Viruses, scary answers and blue hair

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Istanbul University's grand entrance, as seen from the court yard of the Bayezid II Mosque.
Istanbul University’s grand entrance, as seen from the court yard of the Bayezid II Mosque.

3/22/15 Trying to get over a killer virus. The same one that’s going around school. Everyone has it. And it seems like about 3 weeks into any new country, I’m going to succumb to some bug. It’s no wonder, since I’m sure my immune system is bombarded with lots of new bacteria, viruses and the like. My theory is that by the time I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ll either have a super human immune system. Or something with kill me. One of those options.

Part of my job as an English teacher is to get my students talking. I play a game called “What If.” I have lots of “what if” questions that they draw from an envelope. It’s a great way to practice talking in English and (usually) we all get to laugh. This week I got the sweetest answer ever. The young man drew the question, “What if you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead. Who would it be?” He answered that he would have dinner with his girlfriend. When I asked “why” he said, “Because I don’t have girlfriend. I want to meet girlfriend!” Awwwwww!

And sometimes you get scary answers, too. Scary answers that don’t make any sense. One young man in the same class got the question, “What if you could commit any crime and get away with it. What would you do?” He answered that he first wanted to run barefoot for 20km. He would run as fast as he could in the dark along the highway. He said that he would be tired and that his feet would bleed. Then he would find his enemy and cut his throat with a knife. There was no mistaking his meaning. He demonstrated the action of cutting the throat. Twice.  Then he fell silent, along with the rest of the room, as he seemed to be picturing it in his mond. Trying not to react, I asked, after a pregnant pause, if he had an enemy. “No.” he said. Then smiled broadly, as if this was obviously the perfect answer.

The young man is not Turkish. He’s Iranian and his family left there a few years ago. They are now refuges. I find I get very odd answers from Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian refuge students. I imagine this is an aspect of war, dictatorship and oppression that we don’t think about. Eeeek.

The Bayezid II Mosque (Turkish: Beyazıt Camii, Bayezid Camii) is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Beyazıt Square area of Istanbul, Turkey, near the ruins of the Forum of Theodosius of ancient Constantinople. Though the square is still there, little remains of the forum. It's believed that it is constructed from former buildings on the site. As with many old buildings, there is constant re-construction.
The Bayezid II Mosque (Turkish: Beyazıt Camii, Bayezid Camii) is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Beyazıt Square area of Istanbul, Turkey, near the ruins of the Forum of Theodosius of ancient Constantinople. Though the square is still there, little remains of the forum. It’s believed that it is constructed from former buildings on the site. As with many old buildings, there is constant re-construction.

3/23/15

The virus isn’t gone, but I’m getting better. I had enough energy today to finish moving into my new apartment, do a second load of laundry, make a list of things I need to organize the room,  buy most of the items AND I still had time to do my lesson plan, answer some emails, get updated on social media, shower and wash my hair.  Then I had PIE for a late lunch. (it totally rocks to have a roommate who is a baker!) And that’s about the time I realized I had gotten ink in my freshly washed hair. Yeah. No idea how it got there. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t see where it came from. Other than on my hands, I can find no other ink staining anything. And now there’s no time to re-wash my hair and get it dry in time for school (I don’t own a blow dryer). SO I’m going to pretend it’s intentional. Think I can pull this off as a fashion statement? I found a scarf with the same shade of blue…..maybe a hat? (I the end, my students thought it was great! Even some of the younger teachers commented how great it looked. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was a huge mistake.)

The interior of the mosque is patterned after the Hagia Sophia on a smaller scale. It was built shortly after the Ottoman conquest (1453). The surrounding külliye complex (madrasah, primary school, imaret (public kitchen) and hammam), date from 1501 to 1506.
The interior of the mosque is patterned after the Hagia Sophia on a smaller scale. It was built shortly after the Ottoman conquest (1453). The surrounding külliye complex (madrasah, primary school, imaret (public kitchen) and hammam), date from 1501 to 1506.
There is constant construction going on in this city--much of it reconstruction to save ancient buildings.
There is constant construction going on in this city–much of it reconstruction to save ancient buildings.

3/26/15

I got a chance to talk to one of my new roommates, Trudy, yesterday. We are of similar age and sounds like our backgrounds have much in common as well. I really hope to spend a lot of time with her in future.  Anyway, she is also teaching at English Time at a branch that is very nearby, Avjular. Seems like it is a small branch, with mostly weekend classes. And that’s where she met Edgar, one of the new teachers who started a day earlier than I did. Edgar is a “piece of work” and really difficult to love. He’s been a bit “handy” with me. I put on my “mommy is angry” voice and told him I was old enough to be his mother and I was NOT interested in his advances. He’s barely spoken to me since. Fortunately.  Edgar is a very proud Mexican American. Nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, BUT he was hired as a native English speaker to teach English. The only language he wants to use is Spanish. I’m not convinced that English is really his first language—his speaking is very poor. He has awful grammar and worse pronunciation. I’d guess his writing is even worse than that. So, under the best of circumstances, he’s going to have difficulty teaching grammar to others, even modeling good grammar to others. But he is constantly speaking Spanish. AND he has been caught teaching his students Spanish, as well. Robert (the head teacher at Sirineviler) has warned him.

But Trudy didn’t know all this. She was just trying to teach her speaking activity—a one hour class of open speaking for any student who came by to talk. Edgar had already been too familiar with her (maybe he has a thing for older women?) and suggested that they could be “an item”—which she shot down immediately. But then he came into her activity class and took over. First he told the students that they needed to learn Spanish, NOT English. Then he suggested that Arabic and Chinese (Chinese is NOT a language) were also more important than English. He spoke too fast for these beginner level students, popped his gum constantly and began explaining that they needed Spanish so that they could party in Mexico and dance with chicas. Trudy got him out of the classroom, but her activity was ruined. She reported it to the head teacher at that branch and to Richard, the Istanbul HR manager. Today, I told Richard about the conversation. I don’t know what the other branch will do, but Richard has already talked to Edgar and told him that he should consider himself on final warning. The school has decided that he is on his own for finding a place to live—I assume that means they believe he will wash out.  At least I hope so.

I have looked and can’t seem to find a Swiffer–or anything quite like it. But at least they have vacuum cleaners in Turkey, unlike Vietnam. I can use the one in the apartment. The place is “fairly” well furnished, but missing a few items. Too many renters means that most of the glasses have seen better days–chips and cracks or broken and thrown away. I bought a mug just for my use and a couple of ceramic frying pans that were on sale. I plan to use them and leave them here.

But the apartment is roomy, light and I have a very large private bedroom. I really like all my roommates. It’s like having ready, made friends. Everyone is quiet, respectful and good sense of humor. I seldome have to clean up after anyone. I feel so lucky to have wandered into a good crowd. AND there’s a housekeeper who comes in every other week to do the big stuff. Yeah!

This is the entry way of the Bayezid II Mosque. Artwork abounds in these lovely old buildings--but the art is mostly flowers and Arabic or Persian script. Islam does not allow pictures (icons) of saints or gods.
This is the entry way of the Bayezid II Mosque. Artwork abounds in these lovely old buildings–but the art is mostly flowers and Arabic or Persian script. Islam does not allow pictures (icons) of saints or gods.

Work Schedule: Right now, I’m working M-F evening (3 hours each night), plus some one hour activity classes twice a week. I also have a 4 hour Sunday class and a floating 2 hour private lesson (most weeks). As time progresses I’ll probably end up teaching full days on the weekend (8 hours each day) and take two days off through the week. Looks like a more solid schedule, that’s easier to maintain.  The students are young adults, mainly. Most are going to university or are working fulltime. They take the English Time courses to meet a college requirement or for their job. The classes are very intense and focus heavily on grammar. I’m glad that I’ve started with two Level one classes (there are 6 levels) so that I can brush up on grammar as I teach!  I know almost nothing about holidays here–suspect Christmas and Easter are barely even mentioned but Ramadan (called Ramazan, here) is bound to be big. I am told that the class schedule in the summer is really light, so I might have a bit of time off.  Or not. Anyway, everything here is soooooo much better than the situation in Vietnam. Bien Hoa seems like a bad dream. Glad I could go there but very glad to be gone.

It's Spring! These iris will bloom soon!
It’s Spring! These iris will bloom soon! These were taken in a small, but well kept cemetery in the heart of the Grand Bazaar district.

I’m told that Istanbul gets snow once a year. It was the week before I came, so I fortunately missed out. Spring is in full force here–flowers beginning to bloom and leaves appearing on trees. Atlanta will be much the same right now.

No plans for where I will go next, but I’ve got a lead on a job in St. Petersburg, Russia (brrrrr!) and the school I’m at now (English Time) has already told me I can sign another contract and stay in Istanbul or I could move to another location in Turkey. Antalya is a Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast–an old Roman city with the original seaport, city wall and aqueduct.  It’s a thought!

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My new apartment in Istanbul

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The view from my terrace. That's the Sea of Marmara past the buildings. When I'm feeling better, I'll walk to it. With so many people in this city, the water system can't quite cope, so we drink bottled water or at least boil the water before using.
The view from my terrace. That’s the Sea of Marmara past the buildings. When I’m feeling better, I’ll walk to it. With so many people in this city, the water system can’t quite cope, so we drink bottled water or at least boil the water before using.

3/25/2015
I slept 10 hours last night and slowly this virus is lifting. I find that traveling to a new country guarantees you are exposed to new “bugs” of all kinds, so eventually you are going to succumb to one. So far three weeks seems to be when I get sick. Will be glad when I am completely well again but I’m better each day.
In the meantime, I’ve been able to take a few photos of my new apartment. I moved in Friday March 20ith and have worked each day in addition to battling this cold, so it’s all I could do to get organized. It’s located in Şükrübey (pronounced: Shuk Ru Bay) and is just 8 metro bus stops from my school branch.

I have SIX roommates—but it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Upstairs are Katt (Canadian, tall and thin, organized and smart) and her husband Ali (Turkish, handsome and fluent in English) and Trudy (Canadian, hilariously funny and about my age. We are going to be such good friends). Katt and Ali own the apartment and another across the hall that is also rented to teachers. There is a large living room, huge terrace on their level. They share a kitchen and a bath on that floor. I’m on the lower (entrance) floor with Victoria (late 20’s, vegetarian, from Georgia, USA. She actually asked me if I knew where Dahlonaga, GA was!), Mags (late 20’s, amazing cook, funny), and Augustine (early 20’s, very tall, very thin, from South Africa). Our floor has a small terrace, medium sized kitchen, very large bath and the entry way to the apartment. Everyone is fairly clean and quiet, so far. No complaints.

My bedroom is called the gray room. View from the hallway door. It is located across from the bathroom. We each have private bedrooms. Mine is twice the size of the hotel room I just left. Good light, radiator heating. There's a washer, but we use drying racks for clothes (mine is against the wall).
My bedroom is called the gray room. View from the hallway door. It is located across from the huge bathroom. We each have private bedrooms. Mine is twice the size of the hotel room I just left. Good light, radiator heating. There’s a clothes washer in the bathroom, but no dryer. We each use drying racks for clothes (mine is against the wall).
Bedroom, view from the window. Glad I don't have much stuff, because that closet is all I have. But I am used to small spaces and have gotten a few items, like the tubs on top of the wardrobe, a bowl for fresh fruit and the hot pot on the desk. The bed has an interesting storage system under the mattress, called a bazaar--I have my backpack and suitcase under there and there is lots of other room if I needed it. Notice the bottle of water to the left--we drink bottled water or at least boiled water.
Bedroom, view from the window. Glad I don’t have much stuff, because that closet is all I have. But I am used to small spaces and have gotten a few items, like the tubs on top of the wardrobe, a bowl for fresh fruit and the hot pot on the desk. The bed has an interesting storage system under the mattress, called a bazaar–I have my backpack and suitcase under there and there is lots of other room if I needed it. Notice the bottle of water to the left–we drink bottled water or at least boiled water.

The apartment is well situated. I’ve not been well enough to investigate the neighborhood fully, but there is a small grocery in the bottom floor of the apartment building and a large one across the road. I am half a block from the metro bus line. Here are the parts I find amazing: 10. The road in front of my apartment building is part of the old Silk Road. Imagine the history. And 2). You can see the Sea of Marmara from the terrace window. I can walk to the sea!

I am so lucky. I love my life.

This is the kitchen I share with three others. There is another kitchen upstairs for the three occupants of that floor.  Gas oven. There aren't quite enough pieces of cookware or glasses. I'll probably end up adding to the supply. There is a small terrace outside this kitchen.
This is the kitchen I share with three others. There is another kitchen upstairs for the three occupants of that floor. Gas oven. There aren’t quite enough pieces of cookware or glasses. I’ll probably end up adding to the supply. There is a small terrace outside this kitchen.
The large living room upstairs is shared by everyone. There's wifi and cable TV. The door opens to the terrace.
The large living room upstairs is shared by everyone. There’s wifi and cable TV. The door opens to the terrace.
We are on the top level of the apartment building, so it's a great terrace and wraps around to the other side as well. There's a grill too.
We are on the top level of the apartment building, so it’s a great terrace and wraps around to the other side as well. There’s a grill too.
View from the terrace. Istanbul is a HUGE city. The "official " estimate is 20 million people. The unofficial estimate is 30 million. The road below was part of the Silk Road. The middle of the road is the metro bus lane. Buses run every minute or two. It takes 15-25 minutes to get to school from the time I leave my front door.
View from the terrace. Istanbul is a HUGE city. The “official ” estimate is 20 million people. The unofficial estimate is 30 million. The road below was part of the Silk Road. The middle of the road is the metro bus lane. Buses run every minute or two. It takes 15-25 minutes to get to school from the time I leave my front door.

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Hagia Eirene, Istanbul

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This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.
This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Greek: “Holy Peace”, Turkish: Aya İrini), sometimes known also as Saint Irene. It is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace, near Gulhane Park in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Tuesday. The church was dedicated by Constantine to the peace of God, and is one of the three shrines which the Emperor devoted to God’s attributes, together with Hagia Sophia (Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis (Force)

Personally, I didn’t think it was worth the 20TL they charged (The Archeology Museum only charged 15TL). There was no signage, no explanation, no decorations inside the church–just a very old, gutted building. I couldn’t get a good look at the dome, as there was netting stretched across the top–presumably to catch the pigeons–and their droppings–who clearly live here.

Hagia Eirene, Istanbul, Mar 2015, 3

You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.

According to Wikipedia: The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the first Hagia Irene [Reference?] church in the 4th century. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 360. From May to July 381 the First Council of Constantinople took place in the church. It was burned down during the Nika revolt in 532.[2] Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548.

Heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century, it dates in its present form largely from the repairs made at that time. The Emperor Constantine V ordered the restorations and had its interior decorated with mosaics and frescoes. Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in the city which retains its original atrium. A great cross in the half-dome above the main narthex, where the image of the Pantocrator or Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art; presumably it replaced earlier decoration. The church was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries.

The church measures 100 m × 32 m. It has the typical form of a Roman basilica, consisting of a nave and two aisles, divided by columns and pillars. It comprises a main space, a narthex, galleries and an atrium. The dome is 15m wide and 35m high and has twenty windows.

….After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II, the church was enclosed inside the walls of the Topkapi palace. The Janissaries used the church as an armoury. It was also used as a warehouse for war booty. During the reign of Sultan Ahmet III (1703–1730) it was converted into a weapons museum.

In 1846, Marshal of the Imperial Arsenal, Ahmed Fethi Paşa, made the church into a military antiques museum.  It was used as the Military Museum from 1908 until 1978 when it was turned over to the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

Today, the Hagia Irene serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances, due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristics and impressive atmosphere. Many of the concerts of the Istanbul International Music Festival have been held here every summer since 1980.

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A rainy day in Gülhane Park, Istanbul

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From a wall above the park you can see all the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you'd get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.
From a wall above the park you can see the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you’d get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.

Gülhane Park, or “Rosehouse Park,” is an historic urban park in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey. It used to be part of the Topkapı Palace. The south entrance of the park sports one of the larger gates of the palace. It is the oldest and one of the most expansive public parks in Istanbul. I found it a lovely, peaceful expanse of trees, flowers, benches and walkways–an escape from the busy, over-crowded city. I loved it, even if it drizzled the entire visit. It will be even more beautiful in April and May with flowers in bloom. It has it’s own tram stop (Tramvey).

Gulhane Park, Istanbul, March 2015, 2

This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
I was looking for the Goth's column, but it turns out this isn't it. The park's Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I'm not sure what this is. Anyone? This (from the internet, so you know it's true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is "the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established."
I was looking for the Goth’s column, but it turns out this isn’t it. The park’s Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I’m not sure what this is. Anyone? (from the internet, so you know it’s true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is “the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established.”

 

No idea what this is, except adorable.
No idea what this is, except adorable.
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn't just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn’t just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is the most unusual fountain I've seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city of various designs. Some dating back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. So far, I've stuck to bottled water.
This is the most unusual fountain I’ve seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city and they are of various designs. Some date back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. That’s what happens when you have a city of 20 to 30 million people. So far, I’ve stuck to bottled water.
It's not quite spring--but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
It’s not quite spring–but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. A section of the outer garden was planned as a park by the municipality and opened to the public in 1912. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park. It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I'll check that out someday.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. This park was planned opened to the public in 1912, though it’s gone through several renovations. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park (those are the buildings you see in the distance). It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I’ll check that out someday.

According to Wikipedia: “The namesake of the park, the Gülhane (“Rosehouse”) present on the grounds, was the place where the 1839 Edict of Gülhane (Turkish: Tanzimât Fermanı or Gülhane Hatt-ı Şerif-î) was proclaimed. The edict launched the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire, which modernized the empire and included changes such as the equalization of all Ottoman citizens, regardless of religion, before the law. The proclamation was made by Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha, a leading statesman, diplomat, and reformer in the Empire.”

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Dolmabahçe Palace

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This is the four story clock tower and the Dolmabahce Mosque in the background. The clock tower was added to Dolmabahçe Palace, It stands in front of the Treasury Gate along the European waterfront of Bosphorus. Designed in Ottoman neo-baroque style, thetower stands on a floor area of 8.5 × 8.5 m (28 × 28 ft) at a height of 27 m (89 ft).
This is the four story clock tower and the Dolmabahce Mosque in the background. The clock tower stands in front of the Treasury Gate along the European waterfront of Bosphorus. Designed in Ottoman neo-baroque style, the tower stands on a floor area of 8.5 × 8.5 m (28 × 28 ft) at a height of 27 m (89 ft).
My day started with a traditional Turkish breakfast (kahvalti): cheese (paynir), salad vegetables, bread(ekmek), egg (yumerta), honey (muz), olives (zeytin) and tea (cay). Yes, I learn all the food words easily.
My day started with a traditional Turkish breakfast (kahvalti): cheese (paynir), salad vegetables, bread(ekmek), egg (yumerta), honey (muz), olives (zeytin) and tea (cay). Yes, I learn all the food words easily.

Today I had a rare day off and decided to visit the Dolmabahçe (DOL MA BA CHAY) Palace, the last Ottoman Palace constructed. It is a mix of styles and frankly too opulent for it’s own good. It reminded me of a “small” man buying a fancy Lamborghini to impress the ladies, and doing so on credit. This isn’t far off the mark, either, since the Ottoman Empire was in decline when this palace was built and much of the money was borrowed.

I've missed clover! It was simply too hot to grow in south Vietnam. But I looked down and saw this 5 leaf clover just inside the Treasury Gate.
I’ve missed clover! It was simply too hot to grow in south Vietnam. But I looked down and saw this 5 leaf clover just inside the Treasury Gate.

I couldn’t take photos inside, so these are all taken outside the buildings. The palace has belonged to the state since 1924 and is now a museum. The cost to tour both the palace and the harem is 40 Turkish Lira (about $18US). The English tour guide for the palace spoke so poorly and with such a thick accent, I have no idea what he said–and I’m typically very good with accents. The guide for the haram was quite good and easy to understand.

If you say the words out loud, they often make sense.
If you say the words out loud, they often make sense.

The most amazing thing for me was the crystal staircase. It stunned visitors from the first. It is made of Baccarat Crystal and brass, with a polished mahogany rail. I was in awe of the numerous crystal chandeliers–every room seemed to have one or more. Just keeping them clean would have taken a small army! The Ceremonial Hall with its domed ceiling has (reportedly) the world’s heaviest chandelier, an estimated 4 tons. All the window treatments were rich and varied. The parquet floors were covered by lavish silk carpets. Even the doorknobs and keyhole covers were ornate, hand painted porcelain. But the mish-mash of styles and over-abundance of gold leaf was too much for me–like someone trying too hard. Lavish, but unlivable.

The Treasury Gate. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It has an area of 45,000 square meters (11.2 acres), and contains 285 rooms (150 in the haram), 46 halls, 6 baths (hamam) and 68 toilets (most are ornate, marble holes in the floor). The huge expense of building this palace--roughly 35 tons of gold--placed an enormous burden on the state and contributed to the  financial decline of the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, it slid into bankruptcy and was known as the "sick man of Europe" by European powers.
The Treasury Gate. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It has an area of 45,000 square meters (11.2 acres), and contains 285 rooms (150 in the haram), 46 halls, 6 baths (hamam) and 68 toilets (most are ornate, marble holes in the floor).
The huge expense of building this palace–roughly 35 tons of gold–placed an enormous burden on the state and contributed to the financial decline of the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, it slid into bankruptcy and was known as the “sick man of Europe.”
View of the palace from the waterfront. The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosphorus strait, used for the Ottoman fleet. The area was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much appreciated by the Ottoman sultans. This is where the name comes from. Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning "filled" and bahçe meaning "garden." Various small summer palaces and wooden pavilions were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries ultimately forming a palace complex.
View of the palace from the waterfront. The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosphorus strait, used for the Ottoman fleet. The area was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much adored by the Ottoman sultans. This is where the name comes from: Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning “filled” and bahçe meaning “garden.” Various small summer palaces and wooden pavilions were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries ultimately forming a palace complex.
The Dolmabahçe Mosque was commissioned by queen mother Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan. After she died, Sultan Abdülmecid, her son, continued to support the construction of the mosque, which was completed in 1855
The Dolmabahçe Mosque was commissioned by queen mother Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan. After she died, Sultan Abdülmecid, her son, continued to support the construction of the mosque, which was completed in 1855.
Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and family had lived at the Topkapı Palace (which I will see later since it is also a museum), but  the medieval Topkapı lacked contemporary style, luxury, and comfort. The sultan wanted something to compare with the palaces of the European monarchs, Abdülmecid built a new modern palace, using mostly borrowed funds from foreign interests and a devaluing the currency by issuing lots of paper money.
Dolmabahçe Palace was built by the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, between 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and family had lived at the Topkapı Palace (which I will see later). The medieval Topkapı lacked contemporary style, luxury and comfort. The sultan wanted something to compare with the palaces of European monarchs. Abdülmecid built a modern palace, using mostly borrowed funds from foreign interests and by a devaluing the currency by issuing lots of paper money.

Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul, March 2015, 13

One of the entrance gates. Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six Sultans from 1856  until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi, who was banish from Turkey along with his family in 1924.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers. He enacted some of his most important legislation here. Atatürk spent the last days here as well, dying in one of the bedrooms  on November 10, 1938 at 9:05. all of the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time in his honor.
The Sultan’s entrance gate. Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six Sultans from 1856 until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi, who was banish from Turkey along with his family.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summer. He enacted some of his most important legislation here. Atatürk spent his last days here as well, dying in one of the bedrooms on November 10, 1938 at 9:05a. All of the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time in his honor.
Tomb of Hoca Ahmet Turani. I could find nothing about him on the web and I can't read Turkish. Yet. But this grave is in the garden area of the palace.
Tomb of Hoca Ahmet Turani. I could find nothing about him on the web and I can’t read Turkish. Yet. But this grave is in the garden area of the palace.

The following are NOT my photos. All are licensed by Wikimedia Commons. I use them since I could not take photos and I want you to see some the inside palace.

Façade of the Selamlik--the entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. by OscarKosy
Façade of the Selamlik–the entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.  The gardens will be beautiful in about a month. You could already see tulips and other bulbs pushing their way out of the ground. This photo must have been taken in Spring or early summer. Photo by OscarKosy.
The chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria, and may be the heaviest in the world. The domed ceiling alone with worth the visit.  Ceremonial hall,  Dolmabahce March 2008 pano4" by Gryffindor
The chandelier, gifted by Queen Victoria, may be the heaviest in the world. The domed ceiling alone with worth the visit.
Ceremonial hall, Dolmabahce March 2008 pano4″ by Gryffindor
Baccarat crystal balusters of the Crystal Staircase "Dolmabahce Baccarat bannister" by Peace01234
Baccarat crystal balusters of the Crystal Staircase
“Dolmabahce Baccarat bannister” by Peace01234
Ambassador's Hall (Süfera Salonu) with two bearskin rugs--the bears looked like they needed dusting. The standing chandeliers were beautiful.  "Ambassador Hall Dolmabahce March 2008panoc" by Gryffindor
Ambassador’s Hall (Süfera Salonu) with two bearskin rugs–the bears looked like they needed dusting. The standing chandeliers were beautiful.
“Ambassador Hall Dolmabahce March 2008panoc” by Gryffindor
Blue Hall "Dolmabahce Palace ced" by Mircea Ostoia - originally posted to Flickr
Blue Hall
“Dolmabahce Palace ced” by Mircea Ostoia – originally posted to Flickr
The Pink Hall "Dolmabahce Palacasdfe" by Mircea Ostoia - originally posted to Flickr
The Pink Hall
“Dolmabahce Palacasdfe” by Mircea Ostoia – originally posted to Flickr
The bed Ataturk died in.  "Ataturk deathbed Dolmabahce March 2008" by Gryffindor
The bed Ataturk died in.
“Ataturk deathbed Dolmabahce March 2008″ by Gryffindor
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Hippodrome of Constantinople

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Current day Sultan Ahmet Square--the former "spine" of the Roman Hippodrome.
Current day Sultan Ahmet Square–the former “spine” of the Roman Hippodrome.

Only part of the spine (spina) of the old Roman Hippodrome remains in Istanbul. It was in disrepair when the Ottoman Turks invaded the city in 1452, and allowed to fall into ruins after,  though there are a few painting showing the Ottomans using the structure. The Hippodrome was the “circus,” a gigantic stadium for chariot racing and other sporting events. It was also the center of society in Constantinople. Originally laid out by Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, in the 3rd century, it was enlarged by Constantine to hold 100,000 people.

What remains is now called the Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) and is a park. In fact, much of the hippodrome was destroyed, along with the palaces of some Ottoman dignitaries, in the 17th century to build the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, better known to tourist as The Blue Mosque. The road ringing this elongated park follows the path the chariots took during a race.

My guidebook add: “Conspicuous by its absence is the column which once stood on the spot where the tourist information office is now located. This was topped by four bronze horses which were pillaged during the Fourth Crusades…and taken to St. Mark’s in Venice.”  I managed to see these when I was in Venice!

Below are some of the treasures located on the square. Most were moved here (i.e stolen) from other locations.

From Wikipedia: The German Fountain ("The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain"), an octagonal domed fountain in neo-Byzantine style, which was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898, is located at the northern entrance to the Hippodrome area, right in front of the Blue Mosque.
Here’s a piece that wasn’t stolen, but build here. From Wikipedia: The German Fountain (“The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain”), an octagonal domed fountain in neo-Byzantine style, which was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II’s visit to Istanbul in 1898, is located at the northern entrance to the Hippodrome area, right in front of the Blue Mosque.
Mosaics for the dome of the fountain.
Mosaics under the dome of the fountain. I saw a few guys drinking from the fountain, but it is really for washing before prayers. Besides, all the guidebooks say don’t drink the water here. I’ve stuck with bottled water, so far.

Hippodrome, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 3

Obelisk of Theodosius is part of an Egyptian obelisk. From Wikipedia: Another emperor to adorn the Hippodrome was Theodosius the Great, who in 390[5] brought an obelisk from Egypt and erected it inside the racing track. Carved from pink granite, it was originally erected at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor during the reign of Thutmose III in about 1490 BC. Theodosius had the obelisk cut into three pieces and brought to Constantinople. The top section survives, and it stands today where Theodosius placed it, on a marble pedestal. The obelisk has survived nearly 3,500 years in astonishingly good condition.
Obelisk of Theodosius is part of a much larger Egyptian obelisk. From Wikipedia: Another emperor to adorn the Hippodrome was Theodosius the Great, who in 390 brought an obelisk from Egypt and erected it inside the racing track. Carved from pink granite, it was originally erected at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor during the reign of Thutmose III in about 1490 BC. Theodosius had the obelisk cut into three pieces and brought to Constantinople. The top section survives, and it stands today where Theodosius placed it, on a marble pedestal. The obelisk has survived nearly 3,500 years in astonishingly good condition.
Hippodrome, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 9

The base of the Egyptian Obelisk shows Emperor Theodosius as he offers a laurel wreath to the winner of the games in the Hippodrome.
The base of the Egyptian Obelisk shows Emperor Theodosius as he offers a laurel wreath to the winner of the games in the Hippodrome. The bases of these old monuments were covered with dirt as the ground level rose over the years. All of them now sit in pits, dug out so you can see the base.
Hippodrome, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 12
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There isn't much of the Serpent column left. From Wikipedia: To raise the image of his new capital, Constantine and his successors, especially Theodosius the Great, brought works of art from all over the empire to adorn it. The monuments were set up in the middle of the Hippodrome, the spina. Among these was the Tripod of Plataea, now known as the Serpent Column, cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. Constantine ordered the Tripod to be moved from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and set in middle of the Hippodrome. The top was adorned with a golden bowl supported by three serpent heads. The bowl was destroyed or stolen during the Fourth Crusade. The serpent heads were destroyed as late as the end of the 17th Century, as many Ottoman miniatures show they were intact in the early centuries following the Turkish conquest of the city.[4] Parts of the heads were recovered and are displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. All that remains of the Delphi Tripod today is the base, known as the "Serpentine Column".
There isn’t much of the Serpent Column left. You can see The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) in the background. From Wikipedia: To raise the image of his new capital, Constantine and his successors, especially Theodosius the Great, brought works of art from all over the empire to adorn it. The monuments were set up in the middle of the Hippodrome, the spina. Among these was the Tripod of Plataea, now known as the Serpent Column, cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. Constantine ordered the Tripod to be moved from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and set in middle of the Hippodrome. The top was adorned with a golden bowl supported by three serpent heads. The bowl was destroyed or stolen during the Fourth Crusade. The serpent heads were destroyed as late as the end of the 17th Century, as many Ottoman miniatures show they were intact in the early centuries following the Turkish conquest of the city. Parts of the heads were recovered and are displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. All that remains of the Delphi Tripod today is the base, known as the “Serpentine Column”.
The Archaeology museum is located nearby. I plan to visit very soon!

Hippodrome, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 14

 

The walled column. From Wikipedia: In the 10th century the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus built another obelisk at the other end of the Hippodrome. It was originally covered with gilded bronze plaques, but they were sacked by Latin troops in the Fourth Crusade. The stone core of this monument also survives, known as the Walled Obelisk.
The Walled Column/Obelisk. From Wikipedia: In the 10th century the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus built another obelisk at the other end of the Hippodrome. It was originally covered with gilded bronze plaques, but they were sacked by Latin troops in the Fourth Crusade. The stone core of this monument also survives, known as the Walled Obelisk.

 

There's lots of new (to me) wildlife. Not sure what this bird is called, but he was large, about the size of a large raven.
There’s lots of new (to me) wildlife. Not sure what this bird is called, but he was big, about the size of a large raven.
Lots of street vendors. This one is selling roasted chestnuts and corn for 2Turkish Lira--a bit less than 1US dollar.
Lots of street vendors. This one is selling roasted chestnuts (stacked on the left) and ears of roasted corn for 2 Turkish Lira–a bit less than 1US dollar.

 

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The Basilica Cistern

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Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 2

I’m trying to see all the great sites while I’m here in Istanbul. You simply cannot believe all the history, architecture, museums and fascinating places inside this great city. I feel lucky to be here.

Today, I’m sharing the photos from a recent trip to the Cistern Basilica, a large holding tank for water for the city. In Turkish it is called Yerebatan Sarnıcı – “Sunken Cistern.”  The entrance is near The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It was build during the Byzantine Period, roughly 532AD, and was filled with water from the Belgrade forest, about 25km (15miles) away. It was used until the 16th Century.

There are very few water sources inside the old city of Istanbul (previously known as Byzantium, New Rome and Constantinople). When the city was attacked, the strong walls would keep them safe, but they could run out of water, This underground reservoir is the largest of several built to supply the city with fresh water. The water came from many miles away through the Valens aqueduct, part of which still stands today.
There are very few water sources inside the old city of Istanbul (previously known as Byzantium, New Rome and Constantinople, among others). When the city was attacked, the strong walls would keep the population safe, but they were at risk of running out of water! This underground reservoir is the largest of several built to supply the city with fresh water. The water came from many miles away through the Valens aqueduct, part of which still stands today.
Same photo, but with flash. This shows the arched brickwork of the ceiling a bit better.
Same photo, but with flash. This shows the arched brickwork of the ceiling a bit better.
It's pretty dark inside, so some of these photos were difficult to get. You can't use a tripod, so you have to steady the camera against something. Originally, the water might have gone to the ceiling. Now, it's just a few feet deep with carp swimming in it and platforms you can walk on over the water.
It’s pretty dark inside, so some of these photos were difficult to get. You can’t use a tripod, so you have to steady the camera against something. I had to hold most photos for 3-5 second. Originally, the water might have gone to the ceiling. Now, it’s just a few feet deep with carp swimming in it and platforms you can walk on over the water.

 

This is one of two Medusa heads used as the base for a column. This one is on its side. All the columns were "recycled" from the ruins of other buildings--many ruined during the Nika Riots of 532. There is a combination of different columns--Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.
This is one of two Medusa heads used as the base for a column. This one is on its side. All the columns were “recycled” from the ruins of other buildings–many destroyed during the Nika Riots of 532. There is a combination of different column capitals–Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.
Here is another Medusa head, this one upside down. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways or upside-down in order to reduce their power.
Here is another Medusa head, this one upside down. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways or upside-down in order to reduce their power.

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Mar 5, 2015, 6

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, which is only partly true. Constantine had a cistern built on this site, but it was enlarged and rebuild later under Justinian.  This is the structure we see today. Despite the name, it was never used as a church, though it may have been build beneath the site of a church and it is certainly large enough to be one!
The cistern was used as one location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, which is only partly true. Constantine had a cistern built on this site, but it was enlarged and rebuild under Emperor Justinian. This is the structure we see today. Despite the name, it was never used as a church, though it may have been build beneath the site of a church and it is certainly large enough to be one!
This would be a perfect place to go on a hot summer day--very cool. But it is also wet and slippery. While I'm glad I saw it, it was a bit pricy at 20 Turkish Lira and another 20 for the audio tour. If you go, skip the audio.
This would be a perfect place to go on a hot summer day–very cool. But it is also wet and slippery. While I’m glad I saw it, it was a bit pricy at 20 Turkish Lira and another 20 for the audio tour. If you go, skip the audio.
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