leather ankle length lace-up boots to go with the coat I got yesterday. My bargaining was, I think, faily successful, although I did get ripped off at the cafe for a cappuccino – I ended up paying far too much for it (4 Euros – about $6) because I did not have any Turkish lira. I managed to get a bit lost on the way back to the hotel but did find the Hagia Sofia and knew my way from there. Tonight I’m off to dinner with Sofie from Belgium to a fish restaurant in the neighbourhood.
See some pictures here.