Day 2 in Istanbul was all about a tour of the Topkapi palace, Sulemaniye Mosque and the Bosphorus.
We did all the monument seeing with the help of a tour guide. I’d probably not go the tour-guide route the next time, because I found sticking to their schedule of showing you different touristy places in a day doesn’t fully allow you to experience a space at leisure. You’re always pressed for time, and have to hurry all the while. (I have to say that the guide we had was very sweet and knowledgeable, but I, being a person who likes to dwell in places for longer periods of time and experience it according to my own pace, was feeling somewhat rushed, and not completely satisfied with the tour)
Next stop was the Topkapi palace, and like all other historic monuments in Istanbul, it had a character of its own. The landscaping was straight out of a dream. One look at the place and you knew the people who lived here were the epitome of royalty. The architecture was supplemented by amazing Iznik tile artwork. I loved walking around looking at all the olden-day artifacts and was slightly bummed we couldn’t make it to the harem, because of time and the long lines. Oh, and the clothes section is a must see. They are gigantic and weirdly proportioned. Interesting to know how the Ottomans wore them exactly. Next time, I’d probably dedicate an entire day to stroll around this magnificent palace.
We then made our way out and enroute, grabbed some simit from the street vendors to munch on, and went to meet a family that has been making iznik pottery for ages. (I wish I could remember the name of this place, but I can’t. Will update the blog once i remember for sure.) A tour of the workshop later, we took off to Eminonu for a cruise around the Turkey Strait. The strait is the water body that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara; and it is this that gives Turkey its unique geographical trait of lying in 2 continents (namely Europe and Asia)
The cruise basically let us see both sides of the city and it’d have been really beautiful had it been sunny and warm, but it was extremely extremely windy and cold, so I basically bundled myself up and left the deck to go make myself warm.
Next we went onto check out the spice market and catch the whirling dervishes at the Hodja Pasha Cultural Center. I was really excited to see the whirling dervishes, and the program began with 4-5 dervishes coming onto the floor and bowing toward the direction of Mecca. The music started playing, and kept increasing and decreasing in intensity with the speed at which the dervishes were spinning. The dervishes begin spinning slowly in a pattern, and then gradually pick up pace and start spinning on one leg. I didn’t know what I was expecting, when I went in to watch the show. I wasn’t exactly ‘moved’ and I was sitting in the front row, which was really close to where they were spinning and I felt like I was interrupting someone’s prayer. Also, watching them constantly spin, kind of made my head hurt. I noticed a LOT of people in the crowd doze off. The experience probably would’ve had a more profound effect on me if I were to experience the delirium they did, maybe. I don’t know.
The spice market was like another grand bazaar, but I found they have a better collection of scarves here, and if you’re a spice person, you should get some of the cool stuff they have here. We have better spices back home, i.e India, so I didn’t really bother to buy any.
Oh, but I found the different flavors of tea available to be nice and got myself a pack of the apple tea. And interestingly, although people rave about the Haci Bekir store to have the best Turkish Delight, I found some great tasting ones at the Spice Market. Reason why I liked the ones in the spice market is because I found a lot of the lokum(turkish delight) to have been made with honey, instead of sugar. To each his own I guess, so if you’re okay with sugar in your lokum/turkish delight, I’d suggest going to the nearest Haci Bekir store and if not, best to grab some at the spice market.