Monday, May 25, 2015

MENU's Aegean Odyssey. Day 4 Istanbul: Spice Market, Topkapı, Hagia Sophia, Dinner at Kumkapı

A morning walk through the streets to catch a bus 
to the edge of the Bosporus, 
past the shoe shine men outside
the New Mosque 
(new is relative; they started it in 1597) 
with all the commercial activity in the streets
This is a Lokum (Turkish Delight) and Baklava stand
A nursery on the outside of the Spice Market, selling lovely vegetables and flowers
with a huge assortment of plants and seeds
Inside the spice market, where prices were massive and things were not always what they seemed
Our Spanish saffron knocks spots off theirs
and through, in search of a seller of lamb doner kebab recommended by Batur Durmay of Asitane
En route, stopped at a dealer in semi precious stones. A ball of quartz
and a huge rock of amethyst
Lynne bought an ammonite fossil pendant
Semi-precious stone beads in all colours
We looked up and down for Batur's recommendation and couldn't find it
So we settled on this one, selling beef. They told us lamb was too fatty for doner
Lynne was annoyed, because he served the biggest (expensive) portion without asking what we wanted
So we wandered through the lanes, looking at the displays of spices
and lokum
By a fountain in front of the new mosque, we found a bench and sat down
to eat the kebab. It was good
A sculpture of a seller of street food, which is everywhere in Istanbul
All the tram stops and Metro stations have these machines  at which one can replenish one's Istanbulkart travel pass
Entering the Topkapı (pronounced Topkahpuh) Park
Beheaded sculptures, which we took to be Roman
A cat who found the perfect bed in an antique basin
Walking through the park
to the palace entrance
where we joined the throng
and queued to buy tickets
to the palace museum and the harem. You need to know that this entails a lot of walking, as does getting anywhere in Istanbul
The Sultan's council chamber
with magnificent ceiling decoration
and wonderful details
Then to the clock museum
with amazing timepieces, poorly lit,
crafted from precious materials; the huge ormolu clock in the centre was presented to the Sultan by Queen Victoria
This Viennese clock, crusted with jewels
A verandah of the palace
and a long queue to see the famous jewels. Because Lynne was limping from a sprained foot, one of the doormen let us jump the queue. You are not allowed to photograph the jewels, sadly. They are appallingly lit and rather in need of a good clean. Luckily Lynne had packed a small LED torch and was able to illuminate them well, so that we could see the details. There are some amazing diamonds and rubies, the size of pigeon eggs. Lynne has a passion for jewellery and is trained in gemology, so this was fascinating
An ancient plane tree clinging to life
Beautiful stained glass and wall decoration everywhere
A view over the Bosporus from the Sultan's verandah
and a bronze door in a marble wall
Turkish ship A589 with an interesting history. Launched in 1943 as salvage tug USS Safeguard, she had a distinguished career in World War 2, Korea and Vietnam before being sold to Turkey in 1986
We walked over to the Harem. There is a lot of restoration going on and they mask it with drop cloths which show how it will look when finished
Back across the central courtyard
into the Eunuchs' hall
There are some amazing tiles in the Harem, very rare and beautiful 
Frescoes the Sultana's (Head wife's) apartments
Superbly detailed tiles. Yellow was a very rare and expensive colour in tiles during this period, so these are very rare
An incredibly detailed stained glass window
A dome, as yet unrestored, made of fabric
A room for relaxing and talking
More superb windows in the Sultan's apartments
A large terrace, where the women could not be seen
A view of the Galata Tower across the Golden Horn
It is hard not to take photos of these magnificent windows
or these beautiful, vibrant tiles
Leaving the Harem
A view of the Karakoy district from Topkapı
A hooded crow
They were bathing in this small fountain
Having a lot of fun washing those feathers
Drip dry is the order of the day
Miniature Tudor roses
Police officers on patrol
Leaving Topkapı Palace, it is a very short walk down towards the Hagia Sophia, now a museum, the epitome of Byzantine architecture, and the world's largest Christian cathedral for 1000 years. They started building it in 537. Islam converted it into a Mosque in 1453 and added minarets, but many of the Christian relics remain
The Topkapı palace gate
Minarets and a dome, lots of mixed messages
Lots of restoration going on inside. Four six-winged seraphim feature in each corner, along with Muslim texts
John went up to the gallery to take photographs
An uncovered Pieta
Leaving Hagia Sophia you need to turn back
to see this Christian fresco
Ancient walls
You can walk to the Blue Mosque from here
Many of the historic buildings are grouped together in the same area, which has been turned into a park
A typical Turkish wooden building, now a hotel
We needed a beer after all that history and the long walk
Our early evening stroll to Kumkapı where the restaurants cluster. It was only about 7 minutes from our apartment
Superb tomatoes with lots of flavour. Bananas at prices that would make you gasp. But in-season cherries, peaches and apricots were 1 to 2 Turkish Lira per kilo (R4.50 to R9)
It's choose your restaurant time...
 We opted for this one. They promised a free drink, a free starter and a free dessert. Hmmm, don't believe a word
We sat next to a very entertaining couple from the UK; the young MD and his sales manager here for a fabric exposition and we had a lovely, jolly evening with them
We ordered a half bottle of wine, a white blend from Cappadocia of Emir and Narince; crisp and dry and R180 (ouch). Very supermarket quality, might have cost us R35 for a full bottle in Checkers. It went with the food. Tasted a bit like a Colombard Sauvignon blend
The rule in Turkey and Greece is that if you eat the bread on the table you pay for it, even it it is yesterday's, toasted. We ordered some cigara - cheese stuffed borek (filo pastry), and some aubergine and tomato as our starters
And the revolving Turkish band was out in force. They move from one restaurant to another and sit at a table with enough free spaces, even if you don't feel like having them there
The name of our restaurant
Lamb kebab with chips and salad
A grilled sea bream
An altar to wine?
Fish in the cold cabinet
Our bill. They add service willy nilly and you don't seem to be able to avoid paying it, despite being ignored for hours.  They try to tell you it is tax. Lots of broken promises too. R571. Not bad, but the food was very ordinary. Charming when they want you to come in, after that dismally slow service
Istanbul is definitely the place to buy shoes, this man was trading from the back of his car at 11 at night. No, we didn't buy any
A quiet walk home
past the Armenian Church
and into our street
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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