Thursday, 18 August 2011

Istanbul and homeward bound

Wednesday 17th August: Istanbul
To make the most of our last full day of sightseeing we jumped on the tram outside the door of the Hotel and headed for the end of the line and the Dolmabahce Palace. This is known locally as the 'new palace' as it takes over from the Topkapi Palace and was built in the mid 1800s: there is no resemblance between the style of Topkapi and this palace at all. Despite having been built by one of the last Sultans there was no sign of any ottoman design. He clearly wanted to compete with european palaces and this was very Baroque and just as ornate as Versailles.
Clearly no expense was spared ( which might explain why the peasants revolted and a Republic was formed in 1923!). It consisted of a high wall around some large stately buildings (with more than 625 rooms) and a beautiful garden. Inside there were chandeliers of all shapes and sizes, intricate parquetry floors and rugs, gold-framed giant mirrors, trompe d'oeuil ceilings( or however you spell that!), painted domes, ornate ornaments and rooms of huge proportions. Artists from France and Italy had been employed and lots of the china, porcelain, clocks etc imported from elsewhere. They'd gone to town with huge pillars of 'marble everywhere but in fact they were all false - made from plaster or stones and stucco. One of the chandeliers weighed 4 and half tons: they clean it every 6 years and it takes two months to clean each piece and reassemble it. What a job! And all this to house one Sultan, his wives, concubines and slaves - no wonder the peasants revolted!
We were only allowed to view it on a tour and wearing very attractive plastic overshoes so we wouldn't hurt the floor coverings. We weren't even allowed to touch the bannisters on the way up the grand staircases. We revived ourselves with some turkish coffee and decided to use the funicular railway to get to the top of the nearest hill to see the Taksim monument. Yes, even Ewan agreed to get a lift up the hill so we could then walk down rather than the opposite. The walk was through a huge shopping boulevard ( four Starbucks and two Gloria Jeans) but eventually ended in some tiny steep cobblestoned streets full of music shops. Clutching two new pairs of shoes we finally emerged at the Galata Bridge again.
A quick whiz through the Spice Market, and some purchasing of jewellery, and we were home again. After we had a go at packing our bags to see how much space we had left, we set off for our last evening meal in Turkey. We decided we would go to a standard kebap house for a typical turkish meal. The restaurant was next to a Mosque so there were a few people waititng for the call to prayers at 8.15pm before they started to eat and drink. A young couple next to us had their food and drinks sitting on the table in front of them for about 15 minutes, but didn't have any of it until the call started and then they ate very sedately. Such willpower after 16 hours of no food or drink of any kind!
We wandered along the foreshore for the last time and had a coffee and some fresh baklava before making our last purchases and retiring for the night.

Thursday18th August: Istanbul to Melbourne
Erin and I had missed out on seeing the Basilica Cistern which was only a few minutes walk away so we went there at 9.00am: our last historic site before heading for the Airport and home.
It is an underground cistern used to store clean water for use in the city by the Romans. Huge pillars supporting brick domed roof and with only shallow water in it now. Enough for lots of fish to live in though, some of them enormous! The pillars are all lit now and it feels damp with drops of water falling from the roof, due to condensation I guess.

Medusa's  head supporting a pillar in the water
 Even here the pillars were carved and there were a couple of pillars supported by huge statues of Medusa's head so very intriguing. It was lovely and cool and quite eerie. We were reluctant to go outside to the heat and humidity, but we were due to get back to the Hotel and catch a taxi to the Airport.
So it was farewell to Istanbul and Turkey for us. I'm writing this at Singapore Airport at 1.00am Turkey time and soon we will be on the final leg of our journey home.
We have had an amazing two months of travelling through southern Africa and Turkey, but as often happens, travel makes you appreciate not only the wonders of the world out there , but also the joy of your own home and country.
I'm looking forward to seeing Lauren at the Arrivals gate tonight and it will be wonderful to have our family back together again for the first time since January.
Thank you for reading this blog: I'm sorry it was so boring in parts, and the spelling and grammar suffered when I was tired, but I look forward to reading it and remembering what a great trip we had in the years to come.
Bon voyage!!!! May all your travels bring you as much joy and wonder as we have experienced from ours.

No comments:

Post a Comment