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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Istanbul, Turkey | Day 2

Monday | October 13, 2014

I spent the entirety of today's morning at Topkapi Palace Museum, the second-palace built in Istanbul after the conquest. It was the residence for Ottoman sultans and includes a maze of opulent buildings which were at the very epicenter of the Ottoman Empire between the fifth and 19th centuries.  This palace, where the sultans and their courts and harems lived and governed, is now one of the world’s richest museums, complete with a jewelry room that features an 86 carat diamond, surrounded by 43 smaller diamonds – but then again, anything is smaller than 86 carats!


Interesting harems were not what we have been taught they were.  A Sultan had four wives; the wives were selected for him by his mother because the Sultan was often traveling or at war.  The harem was made up of young girls and women who were the daughters and wives of men he had slain on the battlefield. It was considered dishonorable to leave them alone because they had no source of support, so they were brought into the harem.  There were no semi–naked women running around performing sex acts, as is often reported in popular mythology.

Rather, the harem residents attended to the womanly duties of the palace.  Only eunuchs were allowed to be in the harem when women were present. They would have to walk with their heads down, staring at a black line on the marble floor.


We were in the Palace Museum for several hours and starved for lunch.  On the way to the restaurant, our guide, Ugor, took us down a side street where we enjoyed a local Turkish snack – a huge glob of bulger, infused with 28 different spices, served on a lettuce wrap and doused with lemon juice. 


We had another amazing Turkish lunch before embarking on a short ride down the Bosporus Strait – the navigable body of water between Europe and Asia that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea.


It is about 20 miles long and only a half-mile wide. The most interesting part of the cruise was that we traveled north along the European side of Istanbul before turning and coming back south along the Asian side of Istanbul, disembarking at Uskudar.  The journey give me the opportunity to see some wonderful sights along the riverbank.  


Dinner was a privtae recption at the Koc museum and we were seated with representatives of the Koc family.

The food at dinner was relatively unimpressive, but the show was another story. The marquee singer, Chanteuse (think Charo), was wonderful and she sang for two hours in English, Italian, French, German, and Turkish.  She meandered through the audience and managed to pick me out of the crowd (I never know why this kind of stuff happens to me), announced into the microphone that I was from New York, New York, and the band struck up the song. Then, she pulled me out of my chair and we danced and sang (yes, I sang into the microphone!) New York, New York in front of hundreds of friends. Yikes!

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