A Saturday Fit For a Sultan
Trip Start Mar 01, 2011
39Trip End May 08, 2011
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Topkapi Palice sits atop one of the highest points in all of Istanbul, overlooking the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and the entrance to the Bosphorus. Saturday isn't the best day to visit one of the more favored tourist attractions, but the clear sky and sun geared us up for facing the throngs of Russian, Japanese, German, French and British tourists on their way to marvel at the Sultan's riches and real estate. It was worth it.
The property is simply jaw-dropping, with a stunning view and very well preserved rooms and grounds. From the Sultan's library to the swimming pool, it was clearly good to be upper-crust in ancient times. Not to be missed were the rooms of jewelry, gems, thrones and gilded weapons, either gifts from neighboring empires or riches of their own. Apparently 80 caret diamonds, emeralds and rubies were as casually gifted amongst emperors of the day as bringing a bottle of wine over to someone's house for dinner.
Last but not least were a series of rooms full of Islamic heritage and artifacts - a fascinating tour of the history of Islam, journey of Muhammad and other prophets, and relics such as pieces of his beard, teeth and clothing. Throughout this section, a gentleman chanted the Qu'ran, adding a certain depth to the importance of the artifacts we were viewing. Amongst us, many Muslims viewing these historic items were visibly moved to tears.
In all, we spent a good three hours at the palace and, although our feet were tired, we set out for the Basicila Cisterns nearby for a final tourist trap experience. The Cicterns were built in the 6th century by the Roman Emperor Justiniaus to supply water for Constantinople. Worth a peek, this massive underground area remains intact after nearly 1500 years; yet another testament to the marvels of Roman Empire ingenuity and craftsmanship.
Overdue for some lunch, we opted for lamb and chicken pitas - what we have jokingly called "Jimmy Johns" due to their wrapper and the fact that they are often being delivered along with trays of tea to shopkeepers - and beer at a nearby restaurant and decided we ought to jot down some thoughts on our travels. We landed at "Just Bar" near our hotel, which would serve as our home for a few hours as we slugged pilsner after pilsner and "borrowed" wifi access from a small travel agency across the street. If we haven't said it before, it deserves mentioning, the Turkish people are a generous and friendly lot. This is a great place to visit.