Istanbul 5, Turkey – April 2014

March 23, 2016

After a quick Shish Kebab on the street and a glass of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, we headed over to the astounding and fascinating Topkapı Palace and museum, home of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years.

The Palace is an extensive complex rather than a single monolithic structure, with an assortment of low buildings constructed around courtyards, interconnected with galleries, passages and pavilions that stretch down the promontory towards the shores of the Bosporus. The total size of the complex varies from around 592,600 square meters (1,944,225 square feet) to 700,000 square meters (7,534,983 square feet), depending on which parts are counted. Don’t ask how many bathrooms. Many of the walls of the palace are ten feet thick, so it mostly escaped structural damage during the 1999 Izmit earthquake.

This is of the many exquisite sitting rooms we walked through.

One of many exquisite sitting rooms we wandered through.

Checking the map in our Lonely Planet guide, we saw that there were four main courtyards, essentially beautiful parks with lush gardens and fountains. Clearly, we would need two days to see it all.

The palace kitchens alone consisted of 10 domed buildings. They were the largest kitchens in the Ottoman Empire with a staff of 800 to 1,000 people and the capacity to prepare up to 6,000 meals a day. We’re not talking about paper plates either. Chinese and Far Eastern porcelain was highly valued and was transported by camel caravans over the Silk Road or by sea. The 10,700 pieces of Chinese porcelain displayed are thought to rival that found in China as one of the finest collections in the world.

Istanbul #5 22We didn’t want to miss the Harem. What’s a Harem? Among several definitions, it is a separate part of a Muslim household reserved for wives, concubines, and female servants. One might have a romantic image of beautiful girls, (concubines), skimpily dressed, parading around with their only job to please the master, like “Peel me a grape, honey.” In this case, being the home of the Sultan, Topkapı’s Harem had more than 400 rooms with hundreds of concubines, children, and servants. There were special rooms for the Queen Mother, the sultan’s consorts and “favorites”, the princes and the concubines as well as the eunuchs, both black and white, who had been castrated in order to make them reliable to serve the royal court. The “favorites” of the Sultan were conceived as the instruments of the perpetuation of the dynasty in the harem organization. When the “favorites” became pregnant they assumed the title and powers of the Official Consort of the Sultan. As it turns out, many of the women in the Sultan’s Harem had considerable political power.

The Sultans from centuries passed would no doubt be astounded by this modern view of Istanbul.

The Sultans from centuries passed would no doubt be astounded by this modern view of Istanbul.

Recalling my first visit years ago as a neophyte traveler, I remember being astounded by the unimaginable wealth found in the Treasury. The Imperial Treasury is a vast collection of works of art, jewelry, heirlooms of sentimental value and money belonging to the Ottoman dynasty. Many are of solid gold and other precious materials and covered with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. I recall two enormous solid gold candleholders, each weighing 48 kg, (105 lbs), and mounted with 6,666 cut diamonds. The Imperial Treasury is without doubt one of the world’s greatest treasure chambers.

Every room we entered had amazing detailed paintings, rare woods inlayed with mother of pearl, beautiful tiles, intricate mosaics. The whole Topkapı Palace and museum is just something you have to see to comprehend. The obvious wealth of the Sultans puts Donald Trump to shame.

27 Responses to “Istanbul 5, Turkey – April 2014”

  1. Where is your pickup parked? Who is watching it?

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  12. Beautiful photos of the Palace!

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  21. Just watch out for suicide bombers….

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  27. Stephen: It is a guarded parking lot.

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