July 24, 2012
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Visiting the Topkapi Palace is like peeling back the layers of an onion. No, wait. It’s more like one of those Russian dolls, with one inside of another getting progressively smaller. Ok, sort of but not really, but you get my point, don’t you?
Most people enter through the Imperial Gate which is located behind and to the right of the Hagia Sofia. You then walk through the walled exterior palace grounds until you reach the ticket booth and along the way pass by the Hagia Eirene and the Archaeological Museum. At the time we went, admission tickets were 25TL per person.
The next layer peels back after passing through the crenelated Gate of Salutations which looks straight out of Disney movie. Be forewarned, you must go through airline style security to get inside (bags are x-rayed).
Once inside there’s a large grassy area and a number of pavilions and buildings. Many of the pavilions have been turned into exhibit rooms showing items from the Sultan’s treasury as well as imperial clothing and the Sultan’s arms and armor (this exhibit was particularly well designed).
While I enjoyed seeing all the bejewled and bedazzled kaftans, scabbards, even a baby’s crib, I was particularly fascinated by the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle which holds many holy relics of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed’s mantle. Twenty four hours a day there are holy men chanting the words of the Koran over the mantle through a microphone. Unfortunately none of these exhibits allowed photographs inside.
After visiting most of the exhibits, we headed for the Harem which requires a separate admission fee of 15TL at the time of our visit. Fortunately, with the price of admission, photographs are allowed inside.
The first thing you will learn when reading about the Harem is that “harem” …
July 16, 2012
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It’s no secret both David and I love our kitties. When we travel, we’re always on the search to get our fix because we so miss our three cats back home. Turkey was heaven for us. Every time we stepped outside it took less than 2.3 seconds to spot a cat, and most of the time they were friendly, willing recipients of a head scratch or belly rub.
Turkey even has its own breed of cat, the Van (in top photo). This one, complete with one blue eye and one green eye, typical of the breed, spends her days in a shop on a walking street in Selcuk goes home with the shop’s owner at night. According to the man, she’s “famous” (there was a sign up about her and her sister who had recently been killed by a car). We never came across another Van cat on our trip, and certainly not one roaming the streets. Perhaps if we’d traveled in the eastern part of the country, near lake Van where they are from, we would have seen more of them.
Some of the first cats we saw were at the Blue Mosque:
It’s been theorized that Turkey is a cat lover’s paradise because the koran lists dogs as “unclean” and does not say the same as for cats. There is also a myth that Mohammed himself loved cats and cut off a piece of his own cloak (or vest depending on the story you read) rather than disturb the cat sleeping on it.
Regardless of this, there are cats everywhere in Turkey and even the ones without homes seem very well cared for. In fact, I saw a mama kitty with 3 kittens who had blue thread on her side where she’d had a wound stitched up. …