Friday, December 10, 2010

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

One of the perks of being a high school social studies teacher at a small school is that you automatically qualify to be the faculty advisor for the Model United Nations. While that may not seem like a benefit, it is when you realize that you get to go to some pretty great cities (New York, London, Washington, DC, the Hague and Istanbul) and, once at the conference, the students operate fairly independently. Thus, I had the chance to go on a tourist venture and see The Dolmabahçe Palace which is on the European side of the Bosphorous (yes, for all of you geographically challenged out there, Istanbul really is the place where “East meets West” or perhaps more accurately, it delineates the continents of Europe and Asia).

Not that I knew anything about The Dolmabahçe Palace before I jumped into the mini-van and headed towards the water. It was a grey, cold rainy morning and I was more interested in getting into a warm, dry location. Once inside the palace however, I was overpowered by the opulent and ornate palace that was built for the sultans of the Ottoman Empire around the same time that Senator Preston “Bully” Brooks was busy beating Charles Sumner on the floor of the US Senate thus inflaming further North/South crisis …(yes, I teach AP US History, so what?). Oh, right, Istanbul…anyway, this particular palace is a riot of rococo, baroque and neo-classical styles in architecture, decoration and manner and is a true blend of both European and Ottoman sensibilities. There are a number of huge chandeliers (one a gift from Queen Victoria), some amazingly detailed wooden inlay on all the door jambs and along the banisters. and one of the worlds’ largest Turkish carpets. I know it isn’t Versailles, but it looked like it could handle a pretty wild party!

Not much more I can tell you about Istanbul right now, because while traveling to amazing cities is the perk, not having any free time to explore the place is the down side. I have to stay here at the school to make sure that my Model UN students are on the ball learning how to save the world, one resolution at a time. But look for a blog entry in the future when I come here with Steph, rather than seven teenagers. Maybe I can’t go back to Constantinople, but I sure plan to return to Istanbul!

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