After our visit to the Basilica Cistern, Hakan took us to a pottery factory so we could learn a bit more about how they make the amazing Turkish tiles. We’d seen them throughout the day and they were absolutely amazing. The pottery tour was hosted by Rifat Seymen and a potter.
They served us apple tea while the potter demonstrated how he makes a vase.
Then they invited us up to try it. I was stuck in the back row between Betty and Tom and I knew climbing over them would be an ordeal so I didn’t volunteer. The Brazilian woman jumped up to give it a try and made a very credible bowl! Afterwards they took us to the basement to show us some of their finished pieces. Rifat told us the colors on their pottery are made with crushed semi precious gemstones. The blue is lapis lazuli, the green is turquoise, the yellow is amber, and my favorite was the white moonstone! Moonstone glows in the dark. Rifat told us the cheaper pieces we might find in places like the Grand Bazar are made with phosphorus, which is highly radioactive and will kill you! Obviously, I needed to buy some from them, right? Which is how I ended up with the really expensive wine glasses I’m almost certain will get smashed in my carry on bag on the way home.
After the pottery factory it was time for lunch. It was part of our tour and Hakan took us to a Turkish restaurant for a traditional meal.
I waited for everyone else to enter so I could be sure I wouldn’t get stuck with Tom and Betty. The first course was a salad, and by salad I mean a plate full of shredded lettuce and a couple of large chunks of tomato. There were some appetizers made of puff pastry with either cheese or chicken fillers and then the main course. I chose the lamb kabab. That was an excellent choice because it was really delicious.
They served what might have been the best baklava I have ever had and a tiny mystery pastry for dessert. I heard Betty complain that she was diabetic and couldn’t even eat it. Well, let’s be honest, the entire restaurant heard Betty complain. She was not a quiet woman.
Our next stop was the Hagia Sophia. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Istanbul and was once a church, then a mosque, and now a museum, which is why I didn’t have to cover my hair or take off my shoes. The interior is breathtaking. There are lots of hanging lights that reminded me of Hogwarts. When it was a church it was full of beautiful mosaics. Muslims don’t believe in having images inside their mosques and so painted over them. Now that it’s a museum, they are undergoing the painstaking process of uncovering the mosaics. You can see a few that have already been done and it’s fascinating to see them side by side with the muslim paintings. There are also crosses carved into the marble floors that mark the diameter of the dome above.
Hakan told us there was a ramp to get to the upper level because the sultans couldn’t have been expected to walk all that way and were toted up on litters. Stairs would have been impossible, so they built ramps instead. He gave us 15 minutes to explore and I took off for the upper levels immediately.
The murals up there were even more fantastic, but you know I’m a sucker for gold leaf.
I went back down and made it back to the meet up location with a few minutes to spare. So did everyone else. Except Tom and Betty. After about 20 minutes Hakan went to look for them. The Brazilians and I chatted about where they might be. I said I hoped they didn’t try to make it up that ramp. They scoffed at me and said Betty was doing everything she could to avoid stairs. He came back a few minutes later and said he’d leave them but Betty has mobility issues. He asked us if any of us had seen them inside. The Asian couple said “we saw Tom upstairs”. Hakan’s eyebrows shot up so high I thought they’d fly right off his head. He took off to go find them. When they finally returned we left for our last stop, a visit to a carpet making factory. It was a long walk but when Betty started complaining Hakan said “sure you are tired after going all the way up to the second level!” He was much more patient with them that I was feeling!
Factory is a loose term, apparently all their carpets are hand-made. The cost of the carpet depends on how long it takes to make. It takes 10 months to make a 3×4 silk on silk carpet and so you pay for the labor, which is $7,500. After watching the old lady demonstrate how she tied the knots and cut them, I can tell you those people are horribly underpaid!
They served us a cup of Turkish coffee and I learned so much more about carpets, like why the Turkish ones are much more superior to any others and that you should use them and “not protect them as you do your children”.
Afterwards, they tried really hard to sell us some carpets. I wasn’t falling for that, though if they’d have made them glow in the dark with moonstone threads they might have had me. Tom and Betty left with a salesman and the rest of made our way down to the door. Hakan and I were standing at the entrance waiting for everyone else to gather around. There was no sign of Tom and Betty. I asked Hakan if they were buying a rug. He said “or they could just be making us late again”. I knew exactly how he was feeling! We loaded up in the van to end our day. Tom and Betty got off first. After all the trouble they caused, they didn’t even tip Hakan. I doubled his tip to make up for it. I was the last to leave the tour, which really made me feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth. Plus Hakan and I had the chance to chitchat about Turkish traffic. He doesn’t drive and I don’t blame him. There didn’t seem to be any traffic rules and the streets were narrow and cobbled. There were times I thought for sure we were going to scrape paint trying to pass another car on a one lane road.
By the time we got back to the HIlton it was 5:30. I’d hoped to have more time to enjoy my corner suite, but Tom and Betty ruined that for me!
I did have time to go out on the balcony before it got completely dark. I took my ipad up to the Executive Lounge to work on the blog and have a few cocktails. They had a lot of snacks as well, so I decided to call that dinner. I still hadn’t had any Turkish Delights so when I got back to my room I ordered up the Turkish dessert tray. There was baklava, fruit, some sort of rice pudding, a grayish blob, and two white blobs. The baklava, fruit and one of the white blobs were delicious and just what I needed to finish off my one day in Istanbul.