A vendor with a small cart, a hand juicer and two boxes of fruit stood outside the gilded entrance to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, squeezing out a living selling fresh juice to thirsty tourists. Mixing pomegranates and oranges he created a bright red beverage sweet enough to suit a sultan.
That drink was a first taste of Turkey. I loved the color, texture and exotic flavor produced by such dissimilar fruits and sought out the drink several more times while traveling throughout the country. But the mixture was never as sweet. Maybe it was a metaphor for Turkey’s history, where the mix of dissimilar ethnicities and religions has seldom been sweet and was often crushing.
On a sunny day in modern Istanbul, some of that thorny history came wrapped in three beautiful buildings: the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. A triple threat of Turkish tourism, they are filled with stunning examples of art and architecture from the Byzantine era forward and served as the kickoff to an eight-day tour of Turkey.
Topkapi Palace deserved an Oscar for opulence. The star of a namesake 1964 Hollywood heist movie, it boldly displayed the target treasure, an emerald encrusted dagger, in a brightly lit case.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers