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The World According to Bruce

TURKEY | Sunday, 29 June 2014 | Views [149]

within the Fourth Courtyard of Topkapi palace where the family would have picnics and other types of recreations, often resting and eating in the two pavilion rooms shown here. From the pavilion rooms themselves one looks over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, seeing both  Europe and Asia.

within the Fourth Courtyard of Topkapi palace where the family would have picnics and other types of recreations, often resting and eating in the two pavilion rooms shown here. From the pavilion rooms themselves one looks over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, seeing both Europe and Asia.

In the constant struggle between doing and talking, this band of adventurers has definitely been on the "doing" side, staying so busy that it's been hard to find time to write/share what we've been up to,  But now there's some time before our next event (sleep!) so I'll try to give a quick update.  Four days ago we met up with the guide we had hired.  She was amazing, having been to Istanbul's prestigious English immersion high school.  Together over two days we toured the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (Divine Wisdom), and Topkapi palace.  

The Blue Mosque is huge but, in my opinion, more a monument to human ego than a place to worship Allah.  Hagia Sophia is much older, having been built in Justinian's reign as a Christian church.  It is architecturally amazing, solving the weight distribution issue of having a large dome sit top a rectangular building.  (The answer, half domes around the full dome).  By throwing ten thousand men at the project, the church was finished in just 5 years (versus hundred for cathedrals during Europe's Middle Ages; in fact it would over one thousand years before Europeans would figure out how to create a similar open enclosed space (St. Peter's in Rome).  Oh, and a footnote: the Blue Mosque is called that because the light bounding off the exquisite blue tiles that line the walls give the interior a bluish cast--well, two of us saw the blue light; I think it's all made up.))

Topkapi was the hit of the day--first it covers acres and acres, with four major sections, heading toward the point of the land that lies between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.  This is where first Justinian had his Roman palace, then the Ottoman sultans created Topkapi and lived there until modern Turkey was created right after WWI.  It's an amazing complex; alone worth the trip.  Imagine, the kitchens routinely feed 4,000 people a day, 10,000 if something special was going on.  Imagine, the Sultan could literally dip his hands into a bowl and pick up cut diamonds and let them run through his hands, diamonds worth millions, but scores still left in the bowl.  We toured the Harem, which is actually the private chambers of the sultan and his immediate family members (plus of course the girls, girls, girls).  Not much of it is open; Turkey has some issues getting restorations done in a timely fashion).

Then we went to see some other little church (Cora) because it's murals are very unusual in that when it was converted to a mosque, many of the original Christian mosaics were left, including the one showing Christ in Mary's womb.  How's that for an image, but it was tastefully done. I was churched-out.  For one thing,both days it was in the 90's and humid.  Sweat just run off like you were a two-legged spring.  The cab ride home took us back along miles of the old Roman walls which one defined the city.  We ate in a hotel garden, a secret garden near Hagia Sophia.  It was great.  By the way, today we rode the public transit system to get to where we needed to go and it was truly world-class.  Easy to use; went where you wanted to go; and people were polite.  Oh, and new.  Have lots of other things to say about our visit but I'll hold them until we're safely beyond the reach of the state thought police.  

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