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Istanbul; A Frenetic Day

Entrance to Topkapi Palace; Istanbul, Turkey Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Entrance to Topkapi Palace; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

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Topkapi Palace
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Topkapi Palace was the seat of government and the residential address of Ottoman Turk Sultans for some 400 years. Construction began in 1459 and the first Sultan took residence there in 1465. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and since, the palace has been a National Museum. The Palace is huge, with it own Mosques, hospitals, and culinary facilities, in addition to living quarters, including the famous harem, where multiple wives and children of the Sultans resided.

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Topkapi Palace
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

We were impressed with how “plush” the palace’s furnishings were for a several – century back living quarter. Additionally, the marble and gold found everywhere in the palace architecture is amazing. There are many rooms in the palace that house numerous armaments, jewels and robes from the Ottoman Turk Empire. Unfortunately, photography inside was forbidden.

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Bospor Strait from Topkapi Palace
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The palace is situated up high on a hill, but with significant portions fronting the Bosporus Strait. Our morning was spent in Topkapi Palace. But our day included additional stops, including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Hippodrome. On our way to the next stop, Hagia Sophia, we took a detour to the famous Underground Cistern. Prior to leaving for the Mediterranean Cruise, I had been advised to read Dan Brown’s most recent novel, “Inferno,” as it gave a great summary of some of the places we would be visiting; notably, Florence and Venice. However, there is a pretty significant plot turn involving the underground cistern, which I had never heard of until reading the novel. So, when we came to the entrance, I was excited to go down and look at it. Aside from the fictional aspects, the cistern is a pretty amazing piece of early technology and contained the fresh water source for the metropolitan area.

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Underground Cistern
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The site of the Hagia Sophia was originally a pagan Temple. In the 6th Century, Roman Emperor Justinian began the construction of the Hagia as a Christian Temple. Later, when the Ottoman Turks overran the Roman Empire, they converted it to a Mosque. In “Inferno,” Brown notes that it is the only site where 3 distinct religions were housed – Pagan, Christian, and Moslem. Later, other mosques were built and the Hagia Sophia eventually was converted into a national monument. It is currently undergoing restoration and one of the interesting aspects is the uncovering of Christian Symbolism, which was painted over. It is now thought of by the Turkish government as a symbol of the two religions co-existing.

Hagia Sophia Istanbul, Turkey Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

We started our afternoon by breaking for lunch and then spending some time at the Grand Bazaar. It is basically a huge shopping mall – Turkish style. Completely under roof, it still has an “outdoor feel” to it, with hundreds of shops with what I cannot think of anything other than to call them “trinkets” and scarfs – and of course, the obligatory Turkish Rugs. There are people everywhere, of course.

Grand Bazar Istanbul, Turkey Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Grand Bazar
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

I am not sure what unique historical significance is associated with The Blue Mosque. It may be the largest mosque built. It faces the Hagia Sophia and gains its name from the unique blue tiles used to build much of the interior. It is a working Mosque and its architecture is remarkable.

Blue Mosque Istanbul, Turkey Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Blue Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Our day in Istanbul rivaled Athens for the longest day of the cruise. It was at once exhilarating and exhausting. We saw so much, and as much fun as we had, we were ready for our 1/2 day, easy stop in Mykonos, the next day.

The Harem; Topkapi Palace: Istanbul, Turkey Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

The Harem; Topkapi Palace: Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

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