Posts tagged with 'Turkey'

Topkapi Palace

By Ross in Travel on Mon 09 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

I arrived at the Topkapi Palace (Sultan's palace) first thing in the morning, intent on beating the inevitable crowds. Despite it being a Monday, there were still hundreds of people before me in the ticket line. The palace is comprised of four courts, each more private than the one before. About half of the rooms were under renovation (the theme continues...), but what was available for view provided a window into the splendor of the Ottoman Empire.

This is the imperial council hall, where the Sultan's council members met to discuss matters of state. The Sultan watched the proceedings from behind the grill, and when he had heard enough, he would knock on the grill, whereupon the council members would be summoned one at a time to his audience chamber.

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I was not allowed to take photographs in the armory, but I did learn that while the standard Ottoman sword is curved and sharpened on the convex edge, there is another type of curved sword, called a yatagan, which is sharpened on the concave edge. The yatagan was traditionally carried by marine soldiers.

The palace treasury contains numerous relics, including ones labeled as the "Staff of Moses" (of rock-striking fame) and the "Sword of David". Their authenticity is likely on par with the numerous pieces of the true cross spread throughout European churches.

For a further glimpse into the Ottoman Empire, you will just have to visit the palace yourself.


Off the Beaten Path

By Ross in Travel on Sun 08 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

After leaving the Kariye Museum, I walked back to the Theodosian walls, and decided to follow them all the way to where they end at the Sea of Marmara in the Yedikule district. This was more difficult than I had anticipated. It started off easily enough, as the sections of the wall were restored and there was a road running right along them.

After passing the Mevlana gate, the road disappeared, and I wended my way through one run-down neighborhood after another, trying to stay in the general area of the walls:

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I never felt in danger, although I walked pretty briskly, kept my eyes up, and greeted the people I passed with Merhaba (Turkish for "hello"). I received several greetings in return. Here is a picture of cars trying to pass through one of the smaller gates in the walls:

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Eventually I reached a section of walls which had been restored, and I was able to climb up onto and walk along the walls themselves. There were a few other tourists walking there as well. I had a nice vantage point for a football match which was going on below, and I stopped and watched for a few minutes.

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My path led though an empty field, passed through a broken section of walls, then reentered the old city through the Belgrat gate, whereupon I found myself at the Fortress of the Seven Towers. This fortress stands at the former site of the Golden Gate, the monumental entrance to Constantinople from the Roman road.

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Three more towers were added later, including a prison tower.

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I climbed up and around the walls and towers (no railings!)...

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... and I got great views of the city and of the Sea of Marmara from atop the walls:

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After spending several hours exploring, I descended into the Yedikule district:

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I planned on walking around there for a while, but I must have looked lost, since I was approached by a polieceman with a submachine gun who kept repeating the word "danger." I am not sure exactly what he meant, since the area seemed safe enough (and certainly safer than some of the areas I had already walked through), but I decided it was a good idea to hop on a bus to Taksim square, which conveniently was waiting right down the street.


Urban Farming

By Ross in Travel on Sun 08 June 2014. Tags: Turkey, farming

Today I walked along much of the surviving length of the Theodosian walls, the outer set of walls built on the west side of Constantinople in the 5th century by Theodosius II. Walking the walls was quite an adventure, which I will tell in another post. They are double walls, and in some areas there is urban farming happening between the inner and outer walls:

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There is even a greenhouse!

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Frescoes and Mosaics

By Ross in Travel on Sun 08 June 2014. Tags: Turkey, art

This morning I headed to the Kariye Museum, another Byzantine church which was converted to a mosque and later into a museum. It is located in the northwest quarter of the old city, which necessitated purchasing an Akbil (tap-and-go transportation card, similar to London's Oyster Card) so I could ride the Istanbul rail transit system. It is a very heterogenous rail system, and the first step was to get on the T1 light rail at the Gatata bridge and ride it as it wound up busy streets packed with pedestrians and vehicles. I hopped off at Yusufpasha, and it was a short walk to the underground Metro station at Aksaray, where I took a very rapid subway train two stops to Topkapi. When I got aboveground, I was confronted with an unusual justaposition of the old, Theodosian city walls and new housing developments:

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The museum is known for its well-preserved frescos and mosaics. The main nave was closed for renovation (sense a pattern here?), but the two narthexes were open for viewing. 

Here we have a fresco of the last judgment, complete with river of fire:

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Here is the decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world (or at least the portion of it that he ruled) should be taxed:

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Tea

By Ross in Travel on Sat 07 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

The guidebooks all say that you can't make it out of Turkey without being invited for tea by a local. Of course I never expected this to happen to me. I was heading for the Topkapi palace and had just realized how long the lines were going to be, when a young Turkish fellow started talking to me. He said he was a student looking to practice English. I was naturally suspicious and wondered what the catch was, but we had a nice conversation for a few minutes, after which he asked me for tea. From what I have heard, it is impolite to refuse such an offer, so I followed him to the store where his family worked, which turned out to be a carpet store, and then I realized this was a sales tactic to sell me a rug. I had a nice cup of tea while his cousin (or somesuch relation) showed me a bunch of carpets he though I might like. I respectfully declined to purchase anything despite being shown "a good deal" and "the best prices", and I left with only a business card.