Monday, May 21, 2012

Topkapi Palace

Still morning of 5-21, we made it to the Topkapi Palace, home to the Sultans for centuries.  According to Sulieman, the Palace grounds cover some 170 acres, not what we think of as a European palace.  The grounds have 4 courtyards, progressively more restrictive in the old days, with both walls and link buildings enclosing this vast government complex.  So, it's hard to give one picture, one vista like Versailles.

Now various museums are here--a room for armory, portraits of the Sultans, clothing the Sultans wore, one kaftan back to the 1400s, a jewelry room (I didn't have the patience for the line, but Fred and Dawn got in to see the 86-carat Topkapi Diamond--and Dawn recalled this as the focus of an old movie, also Topkapi, about ambitious jewel thieves), a disply of holy relics (perhaps the staff of Moses, the sword of David, things touched and used by the Prophet) and somewhere, through a gate I didn't find, the infamous harem/women's quarters.

There were formal places, like the Gate of Felicity, where coronations would once have taken place...

and great views looking out over the Bosphorus...

and certainly now the feel of public gardens...

I skipped the cafe time, and wandered by myself, trying to get a sense of this place. Mysterious windows--who might have once peered out, what plots may have unfolded, what jealousies...

And this would have been a place of very deliberate peacefullness

But the crowds are impossible to ignore. Here, the small pavilion set for a sultan to 'break his fast' during Ramadan, filled with tourists, pushing to stand there, pushing to get that photo.


Such a democratic impulse conflicts with, destroys, whatever purpose this place once had.  Though there are still tranquil moments, and some stunning, surprising images:

Once, the kitchens of the palace fed 3000 people a day, the officers and bureaucrats and soldiers--a whole assembly that employed thousands more.  I had some of these roasted chestnuts on the way out.  Maybe the same thousands are still employed here.

later, bob

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