This morning the drizzles are harder than usual. It’s colder as well. But we braised ourselves for Topkapi Palace as we heard so many nice things about it (20 lira). Once again my tripod is being taken away to the cloak room. I think next backpacking trip, no need to bring tripod....
We enter the courtyard where the building on the right apparently is a giant kitchen with giant chimneys! Inside you can take pictures but not at the Treasury (which basically rooms displaying many valuables) I was amazed by this giant 86 carat teardrop diamond that was found in a dumpster for heaven sake! Some of the collections are impressive but some are rather questionable (from authenticity point of view). For example, how would you know whether that was Moses walking stick? (Seems to small) or how can you be sure its Yousef's turban? And isn't Ali's sword (.Mohammed son in law) supposed to have double edge at the end?
For me, the highlight of the Topkapi Palace is actually the back terrace that faces Bosphorus strait (I think, not sure which strait is it). But you can see the Europe and Asia side in one glance. Plus,
can also see the Maiden tower and something that looks like Galata tower.
Then we paid extra to enter the Harem (extra 15 lira). Mmm, now this one I'm not comfortable with.... The alley, rooms, bars at the windows, just give me such an eerie feeling.... I can't help but cringe imagining women are taken there (some for sure was brought against their will). Just made me feel really lucky to live in this era, where as a young woman I can be independent, work and let my heart choose who I want to be with. Couple of things that grab my attention:
giant mirrors at the entry way and some faucets at the windows (apparently sultan used to turn it on when having a discussion so people cannot ease drop from outside.
We also checked out the Gulhane Park just outside the palace (free). And once again, the tulips are yet to bloom. Well, there are couple of early bloomers and some nice sumbul flowers and hints of Cherry blossoms.
Next, we drop by at Khorasani restaurant to have lunch. Taste was ok but not outstanding and one particular waiter was quite snobbish. Not a place that I'll missed.
Giant Bread! @ Khorasani
So so taste, snobbish waiter, pricey
we took a stroll to the Grand Bazaar. Just before gate 4, there is a money changer that had the best rate (forgot the name, but it had green paint on it). Rate is even better than google.
The grand bazaar itself is a big confusing maze of shopping stalls. With my big DSLR popping out of my coat (plus a typical South East Asian face) I'm an obvious tourist. I just politely say no to the offers but was worried about pick pocketers.
What I've noticed, the prices in Grand Bazaar are not necessarily cheaper vs street price unless you haggle really hard. Another tip would be to remember the gate number of the bazaar where you want to exit later. For untrained eyes, all hallways just looked similar.
We did most of our souvenir shopping for our friends and family there such as Turkish sweets, pashmina, some tiles, key chains, coffee, etc. What caught my eyes are these neat leather bags. Looks very real (not like some mass produced knock offs) but then the price are quite high (well I can haggle it down by 40 percent if I want to) but just not that in love.
Its true what people say, don't stare at something more than 2 seconds or else they know you like the goods. And if you started to ask for price, they'll assume you've started to bargain (I got couple of sellers throwing numbers at me and reducing the price as I'm walking away - assuming I'm just playing hard to get).
If you don't like to haggle, actually the souvenir shops at Sirkeci offers better price even without haggling. The further you are from Sultanahmet or key tourist attractions, the better is the price.
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