Day 04 – Istanbul – Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia Mausoleum, Hagia Irene, Topkapi Palace, and a terrible Hamam

Day 4

It really is amazing how many things are in walking distance of the hotel.

While it is located in the Hippodrome we hadn’t really stopped to film the monuments of it yet.  Today we filmed me introducing the walled obelisk – which looks like a giant Jenga game and the Egyptian obelisk which is giant piece of pink granite.  There is more in the Hippodrome but that was all we did today.

We then walked towards Topkapi Palace to spend the day there – it is huge about 6,000,000 square feet – and as it is an entire city within a city that is all we had planned for the day.  On the way we passed the Mausoleum of the Hagia Sophia which is small and pretty (and free) and the Hagia Irene which is only used as a performance space and normally closed – I stuck my head in before they kicked me out – no photo or video from the inside though.

The lines at Topkapi were immense, as was the heat.  It is 25TL to enter and the tour guides were offering line jumping for 100TL per person.  We waited in the line.  It is a large space and some places inside are more popular than others.  Once through the main gate and into the outer courtyard most people go right for the inner courtyard, we however headed to the second ticket booth to pay another 15TL to visit the Harem or the private living space of the Sultans.  Its actually has the best architectural details in the Palace and most people skip it!

I brought my Pivothead video goggles with me to Istanbul just for this part of the trip – I know from experience that you cannot shoot video in both the treasury and the reliquary.  The treasury has an 86 carrot diamond and the reliquary boasts many items of Mohammed (like his flag, tooth, beard, etc) but it also had the sword of King David, the staff of Moses, the saucepan of Abraham, and the turban of Joseph.  I secretly tried using my camera on previous occasions and both times the staff of Moses didn’t come out at all – well this time I was going to get a picture of it!

So I got in line – well in the mob – put on my video glasses – hit the switch and pushed through.  I had been practicing to move my head slowly and pan nicely.  I felt good about what I shot and used my still camera to get a shot of the saucepan of Abraham – I rested the camera on a stantion and shot wide. Not to jump ahead but back at the hotel I reviewed the footage and a lot of it came out – but the display that houses the staff of Moses is black.  I mean BLACK – you can see a sign – you can see some background – but no staff!  What does that mean? I have no idea!

Anyways back at the treasury I tried the same things – and a lot of the footage did come out and it was quite fun.  Some good stuff for the film.

So we are wandering around the courtyard and I am pointing out the sights to Amanda and I say – and there are the Freedheims – and indeed there they were! They had just finished their tour.  It reminded me of last year when I spotted my Aunt and Cousin outside of the Hagia Sophia (I knew that they were in Turkey but had no idea where they were that day and just spotted them – it freaked my Aunt out).

We had lunch at the 112 year old restaurant at the Palace – it was very expensive but one of the best meals we have had in Istanbul and had views of the Bosphorus and Asia.  I highly recommend it over the cafe.

I enjoyed the gallery of the Sultan’s portraits because it has a lot of air conditioning and the pavilions because they are small and ornate.

After a busy day of filming and touring we headed back to the hotel.

Amanda suggested that I get to a Hamam to get a massage for my back and I stopped at an inexpensive Hamam near the hotel.

I have done the Hamam before its a simple process:

They give you a room where you lock up your stuff and change into a towel.

They sit you in the wet sauna where they pour hot and cold water on you and then exfoliate your body.

Then they lay you on a slab and massage you with soap bubbles – after which they rinse you with more hot and cold water.

I then sometimes pay extra for an ‘oil’ massage which is just a regular massage.

Now I have been to high end places and low end places and I’m not too fussy – the guy at the door told me for 80TL (down from 90TL) I would get the full package for an hour and a half.  I paid him – did the whole thing – got back to the room and looked at my watch – it had been 45 minutes!

So I asked to speak to the guy who sold me the package and all of the sudden – no one spoke English.  Eventually after some back talking about the true length of the massage and such – I made it very clear – I was sold a 90 minute package – I paid for a 90 minute package – I got a 45 minute one – when you don’t get what you pay for they call it… and they handed me 20TL back and rushed me out the door.


After we went for dinner and met a lovely couple from Ireland who were vacationing in Bulgaria. For the third night in a row I had Sea Bass and every time I get it they make it differently.

That’s it for Day 4 – tomorrow off to some museums!

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