Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

A little work, a little sightseeing,, a little cooking and a little eating….the perfect day!!

Before I get on with the antics of the day, I need to tell you the worst hawker line in the world…. “How can I spend your money today!!!”.  Talk about truth in advertising!!!

We began Thursday in much the same way as Wednesday, with Michael working and me out making good use of the Museum Pass.  This morning I headed to the Topkapi Palace.  The Palace compound is a huge, beautiful, tree filled area.  Unfortunately it was also tourist filled, but once again my trusty Pass did it’s work and I was able to bypass all of the long lines


As usual, there is a Mosque sitting in the corner of the compound.  This one is the Hagia Irene…..DSC04035

There are two things that I noticed about these doors.  The first was the metal tracks that the door rollers slide on and the second was the way that the marble had been worn down from years of people crossing the threshold.   DSC04042 It is fun to imagine who has stepped thru these doors in the past 550 years!!!

This girl was in front of me in line and my thought was…….REALLY????


You were not allowed to take photos in the palace itself so there are not a lot of them and in all honesty there was not a lot to photograph.  However, I did find some interesting patterns in the stones that made up some of the walkways…..DSC04053

One of the buildings held garments that had been worn by various Sultan’s who lived in this palace.  Many of them were simple Caftans, made of high quality fabrics and most of the colors were fairly subdued.  There was one pair of trousers that were HUGE.  They were folded in half and formed a funky triangle and looked supremely uncomfortable.  Also, many of the Sultan’s garments had a girlish look to them!!!

Another of the buildings held the various presents that had been given to the Sultans.  I was particularly attracted to the  sleek lines of the jugs and other jeweled vessels that were on display.

Next came the armory.  I found two things that interested me in here.  The first was a sword that was over 6 feet tall.  My question is how was it ever used?  It would have been too heavy to lift and wield.   Did you prop it up and HOPE that someone ran into it???

The other interesting thing were the banners.  Now these were not fabric banners, but were large headpieces that fit on top of a staff.  They were very ornate and had interesting shapes and designs.

As I was in one room, I could hear a droning of someone chanting.  As I entered a small connecting room, there was an Imam sitting at a table, quietly intoning verses from the Quran.  There were several monitors that showed his words in various languages.  As always, it was a haunting sound.

Upon exiting the palace building, I enjoyed a few minutes in the courtyard facing the Bosphorous Strait.  There always seems to be a Minaret somewhere…..DSC04057

It was also interesting that the stone work on the “sea” side of the palace was much more eroded than that on the “land” side.DSC04060

As I walked around the compound, I began noticing the various ablution areas that dotted the grounds.  Some of them were quite ornate while others were very simple…..DSC04067 DSC04068

These little domed structures can be seen everywhere and add much to the interest of the skyline…..DSC04075

A usual, the roof and walls were littered with tiles, arches and domes as well….


I now entered the Harem (pronounced Hah-rehm) and immediately noticed three things.  The first was that EVERYTHING was beautifully tiled…..DSC04087 …..that the walkways were covered with these wonderful designs.  You couldn’t really see the designs when you were walking, so I stopped every  few steps, held the camera over my head and took a photo.   The people around me thought that I was the craziest woman in the world!!!!!DSC04093 DSC04096

The patterns appeared fairly random and were interesting to follow…..


The third thing that I noticed inside the Harem is that there were an inordinate number of closets and shelves….is that a woman’s quarters or what?????DSC04113DSC04138It is hard to tell from this photo, but the tiles that consistently received sunshine were faded out.  I guess that the paints were not entirely colorfast. 
DSC04098    Many of the room were not done in the classic blue and white tiles, but had some pretty pastel colors as well.  I thought that this was particularly pleasing…..DSC04139

It has been said that I notice (and photograph)  the most unusual things and this was one of those sightings.  I was interested that this ring was securely fastened to the concrete.  I am assuming that maybe it was to hold the reigns of a horse but who knows…..it is fun to imagine!!!!DSC04125    This water tap was particularly beautiful…..DSC04145

The theme changed dramatically when you entered the Sultan’s rooms with the tiles and colors becoming much darker and more masculine…..DSC04150In this room there was a guard whose post was behind a roped barrier.  As I watched, he paced back and forth between the walls, much like a lion in his cage at the zoo!!

On one of the terraces, I noticed this formation cut into the rock and wondered what it was……DSC04157

I followed it to its end and found that it was a drainage system for the flat terrace roof…….DSC04161 As I was leaving, I saw this wonderful tile work…… DSC04166

After exiting the Palace grounds, one vendor was very insistent that I purchase a  bagel type bread from him.  He slapped his large stomach as if to say that I should be hungry.  I in turn slapped my stomach and said “too much”   He laughed and we happily parted company.   Michael met me for lunch and we decided to try out another of Rick Steves’ single dollar sign selections  (ie….cheap but good).  When we first sat down, they brought this tray of bread and we were off to a good start….


Next delivered was a bottle of water…..DSC04175

Next came the bean salad with an oil and vinegar dressing  and beef kebabs…….delicious!!!!DSC04178 

We relaxed at the hotel in the afternoon and then made our way to “Cooking Alaturka” for a lesson in Turkish cooking.  Our host was Evelyn Zoutendijk, an excellent chef and a wonderful teacher….. DSC04183

We were joined in the kitchen by the head chef, Feyzi and his assistant, Nazli.


They quickly put us all to work…. Michael started out chopping lamb for the main course….DSC04188

….while I roughly chopped peppers and carrots to go in it as well….DSC04190

Mike started chopping onions which had us all crying before long….DSC04189 

…..while Nena and Lisa skinned and chopped tomatoes…..DSC04196

The staff did a fantastic job of keeping us organized and immediately had another job ready for us once we had finished.  At one point, Michael was given the task of crushing peppercorns.  He was given a very heavy brass disk and told to slam it down on the pepper corns to crush them up…  DSC04200 After the initial crushing, the chef carefully made a line of the pieces and had Michael do it again to make the pepper even finer.  This was a little different from shaking it out of a box!!DSC04205

The first thing to go onto the stove was the green bean appetizer.   Feyzi layered the runner beans, garlic, onion and tomatoes and then added olive oil, water, lemon juice, salt and sugar to the pot.  It was covered and cooked for about 45 minutes.  DSC04210

The lamb was started in a large pot ……DSC04212

…and then the rough chopped veggies were added…..DSC04217

The next part was fun.  We took dried figs and cut a small slit in the side and used the knife to open up the inside of the fig as much as possible.  The pocket was stuffed with walnuts, the lips of the fig were pulled back out and  pressed back together.  DSC04219

These were cooked in a pan of water, sugar and lemon and simmered for 30 minutes….DSC04246 

Next step was to get the eggplant ready .  In order to peel it easily we first grilled it over an open flame until the insides were soft and the peel felt like leather…..DSC04223

We then grabbed it by the stem and peeled the HOT skin off.  Once the peels were off, they had us take a knife and carefully scrape any eggplant off of the inside of the peel so that nothing was lost.   It was that way with everything…..EVERY little bit was picked up and used.  I guess that it is the only way to make a profit in this business…..DSC04233

Here we are getting the parsley and more garlic ready for a final chopping.  The couple working with me are Mike and Lisa.  They are from Canada, but just got married in Greece and were honeymooning in Turkey…… DSC04234

All of this was put into one big pile and Feyzi pulled out the BIG cleaver to efficiently chop it finer…..DSC04235Lisa  enjoyed the task of rocking this cleaver back and forth with each movement finely chopping and mixing the herbs……  DSC04237

Nena, who is a flight attendant living in Abu Dhabi, got to work on the base for  the lentil soup…..DSC04239 The chef put me to work mixing the cheese and herbs that will go into our  Zucchini  pancake appetizer. DSC04251

….and Michael to work seeding and grating the zucchini…..DSC04255

And here is the result of our efforts…..DSC04258 The final process was making the Béchamel sauce for the eggplant mixture.  Michael was shown the proper technique for whisking the butter and flour and said that his Pecs were going to be huge when he finished…..DSC04261

The figs were ready so we dusted them with coconut and decorated the plate with minced pistachio and 2 cloves…..DSC04267 Evelyn and her partner, George (from Australia) were the perfect hosts and kept us always on task….even with time for  George’s funny stories!!!


We sat down at the table and enjoyed spicy Lentil soup….DSC04273

Runner beans and Zucchini Pancakes…..

DSC04274 and Lamb stew on Smoky Eggplant Puree…..


It was a fun evening with great food and new friends….. DSC04277

…and wonderful Turkish Coffee to end the evening!DSC04285

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