Day 16 (late afternoon)Temperature: 16 degreesWeather: cloudy periods
Having heard so many stories about the Topkapi Palace, the home of the Turkish Sultans for more than four hundred years, well, I was quite anxious to be finally heading that way as well as excited to see a place listed among the monuments contained within the "Historic Areas of Istanbul", a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985!
Construction of this palace started in 1459 and had four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. Being a royal residence, it was also an area where state occasions and royal entertainments took place. As I made my way towards the gate with the rest of the group, crowds of people were already on site confirming the fact that the place was indeed a major tourist attraction!
The Imperial Gate as they called it was the main entrance to the palace and guards stood next to it. Its massiveness was quite impressive and in my opinion accentuated its defensive character.
Once passed this gate, we were in the courtyard, a huge courtyard where beautiful tall trees grew all along the stoned walkways.
From here, we followed Daghan to many buildings, one of them being the Harem, the famous Harem which had a maze of rooms and corridors. During the reign of the Ottoman Sultans, this famous Harem was a closed world and occupied only by the wives, concubines and children. And concubines, well, there were many, many, many….
Another impressive building we visited was where exhibits of the Sultans Treasury were kept. Just to name a few, one of them was a jewel-encrusted Topkapi Dagger and another one was an amazing 86-carat diamond. It is said that the Topkapi Treasury may be the most ostentatious collection of wealth ever gathered outside the legendary Aladdin's cave. Well, no wonder guards were everywhere! Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside!
Even though the Topkapi Palace was an interesting place to visit, I could see why the Ottoman Sultans lived here up until the end of the 17th
century. The place had become outdated in my opinion and from what Daghan told us, it had lost its importance as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new and more modern palaces along the Bosphorus Strait!
And who wouldn’t want to live along the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bosphorus Strait! That was why in 1856, the sultan Abdul Mecid decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace, the first European-style palace in the city!
Well, having previously by ourselves visited the Dolmabahce Palace and now seeing this Topkapi Palace, if you were to ask me which one of the two I much preferred, my answer would be without any hesitation the Dolmabahce Palace! That one was quite a beauty whereas this one, the Topkapi Palace, quite old and cold feeling!Monique :-)