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Dolmabahçe Palace on Labor Day

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The irony wasn’t completely lost on us. Visiting Dolmabahçe Palace, a symbol of preposterous wealth and privilege, while just outside workers were marching in Istanbul’s infamous Labor Day protests. “What’s that smell?” I whispered to Jürgen, while admiring a carpet with more square footage than any apartment I’ve ever lived in. “Tear gas”, he said, his eyes starting to well up. “Amazing carpet, though.”

Dolmabahçe Palace

Labor Day is a big deal in Istanbul, with a history marred by violence. The march in 1977, for example, became known as the Taksim Square Massacre, when 40 people killed by overzealous policing and a panicked stampede. This year, the government refused to let protesters even reach Taksim Square. They were taking no chances — traffic in Beyoğlu was prohibited, public transportation was shut down, and even the Galata Bridge was closed.

And at the exact same moment Turkish protesters were being denied their right to congregate, Jürgen and I were ogling the outrageous luxury of Dolmabahçe Palace: perhaps Istanbul’s most perfect symbol of class inequality.

Despite being completely contrary to Labor Day’s socialist spirit, it was the perfect time to visit the palace. Dolmabahçe is normally one of the most popular tourist sights in Istanbul… but not when people can’t reach it! And with public transportation down, only those lucky enough to live within walking distance (like us) could make it.

Built in 1856 by Sultan Abdülmecid I, for whom the long-serving Topkapı Palace was no longer modern enough, the new palace on the Bosphorus was a testament to growing European influence on the Ottoman court. Neoclassic, baroque and massive to the point of stupidity, the palace is over 11 acres in size, with 285 rooms, 68 toilets, and 6 hamams. Oh, and a harem. Because no home is complete without an enclosure for your female sex slaves.

Despite its grandeur, visiting the palace is unfortunately a bit of a let-down. You’re forced to join a tour, with a guide whose main purpose is corralling you through as swiftly as possible, and you’re not allowed to linger in any of the rooms. A real shame, since there’s so much to linger over. The decorations, the artwork, the gold, the chandeliers, the carpets, the stairs… let alone the views of the Bosphorus from the magnificent windows.

The wealth of an empire was poured into this royal home for the benefit of a very few people, and the palace provided a stark reminder of how unfair life can be. So it was easy to find sympathy for the Labor Day protests going on right outside. Dolmabahçe, although beautiful, is sickening! The palace interesting to visit, but I’m mostly just glad that the days of sultans, lords and kings, and their massive homes, are behind us.

Location on our Istanbul Map

Flat Rentals Istanbul

Dolmabahçe Clock Tower
Dolmabahçe Gate
Dolmabahçe Entrance Fee
Dolmabahçe Fountain
Dolmabahçe Pond
Dolmabahçe Lion
Dolmabahçe Bosphorus
Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Palast
Dolmabahçe Plants
Dolmabahçe Flowers
Dolmabahçe Plant Clock
Dolmabahçe Peacock
Dolmabahçe Peacock
Dolmabahçe Birds
Dolmabahçe Tower
Dolmabahçe Reflection
Dolmabahçe Trees
Dolmabahçe Elephant
Dolmabahçe Goat
Dolmabahçe Gate
Dolmabahçe Tor
Dolmabahçe Waiting Lines
Dolmabahçe Pond
Dolmabahçe Inside
Dolmabahçe Aufnahme Innnen
Dolmabahçe Atatürk Bed Bett
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June 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm Comments (0)

Two Turkish Delights: Rakı and Boza

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Perhaps my favorite part of visiting new countries is discovering new sorts of drinking. Whether it’s soju in Korea or arrack in Sri Lanka, the existence of a new kind of alcohol provides a wonderful reason to imbibe. It’s work! Research, I tell you! So let’s have a toast to the miracle of convenient excuses!

Cinnamon-Boza

We’ll start the evening slow… very slow. Although it does contain alcohol and was once banned in Turkey under anti-drinking ordinances, Boza is safe enough to give a child. The thick, sweet drink made primarily of fermented wheat has an alcohol content of about 1%.

We first tried this popular winter treat in Istanbul’s oldest boza shop: the Vefa Bozacısı. Established in 1876, entering this bar is like stepping back in time. The floors and walls are tiled, the bartenders look straight out of the 19th century, and ancient bottles of vinegar and syrup line the wall. Atatürk was a fan of the shop, and his favorite drinking glass is proudly displayed in a shrine. The boza is served with a sprinkling of cinnamon, and is so thick and viscous that it’s best consumed with a spoon. Boza is said to be quite healthy, both effective against cholera and helpful in the production of breast milk.

Yeni Rakı

Turkey’s national drink, rakı, ups the alcohol ante significantly. Made from twice-distilled grape residue, this beverage is normally served with cold water and ice. A shot of rakı is poured into a small, narrow glass. Then, when water is added, the clear liquid instantly changes into a cloudy milky color. It has the flavor of anise, like black licorice. Sweet and cold. The innocent flavor belies rakı’s strong alcoholic content, around 45%.

We’ve had rakı a number of times, always with food. It’s usually drunk with meze and fish dishes, and goes down with frightening ease. A popular t-shirt slogan we’ve seen around Istanbul honors the drink’s potency: “Rakı is the answer. What was the question?” We never got quite that catatonic off it, but came close. Regardless of how we’d spent the day, the idea of long drinking sessions on the terrace of our local meyhane was always an appealing one…

Location of Vefa Bozacısı on our Map

Istanbul Vacation Rentals

Pics from the Vefa Bozacısı
Vefa-Boza
Boza-Lights
Disco-Ball-Furniture
Drinking-Boza
Looking-For-Ataturk
Atatürk Boza Cup
Boza Dude
Healthy-Boza
Boza-Beverage-Turkey
Turkish-Boza
Turkish-Vinegar
Vefa-Boza
Step-By-Step-Istanbul
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April 21, 2013 at 7:39 am Comments (6)
Dolmabahe Palace on Labor Day The irony wasn't completely lost on us. Visiting Dolmabahçe Palace, a symbol of preposterous wealth and privilege, while just outside workers were marching in Istanbul's infamous Labor Day protests. "What's that smell?" I whispered to Jrgen, while admiring a carpet with more square footage than any apartment I've ever lived in. "Tear gas", he said, his eyes starting to well up. "Amazing carpet, though."
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