I feel we are living two existences here in Istanbul. We are the tourists who queue up, buy tickets and wander around the ancient, the famous and the beautiful sites on offer here. And take the touristic photos….never one to miss a chance of a photo, yes real guns!
And then we stop and just hang out here, wander, sit, chat to , buy food. Both have their merit. Both are fabulous fun (and educational of course!).
With our tourist hats firmly on we visited the Topkapi Palce, a mighty stonghold on the hill right at the entrance to the Golden Horn. This was the opulent residence of the Sultan from where he ruled over the Ottoman Empire. The guidebook says it oozes wealth, pleasure and intrigue. It is right. Even though the entrance is just minutes away we walked all around the old wall of the palace which gave us a lovely seaside stroll. We picniced in the beautiful grounds, like a botanical gardens, then made our way into the next courtyard to queue for tickets. The outer sections of the Palace wall which we followed round. Intricate mosaic work over the main gate -The Gate of Salutations.
There were many gorgeous summer house type buildings, although nothing like any summer house I have seen. These were often built for a specific visitor. Five sided, high roofed with spectacular domes, brilliant mosaics, stained glass windows, ornate fretwork and masonary. Then these large day beds where one could lounge around. The Throne room had the largest, where the Sultan would hold his audiences. Then there was the library, the circumcision room (!!), and of course….
This was a mini city in its own right. Up to 400 dorm-type rooms plus gardens and courtyards where women were basically kept as prisnors, just the “lucky ” few being selected to produce a male heir for the Sultan…. Many of the rooms we couldn’t take photos in – the armoury, the treasury (think huge emeralds) the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle. This was amazing as it housed a mantle (like a cloak) from the 6th century, looking a bit worse for wear but intact. Not only that but hairs from the beard of the Prophet (Mohammad), one of his teeth and an imprint of a footprint he made all those years ago… (he had huge feet). The grounds were beautiful gardens, fountains, inner courtyards, huge trees, another inner courtyard, many little nooks and crannies where you could just image the intrigue, the back stabbing (literally) the gossip that went on as robed figures slipped around unseen between columns, through corridors and across courtyards in the middle of the night.
The walls and the ceiling were just blue with mosaics. All original, all so bright. I love the vibrant colours and have a lot of respect for a culture that is so colourful in its interior design.
Stained glass to rival any English Cathedral.
Domed ceilings everywhere
Topkapi Palace is all about location location, location. If I had been a Sultan I would have picked it just for the views alone…Right up the Golden horn and out over the sea of Marmara,the Asian side of Istanbul behind.