Monday, April 25, 2011

Impressions of Istanbul 4

Istanbul is proving bigger as a subject than I would have expected, so here we are at episode 4, hopefully the final one. This time palaces and the archaeological museum.
Topkapi Palace is beautifully set out with extensive gardens, currently displaying beautiful beds of tulips for the tulip festival.

Topkapi Palace Gates

The palace is a series of buildings and pavillions, some very beautiful but the harem section seemed very cold to me, a lot of plain stone passageways that felt rather grim. I guess there were beautiful hangings and ornaments once and some of the rooms had lovely tiling and graceful fireplaces which would have been welcome on cold Turkish winter days.
The newer sections of the palace were more comfortable and had some beautiful doors, decorations and windows. Not all areas allowed photos so the selection is somewhat limited.

Niche with water fountain

TopkapiballHanging ornament
Dome with chandelier
TopkapiwindowStained glass in a pavillion
Silver brazier
Door to pavillion

Our visit to the Dolmabahce Palace was curtailed by bitter weather, cold and overcast. This palace was constructed later in the reign of the Sultans and was western in decoration. I noted that while the apartments were for the Sultan, his mother, his wives and children there was no longer a mention of concubines. The palace has grand gardens and the gates are very beautiful.

Palace gates

After lining up for half an hour to purchase the tickets (one ticket seller, and tour groups got preference) we chose to go first to the Harem section where we were advised the next English speaking guided tour would be in 20 minutes. We filled in time looking at a rather interesting clock museum and at the gardens.

Pond and fountain with daffodils

The tour was not guided, rather we were shepherded through the rooms and the information came from a pamphlet. The queue to enter the main section of the palace was so long that we risked being frozen and the return of our nasty colds, so we decided to leave. Moral, do the main bits first, before the queues develop. As we left people were still pouring up the road leading to the palace. I hope they didn’t mind the multiple queues to enter.
On our last day we visited the Archaeological Museum. This is a remarkable place,mainly because it is the embodiment of one man, Osman Hamdi Bey who turned a motley collection into a museum, had buildings purpose made, led expeditions and ensured that artefacts found in Turkey could not be removed from the country.
My Ancient History text was a thick tome with line drawings, not at all inspiring! But here on the walls and floor were those line drawings come to life. Collections from Assyria and Mesopotamia, carvings from the Hittites, the glorious tiled animals from the Ishtar Gate to begin.

Bull from Ishtar gate
Lion from Ishtar gate
Stone lion

Then fabulous sarcophagi, cuneiform tablets with love poems and laws and stunning, stunning statues and fragments of statues. We took many photos (and they had beautiful ones on the walls, all softly lit against a black background). I hope you like these.

Side of the Alexander Sarcophagus, originally brightly painted

The Alexander Sarcophagus
(from the carvings on the side)
Head of a horse

Female athlete

Head of child

We had hoped to see the newly reopened Sulieman Mosque but it was wet and cold and we were tired. We had hoped for a cruise up the Bosphorous but it was still wet and cold and not at all the weather for boating. We never made it to the Asian side nor crossed any but the Galatea bridge nor sat at the waterfront gazing at the beautiful bridges at night. Maybe another time.
So dear friends, this finishes our impressions of Istanbul. There were other things of course and these may be represented on our website in the future. But for now, enough. We hope you enjoyed our stay. We certainly did.

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