We woke up at a decent hour, after probably getting something approaching 8 hours of sleep. We got packed and ready, then went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was almost identical to the day before. We checked out and met Ezel at 9, again just like the day before. We left the same way, walked the same way, passed by he same ear-tagged stray dogs (they tag the dogs so if anyone gets bit, they know what shots are needed), only this time instead of turning left and walking past the Hagia Sophia, we stayed straight and entered Topkapi Palace, which opened at 9. The Palace was the primary residence for the Ottoman Sultans between 1465 and 1856. When the Ottoman Empire fell in 1923, Topkapi Palace was turned into a museum, and displays collections of porcelain, clothing, weapons, shields, armors, jewelry, etc. There were tons of people in line, narrowing down to security checkpoint that was a mess. Once we were finally inside, it was very nice, with lots of tulips and trees around the grounds.

Our first stop was the textile area, with lots of old clothes worn by the sultan - the clothes were not remotely functional, but were very decorative. Then we saw the Treasury, which had lots of nice stuff, but nothing really stood out except for 86 karat diamond and the Topkapi Dagger. The dagger was the subject of an old movie where people were scheming to steal it. It is ornamented with three large emeralds, topped by a golden watch with an emerald lid. A golden sheath is covered with diamonds and enamel. In 1747, the Sultan Mahmud Ihad this dagger made for Nadir Shah of Persia, but the Shah was assassinated in connection with a revolt before the emissary had left the Ottoman Empire's boundaries and so the Sultan retained it. The diamond is the 4th largest in the world, and surrounded by 49 smaller diamonds. The story is that a fisherman found it in the litter, and didn't realize it was a diamond. He took it to a jeweler, who gave the fisherman three spoons for it - hence the name "Spoonmaker's Diamond."

There were tons of people in the treasury, not much personal space to be had. In the northeast corner of the Palace, we got good views of the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. We also saw an area with lots of intricately decorated buildings and stained glass windows. It all looked great, but honestly, after awhile everything started to turn into a blur - if everything is ornate, it's not much different than if nothing is ornate - nothing stood out. In all, we spent about 2 hours or so at Topkapi Palace. If we had more time, we would have seen the Harem area (which has a separate admission), but we had a full day in front of us.

From Topkapi Palace, we had a short drive to the Grand Bazaar, the oldest shopping mall on the planet, and perhaps the largest. It was built in 1455 after the Ottoman acquisition of Constantinople. It consists of 61 covered streets, has 4400 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors each day. So this was quite a change from the emptiness in Egypt and Jordan. We saw only about 5% of the Bazaar, but even in that small smaple size we saw pretty much anything you could think of. We got to go up on the roof of the Bazaar, which was pretty cool. On our way to roof, we went through some sketchy hallways and stairwells that seemed straight out of a (scary) movie, and all Crystal could keep thinking about was Taken 2. The views from the roof were very nice, with panoramic views of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and both continents.

From the Bazaar we headed over to the spice market. Most of the stores pretty similar (at least to us), with well-lit spices out front, and also with turkish coffee materials, turkish delight, and some other desserts. Ther are about 200 vendors in the spice market. We had a nice quiet lunch upstairs at the end of the market, a nice break from the craziness all morning. On the way out, heading back to the car, we went through a crazy walking intersection with people heading in every direction - not for the claustrophobic or agoraphobic. It really needed some sort of traffic light. Making matters worse, some people were trying to get strollers through there. After we made it down the corridor to the main street, while waiting for driver, just standing in place for about 3-5 minutes, it was interesting to just experience the sights, sounds, and smells - Istanbul is a very vibrant city.

We drove across one of the bridges over the Golden Horn, heading to the Galata area again. This time, we stopped at the dock and waited for our boat for our Bosphorus cruise. We were expecting to be on a boat with a couple dozen other folks, but instead, we had a yacht to ourselves. We sat up top, going in a long circle around the bosphorus, heading up the European side to both bridges, then coming back along the Asian side. Along the way, we saw a couple of forts, a lot of nice houses and restaurants. There were tons of people out because it was a holiday - "National Sovereignty and Children's Day." The weather was nice, so people lucked out and were taking advantage of it.

Our cruise finished around 4:30, and we headed straight to airport. We got there around 5:30. The immigration line was one of the longest we've ever seen. Also, like many of the airports we've been at on this trip, we had to go through security twice - once when coming in off the street, again just before the gates. We assume the first check is more quick and dirty, the second is more specific and time consuming, but since at the gates, doesn't create a huge backlog. Still full from lunch, we just grabbed a mini-bottle of wine and used up our last Turkish lira, sitting next to a bunch of Scotsman who were crazy drunk and completely oblivious to the fact they were standing right in the way of anyone ordering or moving around the restaurant. The plane was empty, about the emptiest since our flight to Easter Island in 2006. Since this was a redeye, this was fantastic news. Justin changed seats to the empty row in the 2-4-2 configuration, laid down and went to sleep immediately after takeoff. Crystal went to sleep about 90 minutes in, and chose not to eat the dishes they were serving.