Showing posts from April, 2014

The Archaeology Museum, Üsküdar

My last day in Istanbul was a day for tying up loose ends. I had already visited all the "greatest hits" on my list, so to speak, and looking at what else to do there were four options: the Museum of Islamic Arts, the Kariye Museum, the Archaeology Museum and a visit to Üsküdar.

The Museum of Islamic Arts is closed for renovations and the Kariye Museum looked really far away at two or three tram transfers, so that narrowed down the list of eligible museums down to one: the Archaeology Museum, which is right next to Topkapi Palace, accessible either from the First Court itself, or from Gülhane park. It spans three buildings, the main one being a big Neoclassical construction that houses most of the collection. There's also a small pavilion with blue tiles:

I don't know if there was something in the water today, but when I got to the ticket booth the poor man and woman inside were having to deal with an old French lady who kept listing names of palaces and museums at t…

Dolmabahçe, Istiklal, Galata

My entire stay so far had been confined to the same landmass, so today it was time for a change! I hopped on the tram and crossed the Golden Horn, via the Galata Bridge, up to the district of Beyoglu, the modern, cool quarter of Istanbul.
But first I went to the palace of Dolmabahçe, which is further up north, just on the seaside. Although both Topkapi and Dolmabahçe were the residences of sultans (the former in ancient times, the latter from the mid-19th century onwards), the two couldn't possibly be more different. Where Topkapi is a shining example of Ottoman splendor at its finest, Dolmabahçe is all Western excess and Baroque garishness. If Elvis Presley had lived in the 1850s, this is the palace he would have designed: gold leaf everywhere, trompe-l'oeil paintings on every ceiling, and lots, lots of Baccarat crystal. The huge staircase in the main hall is outfitted with crystal banisters, not to mention the enormous chandeliers made entirely out of crystal, both hanging an…

The Bazaars

After the historical, contemplative visits of this past couple of days, it was time for something a bit more vibrant: I went to the Grand Bazaar!
I wasn't sure at first whether it was within walking distance or tram distance, looking at the map, so let me save you the trouble: it's a mere 15 min walk from Sultanahmet tram station. It's all the same street until Çemberlitas, the Burnt Column, and then up north for a short while.
The entrance to the Grand bazaar looks like that of a pedestrian tunnel, but once inside I found myself in a bustling, sprawling, labyrinthine network of covered streets and galleries. The only way to really appreciate the age of the place is to look at the roof, where aged and faded paintings remain from times past, because there are no walls to be seen anywhere: every square inch of surface is being used to display merchandise. It's like a Muslim Akihabara: just as seizure-inducing, except with touts everywhere.

I began by wandering around, getti…