Topkapi Palace


After visiting the two other important monuments of Istanbul yesterday, I decided to visit the most important today. The Topkapi palace used to be the Sultan’s residence and administrative center for almost 400 years from 1465 to 1853.

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I woke up early and got there at the opening because I wanted to see the Harem. The Harem can only be seen on a tour and hence, there are a limited numbers of tickets sold each day. I arrived so early that I got on the first tour :). It was interesting walking along the corridors where the women of harem and the Eunuchs used to live hidden from the world.

I then resumed my self guided tour of the impressive palace and went on from one surprise to another.

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The palace architecture and the monuments are already worth the visit in themselves. I really liked the Council hall and the chamber of petitions that are so richly decorated in order to impress whoever came to the palace. The group of monuments located in the North-West part of the palace overlooking the golden horn, is also part of my favorites. But the most impressive part of the visit is definitely the several expositions housed in the palace making it a De facto museum rivaling many great museums in the world by the importance and richness of the artifacts exposed.

The treasury was very interesting. It seems like it is the most visited too as I had to get in line to enter the first room and then had to follow along in order to get a chance to see each artifact for some seconds as the tourists behind me were waiting to get their own five seconds of viewing time. While I was getting gently pressured to move forward, I remembered my visit of the Crown Jewels in London where they installed treadmills on both sides of the display cases in order to streamline the flow of visitors. I was glad it was not the case here. Not sure I would be able to walk against the mill this time! 😉

The exposition of the Holy relics was a complete surprise for me as I had not realized before how important was the position of the Sultan in the Islamic world. I really liked the model of the Holy rock as it reminded me of my trip to Jerusalem. Even though I am not religious, it was very interesting to see all the objects related to Mohamed if only from a historical perspective. One thing that troubled me a little is the fact that many of these relics are swords. Not really what you expect when thinking about holy relics.

All in all, I spent 5 1/2 hours strolling around the palace with the tour book and audio guide in hands to check out everything there was to see.

I think it was one of the days that I got a bit out of control with respect to picture taking. I was definitely far from the oath I took at the beginning of the trip to not take too many pictures. Maybe I will need to go in therapy when I am back in the states! 

I had also planned to visit the museum afterwards but since it was already past 3PM and the museum closes at 5PM, I decided to postpone it for another day. I was not able to absorb anything else anyway so it was an easy decision.

Later the evening was not that cultural with France being beaten by Italy in the World Cup final. I had found a French flag and was trying to exhilarate the mostly pro-French crowd assembled at the hotel café, but unfortunately it did not help at the end. Well, next time ;).