Bulgaria - 03.06.03 § Les Semaines Index § Turkey - 03.06.05
We got up early for Rossen to drive us to our flight back to Istanbul. We had to stop at the travel agency in Sophia first to pick up Christina's ticket, so I got a chance to see a bit of Sophia. It's a lovely city, and looks very eastern European from what I've seen of photographs of other cities. Trees, narrow streets, lots of charming 19th-century architecture (at least in the center--the outskirts are another story, full of crumbling roads and shacks and ugly communist apartment blocks). Had a cappucino at a sidewalk cafe while waiting for travel agency to open. The flight was short, though they messed up Christina's vegetarian order (yet again--apparently it has happened a lot on this route). Took a taxi home to their apartment, dropped our stuff off and had a brief rest.
|The view up the hill, showing a bit of the street below.
Then got a taxi to Topkapi Palace. Glorious parks, and several gates to walk through. We toured the Harem almost right away, a fascinating tour with Christina adding her extensive knowledge to the tour guide's. My camera was acting up so I only got a few photographs, but that was probably better as I concentrated better on what I was seeing rather than photographing.
|Just inside the entrance to the harem.
|The valide's (mother of the sultan) courtyard.
Didn't really get to see that much of the harem because there are so many people who want to get through that the tours are always rushed. Christina says that you see different rooms on different tours sometimes, and it's not so rushed during the winter. I would have loved to have seen more--the harem is such a mythic place. Christina explained that the women really had a lot of freedom within their world to marry whom they wanted (if they weren't chosen by the valide for the sultan), to become teachers to other girls in the harem, and that very few Turks came to the sultan's service but instead the servants and girls were chosen from the Christian conquests. They converted and had the chance to rise in the sultan's service. She was particularly interested in the architect and builder, Sinan, who had a long career and built throughout the Ottoaman Empire.
Went next to see a clothing display, where I was particularly interested in the talismanic shirts made for the sultans to wear for protection. Also glorious robes that made me wonder why all the clothes on display were men's. Christina says the women wore the same clothes as the men. Then we went an looked at the treasury. Really amazing things. I'm not that much interested in this kind of stuff but the huge emeralds and diamonds and the amount of gold and other jewels was certainly impressive.
Stopped by the palace bookstore then, where I bought a big coffee table book about the palace, and found a present (a ring) for jim, which I hope he will like. We went to the fancy restaurant where we had dinner overlooking the Golden Horn, and I fed lamb to cut light-coloured tabby who begged the food off my plate. Alas, right after that the palace was closing so we couldn't see any more and were herded back out through the gates. Took a taxi home. The driver stopped in the middle of the street and had an altercation with guy packing cardboard across the street in front of the car whose boxes may have touched the taxi's bumper. We thought it might come to blows, but eventually he got back in and took us home, though he did hold up my 5 mil note to the light to be sure it was real. Had some rest, then went out to the top road up the hill shopping. Found a disc for a friend, a book I was looking for, tea, a couple of books for Matt (Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantium series) and locum (sweets) for Christina.
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