Moses and Mohammad Queue in Istanbul

We were in Istanbul (not Constantinople). The city featured a plethora of Grand sites (e.g. The Grand Mosque and the Grand Bazaar) as well as myriad of merely extraordinary sites. Nazy wanted multiple excursions to the Grand Bazaar and a ferry ride on the Bosphorous while I wanted to see Topkapi, the Galata Tower and Dolmabahçe Palace. We compromised by doing everything.

The palace queue2

There were long, inefficiently handled queues at every site. (see left) At the Palace, we lined up for a security check (the palace is guarded by assault-weapon toting soldiers during the day. One of the guards was showing his AK-47 to a visiting three year old. There are no guards at night.) After the security check, we queued to purchase tickets. Then we lined to enter the palace... in groups sorted by language. A ‘guide’ walked us through the palace (which rivals Versailles in opulence). The guide didn’t impart any information; his main purpose was to prevent people from taking photographs.

In spite of the poorly handled queues, the palace, located on the banks of the Bosphorous Strait and behind a high wall along a street with giant sycamore trees, was magnificent. We especially liked the:

“Crystal chandeliers and stairway pillars,” I said.

“You didn’t take any photos, though,” Nazy replied.

“Yes, but I’m going to buy a few postcards and then I’ll use the macro feature on my camera to take pictures of the postcards. No one will ever know.”

“If the pictures look good - they’ll know.”


palace reflect

After Dolmabahçe, we decided to return to the old city to see the Topkapi Museum. Traffic was messy, so we decided to brave the trams. With skills honed by business trips all over the world, I figured out how to get tram tokens. (Nazy wasn’t impressed.) We pushed through the gate, astonished to see that a tram was waiting. It was a very crowded tram, so I began walking toward the comparatively vacant front car. Nazy was impatient:

“Get on the tram!” She shouted.

“Get on the tram!” She repeated as I approached the lead wagon.

The tram doors closed and locked.

“You dumb-butt!” Nazy exclaimed. “I told you to get on the tram.”

“My dear,” I replied
imperturbability. “Now, we will get a seat on the next tram. We won’t have to stand. You’ll be much more comfortable, and, as you know, I care only about your comfort.”

The Topkapi was built in 1459 and used by the Ottoman Sultans for about 400 years. It is now a museum containing..

“... the most holy relics,” Nazy, reading the guidebook, explained.

“Like what?” I asked.

“They have Mohammed’s sword, Abraham’s cup, Moses’ staff, a preserved footprint of Mohammed and Joseph’s turban.”

“I want to see Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor

“They also have the three spoons diamond, an 86 carat stone.”


The palace

They even had the customary long queue. Eventually, we walked through the first courtyard and followed the crowd into a display of Ottoman jeweled cups and thrones. Nazy decided that she wanted to see the:

“... big diamond,” she asked the guard. “Where is that?”

Amazingly, the guard left his post and walked us to the correct building, past the queues and directly to the diamond.

That’s amazing,” I thought. “We should have tried that at the front gate.”

The next building housed the holy relics. Frankly, I was a bit skeptical: Joseph’s turban was white and Moses’ staff looked like..

“... a walking stick,” Nazy noted. “In the movies..”

“.... Charlton Heston had a huge staff. This thing looks like Bat Masterson’s cane.”

“Bat Masterson?”

“A friend of Wyatt Earp’s.”

Following a recommendation, we walked to the Harem. And, following tradition, they closed the doors just as we arrived. (see right.)Sighing, I tried to convey what I had learned while Nazy had been in the gift shop:

closing the door

“They have two kinds of history. The history of objective fact and the history of mythology. No one, of course, actually knows what happened so many years ago, so it is impossible to create a historical record based on actual events. Mythological history, on the other hand, is about what ‘should have happened’. This is much easier to decide and, accordingly, is the preferred approach.”

“I would have preferred to visit the harem,” Nazy said.

We left the Topkapi as the sun was setting. Nazy found a wonderful (and nearby) restaurant. We had kabob followed by baklava. Once again, the food was great and the price was pleasant. A single glass of wine, however, cost more than an average bottle in California. Getting home, required negotiation with a taksi and....


To be continued...

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