Wednesday, September 23, 2009
How do you all like my rockin' bright pink protective booties? In an effort to preserve the Dolmabahce Palace complex they require EVERYONE to wear them. Despite the fact you walk on carpets the entire time. They were especially annoying at the doors, where they'd put wedges up. A nice gesture, but it made for absolutely no grip and I almost fell 2-3 times. Also slightly ridiculous was the strict no-photography policy. Now, No Flash, sure. However, it's not exactly the Sistine Chapel (and that's only because some stupid Japanese company has exclusive rights... but I digress...) and with all the security around I think they could manage to keep a no flash policy and still preserve the building.
The Dolmabahce Palace...
...was easy to find, though a bit misleading (since they label the mosque nearby the same...so I made a small detour!). It was relatively easy to get to - only one switch between the Metro and the Funicular and a 10 minute walk by foot, parallel to the Bosphorous. It also seemed to serve as a military post (we had to go through a security stand before we even got to buy tickets, same as Hagia Sophia) and had soldiers here and there. As I came to reflect on it, the palace reminded me of a sort of combination between the Danish palace in Copenhagen and Neuschwanstein in Germany.
Denmark had the frozen guards as well (think Buckingham palace style...lots of photo ops, apparently!) but had more a feel of the 19th century than Neuschwanstein. However, the opulence of the palace was also huge - and the man who built it greatly resembles Ludwig the II. Though I'm not sure if they murdered (drowned?) Sultan Abduelmecid. The 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, A. (for simplicity) built the palace between 1843 to 1856 - as a sort of last ditch effort to proclaim the strength of the empire. It caused significant economic stress on the Empire and was inhabited for less than 100 years. Ataturk used it as a presidential summer residence (the view of the Bosporus is breathtaking) and I even saw the bed he died in.
The furnishings in the palace were quite ornate, and more genuine than Neuschwanstein. The floors were wood - and had beautifully intricate patterns made from Beech, Rosewood and Mahogany. One of my highlights was the Murano glass chandelier - ironically in the prayer room not sure the Pope would've approved... - which was huge, green and slightly gaudy. But it gave me a scale of the worth. There were beautiful rugs everywhere, of course, but a lot of the crystal (including the famed crystal staircase) was from England. Also on display were gift sets (because one was never good enough?). Russia sent matching bearskin rugs, while large urns seemed to be a favorite of others. I laughed when everyone was fascinated by the rugs - they weren't very big by Minnesota standards!
The harem was very similar, although that tour was in Turkish. However, the first tour guide was so soft-spoken that I mostly read the information pamphlet anyway. Then came the Crystal Pavilion, which only had a few sculptures of note (including a crystal piano) but overlooked the aviary. Which now mostly consists of chickens and few peacocks.
The Call to Prayer
Now, the full prayer takes at least 5 minutes, but I managed to catch a clip or two (the other one I'll put up in my online album). It's coming from the closest Mosque. I asked my HM how they did it and got the basic explanation. The voice is not a recording, and the holy men have a rotation for who does it when. So, some have wonderful voices and others...not. Also, there's one per minaret (oh my goodness...there must be literally hundreds...there's even one by HM and HD's office!) and the sound quality differs a lot. It's a nice sound to hear (as I haven't heard any bad ones yet...) and I suspect it will soon become like the trains in Grand Forks, although blessedly unable to wake me at one in the morning until I become accustomed!
Why I Don't Shop
Well, the US malls don't usally require one to step through security measures (including a bag scan and metal detector) so that threw me a bit after my morning out. I was at the mall close to HM/D's office and was going to find "Electroworld" so I could buy a microphone headset. I was flushed with my transportation prowess, and was feeling good. I even found a map right away, and confidently pushed the -2 button on the elevator...only to go up. Huh. Someone boarded, and pushed the ground floor, so I tried again. I held the button, and pushed again when it didn't work. The young woman said something to me, saw my incomprehension and tried again: "English? This elevator is...special...it only goes floor one and 3."
Well duh, Steph, how could you not know that? What kind of elevators don't only go to highly selective floors? Honestly.
Somewhat subdued, I rode the escalators and managed to find (and then avoid the personnel) in Electroworld. Purchase managed, I got upstairs no problem...to be daunted at the exit. Fortunately I watched others walk through the gap in security, so I did the same. When no yelling ensued, I felt safe. I walked back to the business office building and sat down to read some Istanbul history while waiting for U. After a particularily confusing conversation I was able to discern that he was parked across from me and managed to get home. A safe end to a good day!
Hope all is well,
PS See the sesame sticks in the photos above...they were homemade!