Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

We only had few days in Istanbul but found the city fascinating for its historic buildings and open spaces. Australia has a built history of just over two hundred years at most and typically only around 150; Germany goes back much further but there are few remnants of anything more than 1000 years old; but in Istanbul’s old city the tourist is surrounded by a continuous sequence going all the way back to Roman times, layer on layer.

The Topkapi Palace (mid 15th century, with later additions and alterations) occupies a headland overlooking the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. A fortified wall encloses gardens and minor buildings, and within that is the palace complex as such:

Architectural model of the palace
Architectural model of the palace

The main entrance is between the towers at the right-hand end as we view the model here. A second gate at the opposite end of that courtyard leads to state offices and public reception rooms, while the congested area in the foreground is the family’s private quarters (the harem) and the long buildings along the far edge of the complex are for kitchens and support services.

The whole palace is now a museum showcasing its own former glories and housing important historical material. One exhibition space is devoted to holy Islamic relics, another to arms and armour, another to portraits of the Ottoman sultans, another to unrelated temporary exhibitions. Its emotional impact on the visitor – this visitor, anyway – is oddly mixed: power, grandeur, ostentation and sheer immensity, beauty but little warmth, great age marked by dilapidation … it is so overwhelming that liking it or not seems almost irrelevant.

The Wikipedia page is far larger than my small effort here and is a good starting point for further exploration.

Part of the outer fortifications
Part of the outer fortifications
Courtyard and public building
Courtyard and public building
Private quarters and garden
Private quarters and garden
Private quarters
Private quarters
Verandah archways
Verandah archways
Interior with tiled walls
Interior with tiled walls
Stained glass and tiles typical of the interiors
Stained glass and tiles typical of the interiors

 

 

 

 

 

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