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Wednesday, August 7: Day 107 – From Great to Grand

One purpose of writing this blog was to record things that we did not know and be able to research more about it later. Our comments may be incorrect but later our education will be corrected and supplemented. We don’t have time to fact check our posts. We don’t want to lose Ertunga’s “boots on the ground” knowledge of geography and history. We welcome any armchair travelers to comment with any corrections.


The red carpet originates from throwing red rose petals on the path for the soldiers headed to war.

Istanbul has no homeless. At year’s end, 3% of the money that you have is to be given to someone in need. Families help each other when there is a crisis such as a loss of employment.

If you don’t know someone in need, you are to put it in a box that is kept in the street. If someone is in need, they can take money from the box. Rarely is money taken out as it is shameful or a last resort.

Everything done in Turkey has a political purpose. Mothers seeking favor for their sons would give out food to placate people.

Until the 1990’s, Turkey was rich and self sufficient. Now the Turkish government owns farms and factories. By 1995 they started to rely on other governments.

Today they have 4 to 5 million refugees which puts a strain on the country’s resources.

Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, named the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles inside, was built in 1602. He wanted to build a mosque near Hagia Sophia to show that his mosque was as good as the church. He was the first sultan who did not kill his brother.

He had 20 sons and made each one governor of a region so they could learn how to rule. Once a sultan dies, the first to get to the mosque has the right to kill other brothers. Royalty cannot be beheaded as there can be no blood spilled. They are strangled.

Suleyman I (“The Magnificent”) wrote a diary. He killed his one son and had his best friend beheaded. The father kills a son if he doesn’t want him to rule. The army backs whoever pays the most.

The Ottoman Empire was ruled by one bloodline. Mothers of different sons were ruthless in improving their sons’ chances to become ruler. Power and revenge ruled the day and it was a culture of hate.

Topkapi Palace

Sultans of the Ottoman Empire lived in Topkapi Palace. Each Sultan would add a building. There are four courtyards and each one comes closer to the Sultan. Very few were allowed to get to the 4th courtyard as you met with the sultan himself there. One was not allowed to look him in the eye.

Pavillions were long buildings. Often the nomadic Sultans would pitch a tent in the pavillion.

We went into one of the rooms and saw the divan. (I always call a sofa a divan. This is where the word comes from. Also, ottoman is the word for a small stool.)

Eunuchs took care of the women in the harem. They were from Egypt. Nine of ten eunuchs died during castration. They also tasted the Sultans food to ensure it was poison free.

The queen mother is in charge of selecting the women of the harem to go to the sultan. What goes on in a harem is secret. Some who were not selected to be with the sultan were allowed to leave and often became wives of ambassadors. They received a great education. One ambassador wrote a book about it so we have an idea. However, if a sultan even touched a woman, she was never allowed to leave.

A Turkish bath is like a Roman bath. One of the most honorable jobs was to care for his bathroom duties as this was the job closest to sultan.

In the Sultans bedroom, there are two identical beds. This is if someone enters to kill the Sultan, there is a 50/50 chance that you would pick the wrong bed.

Treasure is always in the palace and belongs to the palace. The biggest ring is a 68 carat diamond. It was originally found in a trash can. He sold it for three wooden spoons.

We went into the circumcision room. Little boys are circumsized at 5 or 6 years old so that they remember. This was a room for the recovery.

Turkish Language

Any country with the name “stan” is related. The Turkish language is very similar to Hungary and Finnish. Hmmm. Hungarian are the Huns. Turks even understand the nomadic people of Turkmenistan.

In the 11th century Turks came from middle Asia, Mongolia. Tatars are Turks. They were looking for plunder and were not able to go into larger China after the Great Wall was built.

In 1071, Turkish tribes fought Byzantines. The Byzantines were defeated with help of Arabs. They learned Muslim from Arabs. Previously, they practiced Shamanism. It was a long conversion, often by force.

A Turk is not Arab. Arab influence loses traditions and origins of words for the Turkish. The Turkish language uses suffixes. One word can be one sentence.

Attilla and Genghis Khan were Turks. They learned from Chinese warriors who wore silk blowing behind them on horseback so you could not tell if they had been hit.

Islam was very advanced intellectually; Catholics could not read. The Muslims took the Greek works back to the Ottoman empire and translated. If that had not been done, the works of the great Greek philosophers would have been lost.

However, there was no printing press in the Ottoman empire until the 19th century. The printing press was not allowed.

Calligraphy comes from Arabic and if words were read from a printing press, their prayers were not heard.

Hagia Sophia

Justinian was a ruthless emperor but was a prolific Byzantine builder. He rebuilt Hagia Sophia for its 3rd time in the sixth century and it is the building that we see today.

He claimed to have built the Temple of the New Jerusalem. He exclaimed,”Solomon, I defeated you.” It is said that this tile of the New Jerusalem is the cornerstone that holds the great building together.

Hagia Sophia which means Holy Wisdom was the largest building in the world for 1,000 years. This great, jaw dropping marvel was originally a church, then a mosque and now a museum.

The construction technology was advanced. The building material was light but durable. The symmetrical domes support each other so that the weight is not in the center. It is amazing that there aren’t any supporting columns for the 160 foot dome.

Basilica Cistern

Later we saw the cisterns that were an underground water source for the city.

The 336 columns were recycled from other parts of the Roman Empire so they are unusually placed for height adjustments.

The cistern was important for the city especially when under attack.

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar was built in 1461. There are over 4,000 shops and 35 entrances. It preceded the spice market that was built in 1560. I would go crazy trying to look for a specific item.

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