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Quick Hits: The Most Endearing Museum in Istanbul

October 27, 2010

The Deniz Muzesi, or Naval Museum, is actually pretty obvious. There’s a huge statue of Barbarossa (who was a real person) out front, and it’s right out front by the port at Besiktas. If you’ve been in Istanbul a week, you’ve passed it a dozen times. And since they’re building a new building for it right next door, one can reason there’s quite a few people who’ve not made it part of their itinerary here.

No, no…not Barbossa. BARBAROSSA

And since Besiktas is the sort of place where I always find myself sitting around wondering what to do for 45 minutes or so, this time I decided to wander on over to the museum. When I found out that it only costs 1TL with a (not necessarily valid) Student ID, I figured it would be worthwhile to check it out.

I was right.

On the museum’s three floors, they have the prerequisite nod to Ataturk’s yacht (alas, not the one with the sex scandal).

They have all sorts of cannons inside. Cannons that look like pea-shooters, cannons that could fit a small child. Cannons that are shaped like dragons, cannons shaped like birds. My favorite, however, was this huge musket that looked like something either Yosemite Sam or William Wallace would carry.

There’s also art, of course. They have some gorgeous watercolours of fin de siecle Istanbul and some lovely Ottoman maps. They had a exhibition on the sculpture and moldings of battleships when I was there that was legitimately beautiful. The calligraphy and the ships’ war paint were both well worth the examination. And they had an interesting story about a boat that was supposed to signify Ottoman-Japanese friendship that sank off the coast of Japan. The ship’s flag was this awesome Japanese flag with a Turkish crescent-and-star in the middle, and there was this strange Ottoman-Japanese hybrid memorial out on some island in Japan that there were pictures of. As I said, interesting story.

But the real awesome part was the weirder parts of it. The moustachioed mannequins that are peering over your shoulder in their Ottoman garb. The ship models that are falling apart and have clearly been dropped at some point. The creaky floorboards and bored guards. Those are my favorite parts of the museum.

It’s small, its poorly lit, but it has a story to tell. The new Naval Museum probably won’t have half the charm of this one, so catch this one while you can. And c’mon, it’s only one lira.

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