Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Most Grand Palace. Topkapı Sarayı.


It was more sightseeing today. We started at another of Istanbul's historic gems - Topkapı Sarayı (Palace). We headed back on the tram towards Sultanahmet, getting off at the Gülhane stop. From here, it's barely about a five minute walk, uphill, to the entrance to Gülhane Park. Inside, is a street that leads uphill to Topkapı Palace.



On the walk up, we passed by the entry gate to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. I have never been so I'm putting it on our itinerary. We'll get to it later to day.


As expected, every tourist was here. Crossing over the Galata Bridge, we noticed a couple behemoth sized cruise ships docked. I figured a good number of those tourists would be at Topkapı today.  It was a beautiful day for a stroll so I just took my time.  Bro started out just a few feet ahead of me but soon enough, I could no longer see him. 

The palace complex sits at the top of the hill.  The path leads through a well tended garden; a lovely place.


Bro was nowhere in sight by the time I saw the massive entry gate to the Palace complex.  We had gotten separated and of course, he had probably left his cellphone back at the apartment as texting him to find out where he was yielded no response.  Grr....when you need him to have his phone with him, he doesn't!

By the time I made it to the queue leading up to the ticket counter, he was nowhere to be seen. 

Topkapı is a museum so you do need to purchase entry tickets. Sigh. He needs to keep a watch on where I am or at least notice the row of ticket kiosks that he had to walk by to get to the entrance to the palace grounds.
 
I could see the mass of people lining up to go pass the entry gate and figured he was probably in that mass somewhere but it was impossible to try and pick him out in the crowd. I figured he would figure out that he needed to have the tickets and would eventually make his way back to where I was standing so I stayed where I was. It seemed like an eternity before he got back but he eventually did.

We got our ticket for the Palace and the separate one needed to see the Harem.  You have to see the Harem.  That's where the Sultan and his family and his harem of women lived :-)

We joined the *line* of tourists and patiently waited to pass through the entrance known as The Gate of Salutation (Bâb-üs Selâm); i it leads to the second courtyard of the palace.

I told Bro that when I was here in 2008, we had to pass through a security check and that I wouldn't be surprised it that was still the case and therefore, the reason for the line moving so slowly.



Sure enough, we had to pass through scanners before we could truly enter.  Once in, I told Bro that we should just go ahead and see the Harem.  The apartments are so opulent in design - nothing like I know he has ever seen before.

We went from one apartment to another - several were connected by outdoor passages and some by indoor hallways.  Each is a unique design, catering to the fancies of its particular occupant - be a Sultan, his wife, his mother, a prince or the sultan's consorts and concubines.  In Western palaces, you can often identify whether or not a room is designed for a man or a woman simply by looking at the decorations.  The more *feminine* looking the touches, the more likely the room was used by a woman.  Here, that distinction does not exist.  Every room is so ornately decorated; they are jaw dropping gorgeous and dizzying at times. I swear no two patterns of anything were the same!  And it's not just the walls that are luxe in design, the ceilings are as well.  After a while, my neck got tired bending to look up.

The apartments are a photographers delight and nightmare.  So much beauty to capture which adds up to hundreds of megabytes of photos.  For me, I took a LOT of photos of the apartments, too many to post up so I'm just going to share a few select photos here and the rest are in the slideshow at the bottom of this blog posting.

Sorry but I don't remember which room belonged to whom.





Apartments of the Queen Mother









Privy Chamber of Sultan Murad III




Privy Chamber of Sultan Ahmed I





Our walk through the Harem led us outside where there was more beautiful design to be admired and appreciated.




Even the eaves of the building are wonderfully decorated with gold relief work!



From here, we were finished with our visit to the Harem.  We followed the path to the exit.


Hexagonal shaped holes provide light from above - the Ottoman version of a skylight.


Next, it was on to visiting some of the other buildings in the Palace complex, following the site map that we had been given.  This place is huge! I took even more photos and again, am sharing a select few here.  The rest are in the slideshow.

















This place is so popular and so crowded that bench space as at a premium.  We spotted the rare, available and decided to make use of it to rest our feet for a few minutes.  That and Bro needed to review the map.

 

Enough of the apartments and pavilions.  It was time to visit the museum.  The exhibits are housed in the building that's known as the Conqueror’s Pavilion. 



It was a very long line waiting to get inside the pavilion.  Initially, we debated whether or not to see something else first and then come back but neither one of us felt that the crowd would diminish any so we ended up patiently waiting to get in.  I told Bro it would be worth it because this was where we would get to see what are now considered to be historic treasures but back in the day, they just the every day items used by people living at Topkapı. 

As we stood in line, Bro chatted with some fellow tourists.  He's a very friendly fella and I'm sure it was a welcomed change for him as the only person he gets to talk to is me and well, that can get boring after a while.


Photography was not allowed inside the museum.  We saw the luxurious silk robes worn by various sultans and gold and gems galore - there was a lot of major bling!  Even the household like simple water jugs were beyond fantastic.  There were coins and medals as well.  The palace museum's collection is very small but it's just enough to give you a taste of what life was like back in the day.  Ain't bad unless you were one of the worker bees.  Then, it must have been a nightmare to tend to the needs of the sultans and to keep up the place!

We walked single file through the museum's exhibition rooms.  That way, you were ensured a good close up view. The downside was that the line moved really slowly.  Patience, my dear.

The walk through the museum ends at a covered balcony overlooking the Sea of Marmara and part of the Bosphorus.  The royal family most certainly picked a prime piece of real estate to build their home on!



As we looked out at the sea, I pointed out the remains of ancient walls of Constantinople built by Constantine I, shortly after he founded the city.

The Sea of Marmara.

From the overlook, we went to another courtyard, the Imperial Terrace, surrounded by yet more pavilions.  Along the way, we took a slight detour to take in less obstructed view of the Sea of Marmara.


I don't have to tell you it was a picture perfect day. Just look at the photo.  What I can say though is that the weather in Istanbul in October is divine!


Our walk to the Imperial Terrace took us through a small, well manicured garden, a section of which is dedicated to roses. Unfortunately, it's not the time of year for roses to bloom so we could only imagine how lovely this place would be when all the flowers are out.




As we approached the top of the steps, I could hear the sounds of water. 



We strolled through the pavilions and took in more views of the water.  There was more glorious works of Islamic art and architecture every which way we turned and every which way we looked.  Thankfully, we had had a bit of a break after having seen the stupendous Harem apartments otherwise, this would have been sensory overload beyond anything imaginable even though we only went through three or four pavilions.  None of the pavilions were more than just a single room in size so we didn't stay long inside each one.













All toll, we had spent three hours wandering through the various apartments, pavilions at Topkapı not to mention time spent ogling the treasures house inside the museum.  This place is truly magnificent!

Here's the slideshow of the photos that I took of  Topkapı Palace.



It was time for us to move on.  We'd be back in the 'hood after lunch.