After the visits to the two major religious buildings in Istanbul we went to the Topkapi Palace, the home of the ancient Sultans. Very opulent, very beautiful and certainly situated on a prime piece of Turkish real estate. They lived well, but the way in which they subjected young children to their whims is really not a beautiful part of their history. It was a gorgeous spring day and it was lovely to view close up the spaces in which they enjoyed life. The tile work here is simply elegant and fantastic and I would adorn my own home with such beauty if ever given the chance (or money required to do so). The views across the Bosphorus and onto the sprawl of Istanbul were mesmerizing. The fact that the grounds were in full bloom was a particular bonus.
A very strange thing also took place on the grounds of the Topkapi palace. I met Ted Turner, former husband of Jane Fonda and founder of CNN. He was very pleasant and warm. Quite a random occurrence but was great fun at any rate.
From the Topkapi we found our way to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Stall after staff of pottery, rugs, scarves, Turkish delight, instruments, leather, games, etc., etc. stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see. I bought two scarves...a cheap one that looks great, and a higher quality one in blue silk that I will treasure and enjoy. We sat in on a carpet demonstration and I tell you, it's like getting intoxicated! These guys are amazing salesmen and soon you are thinking, yeah, I must own a handmade silk carpet from Turkey even though I have no way of affording such a beautiful thing. The carpets are stunning...and tempting, but luckily, we snapped out of our daze in time to escape without pulling out our credit card! Still, the hospitality of the sellers is hard to match. After we entered their shop, the first thing the sales guy said to us was this, "You can refuse to buy a rug, but you may never refuse Turkish hospitality." They proceeded to serve us a delicious cup of hot apple tea and explain to us what a magnificent deal they would give us on one of the many rugs they were rolling out before us. FUN.
Today we found our way to the spice market. Smells, crowds, and goods surrounded us on all sides. The vendors were lovely, chatting with us along the way, offering us tastes of Turkish delight...My favorite? Pomegranate and pistachio...heavenly. I also had a piece of butter drenched, flaky baklava and Doug enjoyed a kepab once again. The crowds were overwhelming...seas of people slowly making their way along the narrow passages of the bazaar. It was a culturally enriching and positively delightful. On the whole, my impression of the Turkish people is overwhelmingly positive. They are so fun loving and pleasant...happy to make a bargain, but not oppressive when you are ready to walk away.
The only marring factor was our taxi driver on the way home from the spice market.
He tried to rip us off by quickly switching a 20 lira note for a 5 and claiming we owed him more money when in reality he owed us change. Fortunately, Doug and I both knew that we didn't have a 5 in our pocket and upon an immediate confrontation, he got our change. Still...it feels crummy to be ripped off. I wonder if he monkeyed with the meter, but it doesn't really matter. At least the cab ride kept us from getting caught in a torrential downpour!
Our time is almost finished. Tomorrow we will visit the International Church of Istanbul and close our time as a group with a dinner cruise on the Bosporus. I still have many reflections swimming in my head so be sure and check back another time! Even our President finds his place in Istanbul! One stall proudly proclaimed that their business was endorsed by Barack Obama!