Istanbul 4. Being the Tourist -Dolmabahçe Palace.

There comes a point in every city visit when you get the confidence to jump in a taxi and know where you’re going.

Once I have my bearings I can tell if the driver of the said automotive hack will attempt to go from A to B via X, Y and Z; creating an ‘alternative route’ to aid in the emptying of my wallet.

If normal taxis don’t exist?

Welcome to Almaty, a city in which every car is a taxi – I kid you not. Amongst the ex-pat community we generally refer to them as ‘gypsy cabs’; I’m not sure why. Anyway it is just a matter of standing at a point on the road with your arm out. Eventually someone stops, you state a destination, negotiate the fare and away you go. Or not! Not everyone wants to go where you want, so sometimes renegotiate for somewhere nearby…

Anyway it works.

Last day in Istanbul so, from a recommendation (thankyou Dorsaf), I headed for the Dolmabahçe Palace.

Yes I could turn this into a travelogue, quoting dates, Sultans, amount of gold etc.

Sod that.

The flagrant wealth of the Sultans horrifies me in the context of the poverty afforded to the peasantry at the time. There are bathrooms whose area would make up 3 or 4 apartments for the ordinary citizens of the Ottoman Empire. Yet here in the vainglorious Palace in the City of History, the one lesson from History hit me; we never learn from History.

Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Buckingham Palace; John Travolta’s new home; Bill Gates majestic pile…

Still – who really wants majestic piles?

Then there is the Playboy Mansion; I’ll accept the opulence as it is home to many young ladies, unfortunate enough to have been born with outlandish mammaries…

The four tonne Chandelier reminded me of Del Boy and Rodney.

Where was I drawn?

The Clock Museum.

What is a clock? Art, Science, Engineering, Jewellery; man’s attempt to put numerical order on the passing of his life.

Twelve hours on the clock face; Twelve signs of the Zodiac; Twelve tribes of Israel; Twelve disciples of Jesus; I’m sure I could come up with dozens of other ideas…

The collection embodies Cosmology, Craftsmanship, Aesthetics, Meteorology, Chronology, Mathematics, Culture.

I was the tourist for a while; souvenirs include a pocket watch emblazoned with the face of Kemal Ataturk, a man who must be turning in his grave as his great secular Republic dissolves backwards in time.

Crusader anyone?

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