In case you haven’t figured it out these posts are many months old. It has been impossible to keep up daily with my travels. And most of the time the internet is terrible. I am playing catch up with stuff back home or trying to sort through and save travel photos. What I write is from what I remember of my travels and if I am lucky, excerpts from notes I took.
For this post I am back in Istanbul. I planned this return as a “catch all I missed before” plus get some chill time before I head to Egypt. I am heading to Egypt and Jordan for a couple weeks on a fast paced group tour. I purposely planned this downtime prior.
The time was spent pretty well; besides the poor internet I was able to catch up on some things, I bought a couple articles of clothing that would be more Middle East appropriate, and I made one more shipment home (boy is it expensive!).
The following pictures are some of the attractions I stopped at.
My new hotel is off Istiklal Street. It is a busy area but less mentally demanding then staying in the Sulthanhmet area. I mean in the Sultanhmet area I always had to be on guard. In my new location it was more chill: I got way less male attention and shop owners were not aggressive. If I go back to Istanbul I will stay in this area or on the Asian side (as my new Turkish friend recommended).
Another must see in Istanbul is the Topkapi Palace.
It was the main residence of the sultans of the Ottoman empire.
I also recommend this one first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. I got here early but a little later than opening and crowds consistently built as the morning went on.
The whole museum is great but the two highlights are the privy chamber and the harem.
The privy chamber is the museum of sacred relics.
Security is tight in this portion and females must be covered for modesty.
I am not allowed to take photos in this section but it contains some pretty interesting Islamic relics. Here you will find a Mohammed tooth and beard in containers in very beautiful rooms. There are magnificent tile patterns and prayer chants running through speakers. I wear a stole to cover my knees for modesty. Other things here include Keys to Kaaba, old sword and soil from Medina and Mecca.
The harem is another must see. There is a separate ticket to this section but it is totally worth it. Not only does it have the best looking tile work and decor but also the crowds are much thinner in this section.
Below are some of the other parts of the palace.
Lastly you get to tour the kitchens and other museums. There is a great exhibit on tea and coffee and how it is served in the palace. Plus the room had very good AC.
This whole museum was worth the price of admission.
I did some research on some of the dinner and higher end cruises and they all had mixed reviews so I decide to take the cheap route and take the regular boat ride. The ride itself would be sufficient but it is very crowded and full of very ill behaved kids and adults. I am surrounded by a very large extended family whose kids scream over me and bump into me pretty much the entire cruise. One of the kids screaming over me later starts slapping and punching his mother. I am appalled at this behavior but it isn’t my country and isn’t my culture so I keep my mouth shut. Later, men a couple rows back get into an altercation. It is all very distracting from the beauty of the Bosporus. If I had to do it all again I might splurge for a higher end cruise.
One of my first days in Istanbul I chose to wander around to get my bearings. I ended up in an outdoor market that sold just about everything. It is very lively on this weekend day with a mix of locals and some tourists (like me) wandering the streets. I incorrectly assume this is the Grand Bazaar. I plan to buy some long pants to prepare for my upcoming trip to Egypt but I am overwhelmed and just walk the streets and look around instead before heading back to my hotel.
Days later I ended up back on that side of town and ended up at the Egyptian Bazaar which I also incorrectly identified as the Grand Bazaar. Again I am overwhelmed but this time at the booths selling sweets, teas, and spices. I take in all the spices. For me they are all the exotic spices I love. I want to buy a bunch of of them but most I can get at home and it doesn’t seem wise to add load to my backpack so early in my turkey travels. I vow to come back when I return to Istanbul in a couple of weeks.
I walk on and into another building. I have finally found the Grand Bazaar for real this time and it is grand. It is very large and there are booths selling just about everything. I am mesmerized by the ceramics and the Turkish lamps. Store owners urge me to come in and say they will give me a good deal, but alas I am still not shopping at this point in my trip. I need to be smart about my baggage weight.
I do return to the markets a couple weeks later but I do not buy that Turkish lamp. Logistically shipping it home doesn’t seem worth it and the power supply is meant for European plugs only. I would have to get it re-wired. I kick myself for not buying the battery powered ones I saw in Selcuk. I do buy some nick knacks and some beautiful plates (that I later discover I can probably not use for food serving due to their design – doh! Oh well, they will still look good on display).