Aviators, Sultans and Harems

A few years ago, I went up in a glider. It was a pretty cool ride. The pilot and I were strapped into the glider which was tied behind an old crop duster and pulled  aloft. Once we reached a certain altitude, we were cut loose to glide slowly back down to earth. About as close to being a bird as I care to get.

But back in 1630, a brave (or stark raving mad) Turk donned some wings and jumped off the Galata Tower.
He glided 6K across the Bosphorous Strait before crash landing on the Asia side. Truly amazing…and the sultan ruling the Ottoman Empire at the time thought so too — at first. But upon deeper refection, the sultan decided a man who had the cajones (You run Google Translate on that one if you want to know how the Turks say it!) to jump off the tower might have the cajones to threaten the Empire; so the sultan exiled the world’s first glider pilot to Armenia.

The views from the top of the 200+ feet tower are spectacular.


The sultans enjoyed marvelous views from the comfort of the Topkapi Palace which we visited yesterday

Home to sultans for more than 400 years, the palace is now a museum featuring select jewelry and other “spoils of war” in the palace treasury. Its also houses a museum containing some amazing religious relics — St. John’s arm bone, David’s sword, and clippings from Mohammed’s beard just to name a few.

I enjoyed the room dedicated to storing the sultan’s turbans. I’m sure he had a few! The dark recesses in the wall pictured below were the Ottoman version of a hat rack.

I doubt the sultan had as many turbans as wives and concubines. The harem at the palace was an interesting building to me. Much more closed off than the rest of the airy, open palace structures, the harem seemed to be a very comfortable prison of sorts.

Not for the first time have I given silent thanks that I was a woman born in the 20th Century in a free society.

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