Saturday, January 12, 2013

Topkapi Palace

On this rainy day in Istanbul, we visited Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans for nearly three centuries. Though this was the only place we visited today, we definitely needed the full day, for the palace is a maze of land and buildings with treasures and beautiful rooms around every corner.

Topkapi Palace was built between 1459-1465 by Mehmet II after he conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul. It was the main residence for the Ottoman rulers until 1853, when they moved to Dolmabahce Palace. We traditionally think of a palace as one huge dwelling, but Topkapi is more of a complex; it contains several buildings that are connected by large courtyards. We were able to go into many of these and see a variety of displays.
I think we would all agree that one of the most stunning showcases was the Treasury. We were absolutely in awe of the vast amount of  jewels that was exhibited. It seemed that everywhere we looked, something glinted in the light. From bejeweled water flasks to golden thrones to the famous Topkapi dagger, there were more precious stones on display then we ever thought imaginable.

Another incredible exhibit was the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, which contains many relics sacred to Islam. Among those that we saw were the mantle that the prophet Muhammed wore, as well as hairs from his beard. With Koran verses being chanted in the background, this display was quite humbling, which was an interesting juxtaposition to the extreme wealth displayed in the neighboring treasury rooms.
Though the day outside was quite rainy and dull, our visit to Topkapi Palace was anything but that. We loved being able to see the beautiful rooms and treasures of the palace and were able to better understand the relationship modern day Turkey has with their Ottoman ancestors.

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