27 June 2012

Old things and dead men.

Today was not my favorite day. It could have been a lot worse, but it wasn't great.

S & I got a late start today to hit Topkapi Palace. The Palace used to house the Sultan and his retinue, but about 90 years ago, it got transformed into a museum. Now, the grounds are open to visitors, who can tour the buildings and a handful of small museums in some of the larger buildings. Also in the Palace is the harem, which you can tour for an additional fee.  At Topkapi Palace, we visited the harem, the treasures museum, the armory museum, the library, an unknown number of pavilions, and four courtyards.

Hagia Irene is a church on the grounds.

Somewhere deep in the harem.

Frankly, I was underwhelmed by everything except the harem. The architecture was beautiful, but it wasn't anything we didn't see yesterday. The museums were neat, but packed with people. The food at the cafeteria was tasteless, dry, and outrageously-priced. The grounds were beautiful, but not worth the entry charge. After spending yesterday looking at old things built by dead men, I was disappointed that today's trip was also so monochromatic.

So, we moved on out of Topkapi, down the street, pit-stopping at Starbucks for S, and then into a leather store that S read about online.  We had a great time in there with the proprietress and her clerk, and we may have spent some money.

Then, onto the Grand Bazaar, the world's oldest shopping mall, where shoppers of all walks of life haggle with grizzled shopkeepers for exotic wares...

In the Grand Bazaar. Where are the exotic wares?
But which was much more like a huge souvenir stand. The shopkeepers are often pushy, but they're not grizzled. The wares are occasionally exotic (I bought a bell that is purportedly 100 years old), but they're mostly kitchy (S suggested I buy a fez emblazoned with 'Turkey' for my dad). The guide book says that the Grand Bazaar is now reserved almost entirely for tourists, with real Turks doing their business in the open-air markets outside the Grand Bazaar. Even the idea of haggling has gone by the wayside. The merchants haggle to please the tourists, but I'm told that real Turks just walk away if the price is too high. Still, we bought some gifts and headed home.

On the way, we passed a music ensemble doing a sound check in preparation for a concert tonight.

Then home to the hotel for a mini-siesta before dinner. Dinner was back at the place we discovered on Monday. When we walked up, the maitre'd asked us if we wanted the same table from Monday.  Neat! We had a great dinner - a nice end to what had otherwise been a mostly-disappointing day. 

Tomorrow, the plan includes a boat cruise and some drum shopping!

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