Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Today was the first day of the trip that we got to sleep in. The rest of the trip so far has been loaded with wake-up calls at 6-7 AM followed by 12 hr days of touring or travelling. Today however we woke up at the crack of 11:15 to get a late breakfast and take pictures as the ship pulled into the Istanbul cruise terminal.
At 1:30 we, and the cats, left the ship and met our tour guide Deniz, for a tour of the Topkapi Palace Museum.j
Deniz gave us some background on the Ottoman Empire and the Sultanate system in shady cool areas with adequate seating. Some which all of us greatly appreciated. She had a wealth of information to share, much more than any of us could retain. But it did provide for some good wikipedia binging when we get back home (when the internet doesn’t cost $0.79/min and move at the breakneck speed of 2400 bps, thanks Celebrity Cruises).
Inside the palace we saw Baroque architecture and art interspersed with Arabic reliefs. We saw some of the meeting areas for the government of the Empire, the old mint building, and the imperial gardens.
Later we toured the Harem area. Unlike the myths of western culture, the harem was a private area for women that were sold to the Sultan or given as gifts. The Harem also included classrooms for the women who lived there. We also toured the private residence of the Sultan and his family. It was here that we learned of the kill-or-be-killed succession rules for the Sultanate; as well as the education and marrying systems for the intellectual and political elites of the Empire. We also saw the treasure rooms which included various thrones from different Sultans, gifts to Sultans, and very ornate jewelry (including an 86-carat diamond!).
By the time we finished touring the Palace we had to get back to the ship for dinner and get ready for our next excursion. Along the way back we saw some of the sights we’ll explore tomorrow, such as the Blue Mosque.
After a short dinner in the Oceanview Cafe we left the ship to go on a night cruise on the Bosphorous River. Rachel and Barry spent much of the early parts of the trip competing to take pictures of the many sights along the river. Meanwhile the crew kept us well fed with local appetizers and free drinks.
About halfway through the cruise, a belly dancer came out to entertain the crowd and dance with people on the boat (including Ryan). After, the DJ on the ship kept the dance music going for the ride back.
Tomorrow we continue exploring Istanbul.
Total steps: 11,973
Total times Rachel got out of a hot tub without injuring herself: 6 (of out 6)