Saturday, September 29, 2012

Topkapi Palace

Okay last set of holiday photos! On our last day in Turkey we visited the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years from 1465-1856. The complex includes courtyards, summer houses, and ornamental pools. The palace buildings house various museums. There's a collection of armaments covering over a millenium, which includes (supposedly) St. Stephen's sword. The imperial treasury comprises bejewelled golden and mother-of-pearl thrones, jewellery and turban ornaments set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, rock crystal goblets oramented with precious stones - basically everything you could possibly require from an imperial treasury and more. There's also a selection of holy relics ranging from the arm and a bit of skull of St. John the Baptist (possibly) to belongings and beard hairs of the prophet Mohammed. I was quite looking forward to seeing the prophet's stuff, but to my great disappointment after queuing and shuffling around the rooms all you get to see is "the golden box containing the cloak of the prophet", "the box containing a letter written by the prophet", "a box containing beard hairs of the prophet", and so on. We did get to see his sword - sort of - with a 17th century Ottoman hilt and 17th century Ottoman scabbard.

Anyway, just about every surface in the palace is covered in either marble, or Turkish ceramic tiles with gorgeous designs, or baroque style painted trompe l'oeuil - it's wonderful. I want to do all my outfit posts there forever.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Out and About in Istanbul

Hope you're not bored of my holiday snaps just yet!

This was the view from the breakfast terrace of our hotel.

I fell in love with the bizarre but adorable Wendy house style facade of this mezze restaurant!

The weather on our last day was just beautiful - we so didn't want to leave.

Last set of photos tomorrow!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Spice Bazaar

Back in Istanbul, we spent another afternoon sightseeing, took in a few more amazing mosques, and enjoyed a Turkish bath experience at the 16th-century Suleymaniye Hamam - including a massage in the Sultan's own chamber.

Then we wandered through the area of the Egyptian market (one of those places jammed with tiny stalls selling everything from wholesale quantities of paper bags to strings of seed pearls and cheap blingy goldy bangles to marbelized plastic buckets). The highlight is the spice bazaar - a covered market with vaulted ceilings dating from 1660 - which as you can imagine was a veritable treat for the senses. Stall after stall is piled with sunset-hued spices & herb mixes, rainbows of dried fruit, nuts, exotic tea infusions - jasmine, hibiscus, rose, melissa - and powdery cubes of turkish delight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Buyukada, Turkey

Our next two days in Turkey we spent on the island of Buyukada, largest of a group of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, 90 minutes ferry ride from the city centre. There are no motor vehicles allowed, so transportation is by bicycle and horse-drawn cart.

We arrived in the afternoon, and had a stroll around the town. There are so many beautiful buildings, many uninhabited, many in a heartbreakingly sorry state of dilapidation. They make up a romantically ramshackle scenery.

On our second day we hired bicycles and cycled around the island (twice! It's not very big).

A stunningly spooky building somewhere in the middle of the island. Built at the turn of the last century by a famous architect in the height of Belle Epoque style, it is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. It was used as a Greek orphanage, and is now decaying and ghostly. I would have loved to wander the grounds and get a bit closer, maybe have a peek inside, but the huge iron gates were firmly chained and padlocked, with warnings of guard dogs! (I only saw guard chickens, but it probably wasn't worth taking the chance!). Apparently there's some talk of restoration, but it would be a heck of a project at this stage.

Buyukada doesn't have much in the way of beaches (to my slight surprise - it is an island, after all); it has a lot of cliff, which do offer some beautiful views.

About the closest there is to a beach (besides a concrete promenade covered in astroturf which charged an extortionate entrance fee) is the rocky shoreline on the north side of the island. Matin had a dip; I dipped my toes in and decided against going for the plunge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Postcards from Istanbul

Hello all! I'm back from my extended bloggy absence, and refreshed from a week in sunny Turkey (though I can't say I was glad to return to a rain-sodden Britain). Suffice to say, our holiday was amazing.

We spent the first couple of days sightseeing in Istanbul - we visited the famous Blue Mosque (which isn't blue - it gets its nickname from the blue ceramic tiles which decorate the interior), and wandered around the alleyways of the old city area.

I had hoped to make myself a new holiday outfit, but didn't get round to it so I packed a few favourites - my fruit salad sundress has been a staple all summer (or at least the sunny parts).

Aya Sophia was built in the 6th century as a Church (one of the oldest in the world), elevated to cathedral, converted to a Mosque in 1453 and became a museum in 1935.

I love street food - along with corn on the cob (boiled and barbecued) there were roast chestnuts, Turkish bagels, and fresh orange and pomegranate juice. And the ice-cream! I've never had such amazing ice cream. It contains mastic, which makes it surprisingly chewy and wonderfully velvety - it is so good.

... more to follow tomorrow!


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