Where else would a pair of weary backpackers choose to spend their last five days in Turkey but in the middle of the most famous tourist area of Istanbul. Situated in the middle of the Sultanahmet district our hotel was a saunter to most of the must-see attractions of Istanbul.
As fantastic as the Aya Sofya and Blue Mosques were, the extravaganza of bling and chintz of the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace was the best day spent in Istanbul. A beautifully preserved set of buildings – on the scale of a small city – and the history so well displayed made it a museum-lover’s wonderland. The size and grandeur are hard to take in but here are some thoughts.
Topkapi was the home to the Ottoman Sultans who ruled for more than four centuries (1460s – 1850s) and now listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. It doubles as a museum safeguarding antiquities from Chinese, Japanese, European porcelain collections as well as weapons and sacred Muslim relics which are housed separately.
The architectural design, craftsmanship and construction of the Palace is hard to comprehend considering the times in which it was built. No modern machinery, no electricity. Simply man’s genius, determination and perseverance to accomplish a building of this magnitude and beauty. The mosaic, fretwork and gold overlays evidenced everywhere are staggering. My photographic skills were not up the job of capturing the scale and grandeur of the many facets of the architecture or artistry contained within the Palace walls.
The Palace has four courts each one smaller than the last and becoming more exclusive the further in one ventures. In Ottoman times, royalty was secluded from the public and so the first court was for the general public, the second and smaller was accessible only to those on imperial business. The third court permitted only imperial family members while the court court was the exclusive domain of the family quarters.
The Sultan, naturally, had access to the entire palace but spent most of his time in the Harem. Islam forbids the enslaving of Muslim, Christian or Jewish women so the women of Topkapi Harem were foreigners. One Sultan (Murat III) had 112 children. No wonder the Harem takes up so much of the total area of the Palace and grounds.
Built as it is on a hill the views from most of the outer parts of the Palace command panoramic views across with the Bosphorus or the neighbourhood in which it is located, Sultanahmet.
Entry to each of the four courts is through an elaborate gateway, each of which becomes more decorative and ornate the closer one gets to the Sultan’s quarters.
The Gate of Felicity was kept closed at all times and an unauthorised crossing behind the gate was seen as the worst violation of the law and challenge to the Sultan’s absolute power. The gate was under the control of the Chief Eunuch of the Sultan’s Harem, and his staff.
Posted for the 2015 A – Z Challenge