This afternoon we visited the Topkapi Palace. It had been closed on Tuesday and we had wandered through some of the lower gardens, but today it was open and we visited. We went about 2pm and there is a LOT to see!! It was the palace of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856, when they moved across the Golden Horn to the Dolmabahce Palace.
If you want to read more about it, click the link above.
Here is a scale model of the palace
It is constructed in 4 courtyards, and people had access to 1, 2 3 or 4 depending on their rank and the necessity to visit.
One enters by the Imperial Gate, which was at the end of a path through some lovely gardens (the First Courtyard), then further in via the Gate of Salutation...
We were in the Second Courtyard.
We'd been told to visit the Harem, which costs extra but was apparently worth it, so we bought our tickets and the audio guide and went there first, as it shuts at 6.30.
It is an amazing place! All the females who lived and worked in the palace lived here. The Sultans mother, his wives and concubines, and all the females gathered from around the empire who were trained as maids and servants. It is a huge section, almost as large as the rest of the palace, but squashed into one area instead of spread out. The sad thing is that most women never saw anymore of the outisde world than they could see here, all the gardens and grounds and views etc were reserved for men!
The Harem is the bit, in the model diagram, on the right with the minarets and lots of buildings clustered together. You can just see a tiny corner of the pool in the model.
In the Harem were also the rooms for the Crown Prince and the Sultan.
One walks through the Black Eunuchs Courtyard, where their cells were
and through the Concubine's Courtyard
passing the Passage of Concubines where the food from the kitchens was left for the women
through the room of the Sultan's Mother
and into the Open Courtyard of the Sultan's Mother
rich with Iznik tiles. The fountain in the room of Murat III
Everywhere exquisite doors and tiled niches for books and fans etc
then we came to the Favourites Courtyard
Out we went through the Goldenway, so called because the Sultan used to stand on the steps and throw money to the concubines on feast days.
We came out into the gardens of the 3rd Courtyard. This was primarily used by the sultan to dispense justice and hold audiences. This was done here also to impress visitors.
We saw the Audience Chamber. Not got a good photo of the inside so here's the outside
Directly behind the Audience Chamber is the Library of Ahmet III. I loved this building, so beautiful with tiles and window ledges for reading. I can just imagine myself lying here all day with books spread around!
The library contained books on theology, Islamic law and similar works of scholarship in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and Persian. The library collection consisted of more than 3,500 manuscripts. Today these books are kept in the Mosque of the Agas, which is located to the west of the library (and which we didn't visit).
Out we went and into the Fourth Courtyard, the private area of the Sultan and his family.
we went up the stairs from the rose garden and into an area which contains many outstandingly beautiful rooms and terraces.
The main terrace contains a pool around which are kiosks, or pavilions.
another terrace leads to the Circumcision Room, built in 1650 and used for the circumcision of all young princes
there is a large fountain (in the photo) but every window also contains a small fountain - often just water pouring into the window niche then back out - for coolness as well as privacy. Many of the rooms in the palace had this feature.
From here back out onto the main terrace, which has 2 kiosks on it - the Yerevan Kiosk, which served as a religious retreat for the 40 day period of fasting
it has a beautiful ceiling and Iznik tiles
and the terrace also contains the Baghdad Kiosk, built in 1638
There's also a gold roofed pavilion (the Iftar Pavilion) where the Sultan apparently broke his fast on Ramadan, with great views over the Golden Horn.
We left this set of terraces and went back down to the Rose / Tulip garden. Next is the Terrace Pavilion, also known as the Sofa Pavilion, which is the only wooden structure in the palace. From here the Sultan would watch sporting events in the gardens.
next door is the rooms of the Chief Physician and below is the Grand Pavilion, which is closed as it is being renovated. Next to that is the Sofa Mosque. Here is the Marmara Sea View and steps lead down to a cafe with a very welcome seat and lemon drink.
After resting a bit we resumed our tour and next went to the Treasury. This is housed in the Conqueror's Pavilion.
Cannot take photos of the treasures, but one of these is the Topkapi dagger, made famous by the film Topkapi. There are thrones, armour, swords, diamonds and many jewels on display.
There is a lovely loggia at the end of the Pavilion with views over the Marmara Sea
Next we went to the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force, which houses a collection of Sultans' robes. These were really fascinating - sorry no photos!
The collection of miniatures, which is the real treasure of the Topkapi Palace, was closed. Only 100 of hte collection of 10,000 are ever on display at once. So it looks like I will have to go back to see them ;-)) !!!
Also closed were the kitchens, which friends had advised we visit. The kitchens also house a collection of cooking implements and pots etc from the centuries. It also houses a collection of porcelain and celadon - none of which we could see.
We visited the Outer Treasury, which now holds a collection of Islamic arms and weaponry. It is a superb collection indeed, but we were getting tired...
We last visited the Imperial Council Hall. This consisted of 3 rooms, all richly decorated, separated by wooden screens, in a pavilion surrounded by marble porches.
The Viziers and other officials met here to discuss affairs of state. The Sultan could listen in via a special listening box and ask for further information if required, but he did not attend these sessions usually.
and the other - the golden grille is the listening post of the Sultan.
The doorways of the Imperial Council
We left the palace and walked back through the gardens.
Home for a rest as we are out to dinner tonight!