Where Our Heroes
- Take on the Challenge of Palace and Harem
- For the sake of saving $2, climb a small mountain (and lose the $2 anyway)
- Find another little gem from the Culinary Backstreets resource
- Prove that while they may not be bargainers, they are shoppers
- Put let one more museum to the sword rather than just go back and rest
- And a last meal and people encounter to put an exclamation on their trip
Today we had three major elements of the 'Top 10' to knock off. First we headed off to the Topkapi Palace, the Ottoman Sultan's place in Istanbul. Then you paid extra to go to the Harem which is actually private living quarters of the Sultan, his family and his extended staff. I'm not going to go into too much detail about this. I suggest if you are interest to check it out on Wikipedia as there is tons written. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed. I found the style of the design and architecture to remind me of the Louis the XIV of France (Versailles) and the like; a style I'm not all that fond of. It did not have the same emotional impact of the Alhambra in Grenada Spain. They say one should leave a whole day for these two museums but Wife and I pretty much were done in about 3 and half hours.
Our next item on the Top 10 List was the Grand Bazaar - a market that has been in operation for hundreds and hundreds of years. I could have used the balance of your Istanbulkart to go a couple of stops up the line but NOOOOOO I had to say to Wife, "It won't be such a long walk." Except for it being straight up a hill. Let's just say I've got bad karma to work off.
But first we needed get some lunch. We'd gotten a book from our food tour about their favorite places, large and small, around the city. One was this little (and I mean little) meatball (koffte) place just by one of the entrances. It's mostly take out for the workers in the Bazaar. We popped in and there were just two tables on the ground floor and a small spiral staircase going up. These guys had no English. But fortunately, I got something across using the translator app I have on my phone (first time it's actually worked the way it should!) Turns out we could have saved ourselves a lot of grief as they only serve on menu period. It's soup (a split pea or chick pea soup), grilled koffte and a salad. Doesn't sound all that exciting right? But the soup was good and warming, the koffte were hot off a charcoal grill, sizzling, the salad had really ripe tomatoes, lettuce, carrots. Wife and I had a soup each and split the salad and koffte. There was a big basked of bread that you could help yourself too along with various hot paste, dried hot peppers, oregano and salt condiments. With our drinks, it was $10 bucks and really hit the spot.
Now it was off to the Grand Bazaar. You get caught in your preconceived notions. Somehow we thought this was going to be a market like the one in Siem Reap, Cambodia but no this is more like some super gigantic shopping mall. I was on a mission. Wear scarves all the time during the cooler months and the ones I bought in Cambodia are much the worse for wear. I've learned that spending a lot of money on scarves makes no sense since they don't hold up any better than cheaper ones. I was looking for something in between really expensive and super cheap. As we went into the Bazaar, I started to run into places. The prices started to drop by the time we got further in. They dropped 50% and then to like next to nothing. I've had the next to nothing ones and decided that was a little too low quality for me and ended up with a middle of the road version that was still maybe 1/3rd of what I've paid in Spain or the Netherlands. I bought a number of them.
By now we are really, really beat. We headed back to the hotel. BUT we still have a museum we haven't done that's paid for on our Museum Pass. And it's right on the way to the hotel. So we did it (I've put my guide book away and can't remember the name - something like the Museum of Islamic History and Art). Now we're totally wiped out. We get to the hotel and collapse; both taking naps. We pack. We rest some more. We head out to dinner and the hotel recommends a place close by. Turns out it's run by a Kurdish family. We talk for a long time to a son who lives now in Stockholm. He interpreted for his mother who was also there. We get a number of Kurdish specialties of which the soup and salad (sort of a chopped salad with roasted eggplant and other stuff I couldn't figure out) were the best. There was a guy from Aleppo Syria who was playing guitar...Spanish guitar of all things. It was a fitting end to our stay in Istanbul that has expanded our connecting with so many from so many different places.