Well, it is time for me to share my fabulous Saturday in Istanbul with you! It was SOOO busy, I feel like I could write chapters and chapters about it, but a little blog will have to do!
After the live music the night before I slept in, as I was pretty dead from my lack of sleep on Thursday night. We got around and headed to Dolmabahçe Palace first. This is a very historic and famous palace in Turkey. It was built between the 1840s and 1850s by the Sultan at the time and is MASSIVE. Here is a picture of me and my friend Alp in front of one of the side gates...yea, not even the main entrance, crazy right? It is a European-style palace and has fourteen tons of gold throughout the house...cha ching. This Palace was built to replace the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (which is also super famous) because it wasn't as luxurious as the Dolmabahçe Palace. Well let me tell you, this place was crazy amazing. There are 285 rooms, 44 Halls, 68 toilets, 6 Hamams (Turkish Baths) and the most amazing furniture and antique things in the place. Here is a shot of just an entrance hall waiting room, a nice place to sit around wouldn't you say?
I have never seen so much wealth in one place before. It felt like watching a TV show about the rich and famous and here it was right in front of my face. The library has books in it from the 16th century, there was an exhibition of goregous old Turkish porcelian and gold teasets, there are birdcages with gold, huge chandilers in every room and that's just the beginning. Even the door knobs have gold leaf on them! I think the whole time I walked around, I was just in shock. Here is a shot of one of the stained-glass windows with the view of Asia in the background - something pretty nice to wake up to every day right?! Every new room was so impressive and massive, it makes you feel like the smallest thing in the house. After these rooms our English-speaking tour guide (who sounded more like a computer program and he might as well have spoke Chinese) told us that we were going to see the most impressive room in the whole house and all I could think was 'how could anything be more impressive than what I have just seen?' and boy was he right. I walked in and my mouth dropped. The hall we strolled into is called Muayede Hall and definitley was the most stunning room in the whole house (if it's even possible to have a most stunning room.)I wish that my pictures did it justice but it was just magnificent. Just to put it in perspective, here are a few fast facts about Hall: it is 6500 square feet, is 118 feet high, has a 400 square foot Turkish rug and a ridiculous amount of gold. Here is a shot of the ceiling. There was even a chandelier they say weighs 4.5 tons and has 664 light bulbs. It was great to look at, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if it fell...ha! I wonder if I am the only person who thinks that...
After the Palace portion of the tour we headed to the Harem where the women lived (when there was a Sultan) and where the bedrooms were located after there were no longer Sultans. This building was scaled down quite a lot but was still very important because it has the most important room to Turks. Thier first president and founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, lived here in the summers and actually died in one of the rooms. This is a photo of his bed where he died, very sad. He died at 9:05 and all the clocks in the room remain set at this time. Alp said he was a great leader and this is a very sad room for all Turks, as he is the namesake of thier entire country. Every year on the day that he died at 9:05, all Turkish people stop doing whatever they are doing and cheer for Atatürk. Alp told me that taxi drivers even stop driving, get out of thier cars in the middle of the road and cheer. Amazing national pride in Turkey.
After our tours, we headed to the Grand Bazaar, another famous Turkish spot. It somewhat reminded me of NYC Chinatown, but more interesting. There is also an inside area named Spice Market, where you, obviously, buy spices and other trinkets and such. There were so many people bustling around and bargaining prices! I tried what Alp says is the famous candy that Turkey has...the Turkish Delite (the blog namesake) which is a chewy candy that has powdered sugar on it and sometimes nuts. I was a bit nervous but after tasting it, decided I liked it haha. I didn't eat too many because we had just eaten a delicious authentic Turkish lunch and I was verrrry full. At lunch I had tried a whole bunch of different Turkish meats with breads, yogurt and veggies, all of which were delicious. After poking around the booths we headed home to rest up for a busy night.
I met many of Alp's Turkish friends, who I thought spoke no English at first. However, when we went out and they had a couple drinks...they amazingly spoke some English. Here is a shot of me, Alp and one of his friends Ibrahim, who was a blast and giggled everytime he said anything English. I guess they were nervous to talk to me at first, thinking I would laugh at thier bad grammar, but I told Alp to remind them that I speak with students everyday who don't speak great English, so it definitley wouldn't bother me one bit! So, they ended up speaking English with me, and funny thing is, we ended up at a karaoke bar, where I sang in Turkish hahahaha. How impossible! Can you read any of those words?? Like I said before, I speak no Turkish except now for hello, but I did my best to read the screen and sang which they seemed to appreciate haha. It was actually really fun and provided lots of laughter :D After a few hours of singing we grabbed some Turkish late night food...of which I knew none. I let other people order for me (something I RARELY do) and ended up with a tasty tomato and something soup, and some crazy Turkish pizza...delicious.
At about 5am we called it a night. I had an amazing time and wished the night didn't have to end becaue I knew I would have to go home the next day....sadddddd. I know I know, it's not so sad to have to go back to Spain, but I was having a blast and was only able to stay for 2 days! Hopefully I can go back and visit another time. There is way too much history to learn about, people to meet, places to eat and things to see to accomplish it all in two days, so I would love to return! More to come on my journey home in a different blog though...off to sleep now! Hope you enjoyed :D