The past few days have been lovely, exploring Istanbul and enjoying the many sights and smells of this ancient and modern city.
Dolmabace Palace was a bit of a bust – the (mandatory) guided tour was monotonous and sparse of information, but the palace was certainly fancy in a gaudy Roccoco sort of way. It does have the world’s largest crystal chandelier (4.5 tons) and the world’s largest throne room (18,000 sq. ft. or so), but isn’t really to my taste.
We wandered around an antiques district near Istiklal Cad. after Dolmabace, which was fun, and tout-free. The antiques on offer, however, were priced very high, even taking haggling into account. An example: A small glass jar with a bee on it was 250TL, yikes, and a set of stirrups was over 3000TL!. Still, it was neat walking around the narrow side streets, a little bit off of the beaten path.
Kariye Camii on Saturday was definitely one of the highlights of our visit so far – the Byzantine mosaics are stunningly beautiful, and in very good condition for the most part. Coupled with a nice walk along the ancient city walls and an excellent, but not cheap, lunch at Asitane in the Kariye Otel, this was a lovely getaway from the throngs of tourists in Sultanahmet.
A crazy cab ride that had us white-knuckled for a while eventually got us to Fatih Camii, after which we visited Sulemaniye Camii. Both were beautiful mosques, and the tombs on their grounds of their respective sultans were very interesting. We were waylaid by a fellow in Fatih Camii who corralled all of the obvious westerners and gave us a nice talk about Fatih and the mosque…. and then demanded 5TL for the service, dóh!
Yesterday (sunday) was a mellow day, as we were tired from all of the walking around we’d been doing, so we went to the small, but well-done Great Palace Mosaics Museum, the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, and a walk along the lovely Galata Bridge at sunset. Note to self, make reservations at places with spectacular views for sunset-time dining on Sundays. The recommended Hamdi had only a 1st floor table for us, and it looked like a cafeteria, so we went back to Sultanahmet for dinner instead. Maybe another time (or not, as the case may be).
We’re now off to the Grand Bazaar for the day, which looks to be a crazy place indeed. More later.