Topkapi Palace

The next day, the Topkapi Palace was our focus. Originally called the New Palace, construction of this residence and headquarters of the Ottoman sultans started in 1459, soon after the Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople. It’s importance peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries and then began to wane as the later Ottoman sultans spent their time in newer palaces along the Bosporous. The current name, which means Cannon Gate, was given to it in the 19th century. 

After entering through the Sentinel Gate, we visited the Harem first. This section was home to the Valide Sultan – the sultan’s mother – as well as his wives and concubines. Many of the interior and exterior walls were tiled, with frescoes on the ceilings and domes. The chimneys over the fireplaces consistently caught my eye, with their steeply pointed conical shapes covered either with tiles or with elaborately textured copper. 

When we reached the small mosque that was used by the women of the sultan’s household, a woman singing filled the space with a beautiful sound. It was interesting to compare what we saw here with the palaces we visited in India. The rooms and spaces are impressive, but are at more of a human scale; it was easier to imagine real people living in them.

We ate a late lunch at the restaurant inside the palace, which had a good view and better food than we were expecting: chicken and spinach boreks followed by a nice pastry with hazelnut and apple filling. After lunch, we spent a little more time going through exhibits in the other buildings non-harem section, but ee were both a little bit burned out at this point. Dan was interested in the Treasury buildings, but the crowds there were pushy and had an unpleasant energy, so we decided to throw in the towel and move on to the Hagia Eirene.