On our second day in Istanbul we headed to Topkapi Palace – a huge Ottoman Palace that took a full 6 hours to explore! The palace was constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1478 and was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the residence of the Sultan for 380 years.
Walking through the second of three courts, this huge palace compound once housed up to 4000 sultans, royal wives and children, concubines, eunuchs and servants.
The amount of detail found on every gate, room and chamber was so intricate and oozing with royalty.
The Palace Kitchens were enormous – having to feed 4000 residents is no small feat! The kitchens took up 10 domed buildings, required 20 huge chimneys and was run by 800 staff. In addition to which was a grand Chinese celadon porcelain exhibit – fancy!
The Gate of Felicity, the entrance to the Third Court is a rococo-style gate and was used for state ceremonies.
We took a lovely lunch break out on the marble terrace, which overlooked the Bosphorus Straight.
The Third Court was the sultan’s private domain and was filled with blooming flowers, marble fountains and terraces.
The photo below is my favourite pic from Topkapi Palace. After all the grandeur, it was a simple photo that I liked the most. The stark composition, varied texture of the bricks and bright contrast of the red flowers against the white wall are what appeal to me about this shot.
Also within the Third Court was the Imperial Threasury (no photos allowed!). Home to the famous Topkapi Dagger and an 80 karat diamond, it was a pretty impressive display. While all the sparkling gems were pretty, what really stole my attention was the huge weapons collection, which had some of the most spectacular swords and guns I have ever seen. Some swords were so massive they looked to be fit for nothing less than a troll!
This led to the Islamic Relic Museum, an interestingly entertaining collection of relics that I suppose would be impressive if one were religious. We examined such rarities as Moses’ beard hair and footprints and swords from the prophets. Yup. Beard hair. My boyfriend and I joked that he should preserve one of his beard hairs in a time capsule and bury it with the Satanic Bible. Maybe some crazy cult in the future will worship him.
The gorgeous marble terrace housed the Baghdad Kiosk and the imperial circumcision room – both beautiful displays of Ottoman tile-manship
Our last stop was the Harem – a lavish 6 floor, 300 room complex that housed the imperial family. We were only allowed to visit one floor which included the Imperial Council Chamber.
The Twin Kiosks below were used by the crown prince and is an example of the sumptuously decorated private apartments that the prince, the sultan and his mother once resided.
Below is another favourite photo from this day. I left this photo untouched as I thought the stained glass windows were perfectly illuminated and brought out the cool tones of the room.
The palace was fascinating, overwhelming and exhausting and it still amazes me how excessive royalty was – a similar feeling I had after visiting The Vatican.
My boyfriend’s aunt and uncle were visiting Istanbul as well, so we fought back our jet leg, and headed over to the Beyoglu district for dinner at Mikla, which had a perfect view of the city.
We enjoyed Turkish fine dining that night, the food elegantly presented with impeccable flavours and balanced compositions. The dried beef tenderloin “hardaliye” was served with malkara lentil and sunchoke and the lamb ravioli “manti” was served with smoked Buffalo yoghurt, tomato, roasted garlic and sumac.
As the moon rose over Istanbul, our exhausted feet made their way back to our hotel after another amazing day.