Istanbul Sites Keep the Travelers Busy, and Sore
We have spent the past few days visiting the most famous sites of Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Dolmabace Palace. Hagia Sophia was built in the time of Justinian as a Byzantine Church. It was taken over during Ottoman times and converted to a Mosque, both inside, and out. Today, it is a museum and some of the early Christian mosaics still survive. See Brian's pictures for some great shots of the mosaics. We climbed up to the second level (even Susan with her cane) for a closer view -- what a sight to behold. Sadly, the level of disrepair is disappointing. We have found that many historic Christian sites have not been maintained as well as the Mosques.
Yesterday morning (Saturday, May 30), on our 15 minute walk from the hotel to Topkapi Palace, we walked past the old Sultanhamet Jail. That building is now a luxury hotel - The Four Seasons.
Today we rose early, had a nice breakfast of cheese, eggs, breads, olives, cereal, fruit, meats, halvah and basturma, and coffee/tea etc. We were then picked up by a van arranged by Sunay at our hotel, and we went to Dolmabace Palace. This massive palace compound was designed and built in the mid 1880's by Armenian architects from the Balian famliy for the Sultan. Its construction was the eventual downfall of the Ottoman Empire. With Baccarat bannisters, 4 1/2 ton crystal chandeliers, and opulence that is overwhelming, once can understand why the cost of building this impressive complex ended up nearly bankrupting the country. But, it was lovely!
After our visit to Dolmabace, a van picked us up and we drove across the "new city" to Miniaturk. This outdoor park has the largest collection of miniatures of famous sites throughout Turkey. We found it interesting to see many famous sites attributed to the commission of early Turkish rulers with architectural features hauntingly similar to Armenian church architecture. The most interesting exhibit was the replica of Mardin, the city built in the hills south of Diarbekiyr (Dickranagert) where our grandparents/parents ended up after their march in the desert in 1915. During our visit to Mardin, we will be staying in once of the structures built in the hillside which has been renovated into a hotel.
After our visit to Miniaturk, we returned to our hotel, had an early dinner and started packing for our journey to Kusadasi/Ephesus, and Anatolya.
LAUGH OF THE DAY --- DAD, DID YOU BUY ME A LOTTERY TICKET??
Just because I know my brothers will never let me live this story down whether I like it or not, I will share it with you.
On Saturday, as we walked back from our visit to Topkapi Palace, tired from fending off pushy tourists, with sore feet, hungry and hot, we passed by the Four Seasons Hotel on our way to have lunch. Walking single file along the narrow sidewalk, I was followed by Brian, Lisa and Susan. As I passed by the guard gate of the Four Seasons, I felt a HEAVY bang on the top of my head. Thinking Brian had thrown a bottle cap at me (for reasons I did not understand) I began to turn around. While doing so, out of the corner of my eye, I happened to catch the wings of a very large bird (probably a seagull) passing over head, high in the sky. Need I say more -- according to Brian and Lisa, the entire top of my head was COVERED with one big bird poop -- Susan ran ahead as fast as she could before she lost the contents of her stomach. I yelled at Brian to open my backpack and get out the WetWipes (never believing for a moment before then that they would be put to THAT use). As I stood paralyzed waiting for him to find the package -- with Brian yelling "stop moving!!" over and over, I could only imagine what was on the top of my head. Three wipes later, with Brian repeating "How disgusting" over and over, my head was "cleaned." I couldn't wait to get back to the hotel to wash my sticky hair -- and I later learned that this was not just a drop -- but a DUMP on my head.
They say that if a bird dumps its load on you, good luck is sure to follow. I sure hope so, because that is one experience I never want to repeat. One half a step behind, and it would have been my face, and not my head!!
Next post will be when we next have WiFi access - not sure when that will be. Check out Brian's pictures on the link to the right of the posts -- he's got some great pictures!