3/16/13 (Recorded on 3/17):
Day 2 dawns, dark, cold, wet. So much water. Everywhere puddles eat my shoes. Chicken nuggets for breakfast...why not? Here at Hotel Mosaic I think of Hotel Zlaty Andel on that small Czech square. I find myself thinking often of the Czech's here. Same vibe, but the Czech's are a kinder gentler people. Perhaps years of communist rule mellows a country out. Dissertation topic perhaps?
Much to do this day, and buckets of rain with 40ºF temps won't stop our group from standing out and doing them. More hippodrome and more rain. Removing our shoes we enter the Blue Mosque. Over 26,000 blue and red tiles cover the walls and ceiling. For a first visit to a mosque, this is a fairly magnificent specimen.
Being in the mosque without shoes makes me aware that my shoes have already sprung multiple leaks, which will only get worse throughout the day. However, must move forward. Snap a few pictures, and gather outside for a walk to Hagia Sofia. Build in five years, over 500 years ago, it is massive. 37,000 workers were needed to do it. ~160 ft to the top of the dome. Mosaics lost to time mix with Islamic symbols as Rome lost to the Turks and East met West when the Turks captured the city in 1453. Odd to see Jesus and Mary above a Muslim alter, but the respect paid to the mosaics seems unreal in this modern age. Granted they did whitewash many mosaics, but they did not utterly destroy them and left a few intact without the wash. Shoes mostly dry we walk to a lunch spot...not dry anymore. Ditching the lunch group and we are off to Topkapi Palace.
Home of the Ottoman Sultans for generations and generations. Throwing in with the Germans in the late 1800s eventually doomed them, not a conquering army. The harem was an extra fee, but that drives many away leaving it mostly empty. It must have been a crazy place, seen by a select few. Concubines and wives, sons and heirs, the Sultan and his mother lording over it all. This arrangement in power so long, and power = wealth...serious wealth. Bowls of emeralds and rubies, 100lb solid gold candlesticks. Rooms and rooms of space for such opulence. So many tiles, that 30 photos were snapped of them alone. The weapons room was particularly neat, but the treasury ranks above it (harem being tops). I do my best Rick Steeves impersonation reading from his guide book as we go. Two overpriced "apple" teas broke up the day in an effort to warm the heavy coatless and rest our legs. Rick Steeves and Levent both recommend the Pudding Shop, we there we go.
The Pudding Shop so named by hippies who could not recall its real name, serves good food and great tea. Apple tea has fast become a favorite. Skipping dinner, sleep quickly comes to the sound of rain pattering on the window.