23 March 2006

Turkey Day 4 - The Palace

Today we got up earlyish as we had to check out and get to the Palace by 9.30. Once again, breakfast was bread, hard boiled egg, cheese, and coffee.

The palace was amazing. We think between the three of us we took enough pictures to recreate a 3-D picture of the whole palace. It reminds me of the Tower of London, as it contains the armory, the crown jewels, and any number of towers, apartments, and other things amongst its interior gardens.

We discovered the Harem tour did not go until 10.30, so we spent the time wandering around. The library was very cool, though it no longer has books. There is a fine collection of thrones, clothing, various medals and awards, and bowls, jeweled containers, diamond encrusted candle sticks, and other trophies of 1500 years of empire. The armory has one of the most complete collections from the 7th to the 20th century. There was the building that the Sultan's used to greet visitors and the rooms where he used to watch his ministers debate form an adjoining room.

The Harem, or private chambers were very interesting, lots of tile work, very ornate high ceilinged rooms. Lots and lots of pictures we took. There are 400 rooms in the Harem, and we saw maybe 30 or 40 of them.

We had lunch over looking the Bosporus from the top of the palace outer inner walls. I had stuffed chicken with lots of spices (4 self administered varieties all good.) The view was stupendous, the bill was almost just as stupendous, but worth it.

There were a lot of harem jokes, and jokes about the circumcision room we saw after lunch. After the palace we did a quick tour of the obolisques and then waited about half an hour for our shuttle to the biggest bus terminal any of us had ever seen. We also discovered that we were staying right next to the recommended hotel.

The bus trip was notable for the amount of construction and the brightly coloured houses along the way, including an amazing number of tall apartment buildings and a Pepto Bismol pink house. All of the buildings were tall and narrow, even if they were not in a crowded area, and many still had concrete and rebar sticking out of the roof, ready for the next story to be added. There was a huge amount of construction going on in the Istanbul suburbs, including a large area of what appeared to be large houses in an American style suburban setting.

One thing that struck me was the lack of trees. There were a few, but they were small and mostly around houses. The countryside seemed to be devoid of them. As it got dark, I switched to reading one of the big, heavy, books I brought, the Da Vinci Code. It was a very exciting read, I powered through 450 pages in about 3.5 hours. We arrived in Cannukke about 8.30 and took the ferry over to Asia and checked into the Anzac Hotel where we will spend the next two days. Tomorrow we take a tour the battle fields of Galippoli and in the afternoon Troy.

We had fish for dinner at the seaside.

Wishing for a tripod

Turkey, Day 3 (bad numbering corrected) Istanbul

We got out on schedule. First up was the Palace. Which was closed on Tuesdays. Ooops. Saint Sophia, however was open, along with the nice man who explained this to us, the Cistern and his carpet shoppe. So we went to Saint Sophia. Which was really big and was built in only five years. None of this centuries to build a cathedral, 7k sq metre building put right up. We have a bazillion pictures, but like Canada, its really big. And mostly empty, unlike cathedrals. There were some nice mosaics and they are doing restoration work on it. But on could see how 1500 years ago this was the most impressive thing going. To get the pictures we had to find places to hold the camera steady for about a third of a second. This was not easy.

Then we rearranged our bus for tomorrow to give us time to see the palace, and went to the spice market which was much more fun than the Grand Bazar. First we had lunch at a fairly fancy restaurant with the most amazing view of the straights and the water around the Horn. The lamb with pistachios was amazing and there was a good eggplant and yummy cheese.

First we went though the non-turist market, bought food for the bus, and looked a shops full of things you can't take on airplanes (knives, guns, pointy metal things) as well as pretty much anything else you would need or want.

Then we went though the fancy section, where there were both tourists and annoying shopkeepers who spoke English and charged
~ four times as much.

There was an episode of me trying to cash a traveler's check. But as I fell asleep typing that sentence, more tomorrow...

20 March 2006

Carpets R Us II

We awoke or at least Nikita awoke at 6.30 to the call to prayer, and then went back to sleep for a while. I work up about an hour later to him typing - see his blog. We eventually went down to breakfast, which was typical free youth hostel breakfast - mostly bread and coffee.

Then we were off to finish paying my carpet bill, and Nikita and Lenore were going to just have a look to see if they could find a carpet they liked for a price they liked. Several hours and several cups of tea, and one reference to "eating the soup while it was hot" (at which we laughed as the was a line the high pressure guy the night before had used, and one we told him was the opposite in Russia where we like our soup cold). By and by we got the price down below our Macy's machine made price and the deal was struck.

Then it was off to lunch and the Blue Mosque (many pictures to follow) which was in fact both blue and massive and very interesting. We then went to the Grand Bazaar - guided by our rug dealer on a whirlwind tour - including the Turkish Bazaar where the locals actually shop. We went back later for coffee and to actually look for stuff, but did not see anything we liked.

Then, discovering St. Sophia was closed, we toured the Cisterns for about an hour, and took a whole bunch of pictures. A quick trip back to the hostel to consult the guide book, an then it was off to dinner at the Rumeli Cafe which had really good food and a fireplace (its pretty cold at night). This was the first meal we've had here that we were actually really full from (and one that did not involve kebabs).

We then crossed the old city, and were surprised at how totally deserted it was (and dusty too, especially considering that it has rained fairly recently) until we got to the original shop where the Turkish Delight was made in 1777. The shop is still owned by the family. (picture to follow). Sadly, it, and the whole section of town, was very very closed. So we trooped back, bought two boxes of Turkish Delight to take home and had Baklava at the restaurant around the corner from our hostel. Turkish baklava has more nuts in it, probably pistachios, but maybe hazelnuts, than I am used to seeing.

After making the plans for tomorrow, we crashed, as it was a pretty long day.

Turkey Day 1 - Carpets R Us

We have arrived in Istanbul. I got in at 10.30, Nikita and Lenore reached the hostel at around 5.00, waiting for Russell to get here.

I spent the afternoon shopping for rugs, because, well, I'm in Turkey and that's what they do here, and seeing most of the other sights was something I was waiting for everyone else to get here. It was an interesting way to spend the afternoon, and I got what I think is a pretty good deal - carpets hand made (50 and 25 years ago) with really good wool and small knots for less than machine made at Macy's. They should arrive about 4-5 days after I do. I checked on line, and I certainly saved money over US prices, after some more attempts at bargaining, I possibly could have knocked him down in price by another $750. Oops.

On the way over I sat next to a grandmother on her annual church trip. She was fun to talk to and a pleasant seat companion. The food was pretty good and as I did not sleep the night before, I slept and work up on Turkish time more or less. I flew Song (aka Delta) to NYC where I waived out the window to Sarah and Johann but I had so little time in JFK that there was no time to call, sorry.

Russell had acquired a guide, who took us to a local place for dinner - it was full of policemen so clearly authentic. Prices were about the same as elsewhere, but the atmosphere was clearly traditional. It was, of course, operated by his cousin's friend. Afterwards we were taken to his cousin's fancy rug shop where we got the full treatment, and saw much more expensive rugs than I looked at. Not better, but much more expensive. On leaving we were offered the best deal, (the running out the door after us deal) which was similar to the deal I got on my, I think significantly better quality, carpet. And it did not include shipping.

Despite the 3 cups of tea that we had whilst looking, we were still hungry after our long negotiations, so we had a second dinner at a restaurant on our hostel's street. Less atmosphere, about the same food, about the same price. The local dark beer is good.

By 10.30, after 15 hours in the air we were all tired so we went to bed. We are staying at a youth hostel in a four person room (but with our own bath) but for about 11 dollars a night - the better to afford carpets.

15 March 2006

Turkey plans

The plans for Turkey are finally coming together. All but one city's lodging has been arranged, plane tickets have arrived, shade 14 welding glass has been ordered and I'll pick it up tommorrow. Now just to pack and pick up some Euro's tomorrow morning.

Slightly sad I'm missing 11 feet of snow in Tahoe (I didn't go last weekend becasue I couldn't find my passport and really needed to do some stuff around the house). Hopefuly spring skiing will be good.

Getting excited about the trip!!

Hopefully I'll be able to post updates here...

07 March 2006

Paper Reviews, Rewrite

The Oscar Party was fun, with enough people in the room, anything can be funny. Oh the montages, send us your clips!

Tonight I am rewriting my journal paper, taking longer than I expected. The original paper stank as a journal paper, but its feeling a little better now (after heavy editing...)

The rain has stopped for the moment....

06 March 2006


Over the past week almost 30 inches of snow fell in Tahoe, so I sent out the email call for people to go up and Becca and Rick decided to join me on Saturday. As I feared the snow was too heavy for tree skiing, but it put down a really solid base for all of the regular runs, and all three of us had a really good time.

I went to an unbirthday party afterwards which was also fun. Sunday has been pretty much doing housework and going to an Oscar Party.