Friday, October 29, 2010
Day Four, cont'd: Thoroughly Modern Istanbul
Pebbles and I began to settle into a comfortable routine. While there were some tense moments, the vast majority of our time together was wonderful. I understand how fortunate I am to get to spend this much time with my adult daughter. Our evenings were spent laughing and talking and listening to the daily calls to prayer and the nightly return of the Door Slammers. Every evening at pretty much the same time, the people staying across the hall from us would come home and begin to slam the door repeatedly. Not just four of five times, but more like ten or twelve. Evidently, the door had trouble closing and we all heard about it, complete with cursing in German! And because the walls were so thin, we tried to stifle our giggles, which as everyone knows, when try not to laugh, all you want to do is laugh. And laugh we did.
We also played about eleventy billion games of Word Jumble on her iPhone. We are both avid word-game lovers. Specifically, we both adore Boggle, but no one will play with us. So we dorked out while we were there. And it dawned on me very late in the stay, that if our neighbors could overhear us, they would think we were practicing our English, using some sort of flashcard system:
for an hour or so every night.
I also began to take my showers in the evening, which would allow me to get up and get out of the (small) room with as little disturbance to Pebbles as possible. I'd get up, get dressed (did I say I packed for this trip in a carry-on?) and go down to the breakfast area to drink coffee, read about our planned activities, take a few notes and have a leisurely breakfast. This allowed me to get up early, as is my wont and allowed her to sleep in for a while, as is hers. This would usually put me downstairs soon after 7am to find the chef and his staff having their own breakfast. I don't know that any of the kitchen staff actually spoke much English. It ended up being a curious thing - whenever I would come down (breakfast was from 7-10am) and the staff would be the only people in the dining area, the Turkish version of CNN would be on the television. As soon I as would come in, someone would get up and change the channel to PowerTurk - which is the Turkish version of MTV!! I never could figure out the reason, other than music is the international language?
It was interesting to watch the videos, however. I can't really make such a secular thing jive with the country being so Muslim. However, I did love that the stars of Turkish music videos were generally significantly older than their American counterparts, and were significantly rounder. These women were curvy, with that bellydancer body, if you know what I mean. Hips and a not-flat tummy. There was not a skeletal waif amongst the ones that I saw. Very interesting.
Oh, and speaking of the chef. At some point in our stay, he started cooking me an omelet each morning and would bring it to me at my table. Why? I don't know - being hospitable, I suppose. I didn't want an omelet and I didn't ask for an omelet. I was more than happy with the Turkish-style breakfast, but in order not of offend, I started eating omelets each morning. And while they were good, they were omelets just like I can get here. But he seemed to be so happy to do, I just thanked him and ate omelet :-)
So day four took us to the Dolmabahce Palace. This wasn't on my list originally, but when I met with BossMan's Arty Friends pre-trip, Jim said it was a "don't miss" for him. The Palace was built in the mid-19th century and became the home of the Ottoman rulers after they moved from the Topkapi Palace. Dolmabahce is much more European in style and looks like something one would see in London or Paris. In fact, many of the famous artifacts of the palace came from one of those places, including the bannisters made by Baccarat. Gorgeous place. The center Hall is amazing - the chandelier made of grey crystal is the largest in the world at four and one half TONS! It is massive. No pictures were allowed so the above are from wikipedia.
This was the one place where we waited in line for a long, long time to get in. The Dolmabahce does not allow self-tours, so we had to wait in line until one of their docents was available to lead an English-speaking tour. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and the facility really is something. Those people with tour groups were allowed immediate entry. I think we waited for almost two hours prior to getting in. It was worth it, but had I known better, I would have things differently. Also, there was a Harem tour available for this palace, which we took, but it was a waste of time. Our guide was not good and the Harem had fallen into disrepair. There was not a separate entry fee for the Harem, however.
This palace still is used for some state functions, including state dinners. President Obama attended a function here soon after taking office.
After spending a half day at the Domlabahce, we were ready to rest our feet (my shoes were AWESOME) and get something to eat, so we headed back to the modern museum. This Pebbles enjoyed. It was a lovely facilty - a converted warehouse right on the, and I do mean on, the Bospherus. Smaller cruise ships are literally docked right there. The deck offers what may be the best views in all of Istanbul. We sat out on the deck and had a leisurely lunch and a Turkish coffee. And then toured the art space. The museum is only five years old. I know nothing about modern/contemporary art but I did find it interesting to see so many female artists represented at what was primarily a venue for Turkish artists. I would venture the rate to be nearly 50%, which is not how it is here in the states for art, modern or otherwise. I don't know if the high rate of representation was by design, availability or what, but it did shatter some notions that I held.
After we closed down the modern, it came time to go back to The Grand Bazaar. Bick had made a special request for a qaraqul hat. So we were back to the market in search of said item. It took a while, but we did find one at a traditional arts shop. I tried it on - our heads are the same size and began the unpleasant task (for me) of bargaining to determine price. I ended up getting confused and paid about 5 TL more than I should have, but so it goes. Bick has his hat. Why he wanted one? I don't know. But he does now look very much like that other famous hat-wearing dude. He's got the perfect Halloween getup, should he choose to do that.
I don't think we actually ate dinner after our late, late lunch. I think there may have been a trip to the patisserie, but whose counting?