Istanbul: the final days

Before I write the last Istanbul post, I’m going to throw a question out there about the flag counter I have installed on my site – It says I’ve had 246 visitors, but according to my wordpress stats, I had 324 visitors this week and there have been 2,123 overall.  I don’t know which one to believe… does anyone know?  It’s bugging me!

Okay, moving on.  Rachel left on Sunday, after admonishing Beth and I to photograph any and all sacrifices of animals that we saw in the streets (due to the holiday).  Before this, however, she made sure to stock up on as much Turkish Delight as she could carry, especially the pistachio kind.  Umm, umm!  Deeelicious.  She was our supplier the day before, preventing a lot of Hanger from happening while we shopped.  Thanks, Rachel!

When she left, Beth and I walked around looking for sacrifices.  Finding none, we looked for an open museum.  Failing at that as well, we stopped in a shop to look at the funny but strangely comfortable Turkish pants.  I’d purchased a pair the day before, with help from Rachel’s haggling skills.  (The poor guy working in that shop was defenseless!  He got so flustered.  He ended up desperately yanking a mannequin off the wall and stripping it bare after he couldn’t find the same pants in his racks of merchandise and Rachel declared that we were leaving because he was too slow.  When we finally paid and left him alone, he made us promise to tell his older brother, who was watching the stuff set up outside the shop, that he did a good job.  Too funny!)  Anyway, we looked at some other pants, somehow striking a good deal without Rachel.  We had to promise that we wouldn’t try to return them later (or something, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about) and we had to be quiet about how much we paid as there were two other older ladies in the shop at that time.  Older ladies must be better marks.  Huh.

Then we ate lunch.  We were the only two in the restaurant.  I thought it was a little creepy.  I felt like the waiter guy was staring at us the whole time, and not in a friendly manner.  He sat facing us a few tables away and messed around with his laptop the whole time we were eating.  I was glad to pay and get out of there.

MUSEUMS:     After lunch, the museums opened (1:00 b/c of the holiday).  We went to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts first.  The museum has sections for Calligraphy and Manuscripts (beautiful!!), Damascus Documents, Carpets and Rugs, Woodenware, Metal-Glass-Ceramics, Stoneware, and a few others.  I really wanted to see the ceramics since we didn’t get to see the ones at Topkapi Palace.  There weren’t that many of them.  Overall, the pieces (not just the ceramic ones) in the museum were nice.  I thought a few of the “restoration” jobs were a bit out of place, however, and I wasn’t totally convinced that preservation is a main focus of this particular museum.

From here we went to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.  There are three buildings: the Museum of the Ancient Orient, Museum of Archaeology, and the Museum of the Tiled Kiosk.

The Museum of Archaeology “houses over 1 million artifacts that belong to various cultures collected from Imperial territories.”  The Museum of the Ancient Orient houses a lot of Egyptian artifacts.  I was surprised at the geographic area represented in this museum.  It was different than what I think of when I hear the phrase “Ancient Orient.”  I think I maybe just don’t know enough history?  The Tiled Kiosk museum was exactly what I thought it would be though!  Lots and Lots of tiles and other ceramics.  Small but nice.

After the museums, we walked to the Blue Mosque to see it at twilight.  Then we ate, packed, and went to bed.

LAST DAY:     On our last day, which was really only a morning, we walked to Suleymaniye Mosque.  It’s supposed to be the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul.  We were a little hesitant to walk there because we had a hard time judging distances on our maps, and we didn’t want to miss our flights.  But we made it quite quickly.  It’s near the University, so it’s fairly easy to find.  (Note: The university is walled off, so you can’t walk through it.  There are guards at the gates!)

The whole way there I was telling Beth how I wanted to buy another cup of freshly pressed pomegranate juice before we left.  I’d decided I was willing to pay up to 7 lira for it.  There was a young guy (15, maybe?) selling some right outside the mosque, so after paying to use the disgusting bathrooms (which were made more repellent by the presence of fake flowers tucked all over the place), we stopped to get some.  Imagine my delight when the response to “how much?” was “1 lira”!  I almost felt bad giving him just one when I was prepared to pay so much more.  The guys selling it outside the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque charge 5 and the restaurants are sometimes even higher.  So we sipped our juice as we walked back to the tram line.  We stopped at a little man selling scarves on the street.  Good thing we’d finished our juice because he gave us hot chai tea.  So we carried that to a courtyard outside the university where we drank it and chatted.

Soon enough, we had to go catch our tram to the airport.  We got there with what we thought was plenty of time (over 2 hours) but the line for passport control was, well, out of control.  We both made our flights though.  What a trip!  Here are some pictures:  Click on one to make it bigger and open a slideshow viewer.  Navigate with the left and right arrows on the far edges of your screen.