Istanbul - Day 3

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January 6th 2013
Published: January 7th 2013
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Our first stop today was the Dolmabahçe Palace. We caught the tram to the Kabatas terminus and then walked from there to the palace entrance. We arrived just in time to slip on our plastic overshoes and join the 9.30am English speaking tour.

In 1843, Sultan Abdül Mecit wanted to reinvent the Ottoman Empire in a European image. The luxurious and lavishly decorated Dolmabahçe Sarayi, completed in 1856, is the result of that ambition. The gold and crystal decorations rival those of the Palace of Versailles in France. The sheer extravagance of this palace hastened the end of the Empire and the last emperor fled from here into exile in 1922.

In 1922 the sultanate was abolished and in 1923 a republic was declared. Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Pasa (Atatürk - 'Father of the Turks'😉 used the palace as his Istanbul base, keeping an office and a bedroom in the Harem until his death in 1938. The palace is filled with enormous chandeliers. The largest, which hangs from the 36 metre dome of the Ceremonial Hall, weighs in at 4.5 tonnes. Not surprisingly, it is the world's largest chandelier!

After a quick circuit of the gardens - it was too cold to dawdle - we caught the tram back to the European side of the Galata Bridge. From here we walked to the Egyptian spice market where our senses were filled with the colours and smells of all the spices, teas and confectioneries for sale. We were surprised to find that the spice market was not selling spices exclusively. The spice stalls were interspersed with some jewellery, textile and ceramic stalls which were very colouful too.

We wandered down a couple of the adjacent alleys where coffee, fish, fruit and vegetables, kitchen wares and hardware were being sold. I bought a leather hat with a fur trim (I think it's fake fur? I hope it is fake fur - I sort of assumed it would be and only started worrying later that it could be real fur). I really needed a better fitting hat because the one I brought with me covers my eyes if I pull it down properly onto my head. And it looks stupid with the extra height sticking up above my head. Some people can do hats, but I really can't!!

We took the underpass back across to the Galata Bridge in search of sardines for lunch. My boss told me that there are fish restaurants on the bridge that do sardines that are to die for. It was so cold and so early (just on noon) that none of the restaurants had any customers. How do you know which restaurant is good when all of them are empty? We were dodging all of the touts trying to lure us into their restaurants as we tried to suss them all out.

One guy was more persistent than the others so we asked him about the fish that were being caught by the fishermen on the bridge. Horse mackerel he told us and showed us on his menu that we could order a meal of horse mackerel if that was what we wanted. So we went into his lovely warm restaurant and ate horse mackerel. Darned if we could pick the difference between horse mackerel and sardines - they are both little silver fish!! Google says they are both generic terms for a range of species of fish, but horse mackerel are from the family Carangidae and sardines from the family Clupeidae. I'm none the wiser really.

Our next stop was the Archaeological Museum which houses the national collection of one of the world's most ancient countries in three buildings - the main museum consisting of three floors, the Tiled Pavilion and the Museum of the Ancient Orient. The museum houses a world-class collection of antiquities that spans some 5,000 years. The museum was founded in 1881 by Osman Hamdi Bey because he wanted to stop the Empire's heritage being carted off to Europe!! The best was to do this was to create a museum to house the archeological treasures that were being discovered. All in all it is a most impressive collection that would have taken all week to explore in detail. We hardly did it justice in two and a half hours!

We caught the tram back to the hotel in time for the meet and greet session for our tour. At 6.00pm we met up in the hotel bar with our guide, Yalcin, and our fellow tourists, Meredith and her daughter, Alex. Upon learning that we would be going out to dinner, Bernie and I had to return to our room to rug up again for outdoors.

We were taken to the restaurant by minibus but, even so, we had a short walk at the other end and definitely needed to have all our layers on again. We had a lovely traditional Turkish meal and got to know our guide and travel companions a little better. One of the waiters was crafting roses for all of the women diners from white paper serviettes so Meredith, Alex and I took paper roses back to the hotel with us. Since Meredith and Alex only arrived this morning we weren't out late because they were keen for an early night.

Steps for the day: 16,963 (11.76 km)

Additional photos below
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7th January 2013

Old hat!
Tracey, after your great description, we need a pic of your old hat, and maybe of the new one too!
8th January 2013

Show us your hat Tracey !!
Yep, I would like to see THAT hat too. How about it Tracey ??

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