Turkey diaries: The palace, the princess and the pilgrims

Monday morning, my husband had a few official commitments and everything got held up because of that, including the plans we had made a night ago and the list of places we wanted to see that day. Eventually, I had to intervene in his busy schedule and remind him that the tickets for the bus ride were supposed to expire in 24 hours and we just had two hours left. That’s when he gave us a green signal and we got ready in haste and left for that day’s adventures.

It was very windy and cold with no sun.

My husband stopped to buy a data sim which he had been wanting to since our arrival in Istanbul. Even though he had already spoken with the shopkeeper about the kind of sim he wanted, we still spent 45 minutes in the shop, finalizing the deal. But the time was worth is because the sim helped us in the long run in finding places, keeping in touch with family, friends and office – purely in my husband’s case – and also keeping the baby entertained whenever required.

My baby, who was bored of the waiting, settled in her stroller and slept. Since we took the stroller from Pakistan and it wasn’t made for extreme weathers, we had to buy a shawl on our way to give the baby extra safety from the wind. This time round, we again used a different way to reach the SultanAhmet Square. The first thing we did after reaching there was to buy the corn.

In addition to our second bus ride, we were supposed to take the boat ride within the same 24 hours – which seemed impossible now. But Haji, the agent of the tourist company, told us that since it is very windy today, the boat ride will not be possible and we can avail it the next day. Boy, did we feel relieved hearing that!

By the time we reached the bus, the baby was up and about and, as usual, refused to wear something warm. This time, we were accompanied by a group of English women who were visiting Istanbul for the first time.

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Even today, the bus stopped at various stops and took us to both sides – Asian and European – of the city. We got off at Dolmabache Palace, the residence of the last Ottoman Caliph and also used by Kemal Ataturk as his parliament, which was eventually his resting place too. The palace has been restored and kept in its original form for tourism purposes. It was grand and beautiful. It also housed one of the biggest carpets in the world. The guide didn’t allow us to take pictures in the palace but it is a must visit place. Later on, we realized that it was probably a lot more interesting place to visit than the other popular tourist palaces (like the Topkapi Palace).

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They usually send a group of people with a guide and do not allow anyone roaming around on their own. So we had to wait outside the palace for 15 minutes for the tour before us to end. While we were waiting, there was a girl with a DSLR next to us. She found my baby very attractive and started taking pictures of her and in return – to my amazement – my baby started smiling and making poses for her (she is just 16-months old). The guide and other staff of the palace gave a lot of attention to my baby. One of them even told my husband that he is very lucky to be a father of a daughter. They also called her ‘Shehzadi’ – princess – since she was visiting a palace.It took us almost two and a half hours to finish the tour of the palace. It was divided into the main palace and the Haram – private chambers. We were so tired by the time we reached the Harams that we decided to cut the tour short and leave the place. The moment we came out of the palace, we saw our ride coming. We got on the bus and realized that we both were famished.

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