lunedì 4 febbraio 2013

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace and Harem Apartments

Topkapi Palace is, together with Sultanahmet Mosque and Ayasofya, one of the museums you cannot miss in Istanbul. 
This palace was the main residence of the Turkish Sultans for four centuries and has been built with rich and sumptuous pavilions, courtyards and gardens.

The building is located on the tip of the hill in the European part of Istanbul, overlooking the  Marmara Sea facing the Asian coast.
From the various terraces and courtyards you can enjoy the view; a wonderful view towards the "Golden Horn" .

Topkapi Palace was built by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 and the sultans who succeeded him enlarged and embellished it up to create a huge citadel.
Despite the three large fires that seriously damaged  the Palace in the sixteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, the sultans undertook to make it more luxurious and spacious.
Topkapi Palace was home to a long line of sultans until the nineteenth century, when the successor of Mahmut II movedhis residence on the shores of the Bosphorus Canal.





Walking from the waterfront Kennedy Caddesi towards the hill, you will end up to the Fountain of Ahmet III square. This is one of the most beautiful fountains from the Ottoman era.
From the fountain square you pass through the gardens leading to the first door: here you can already glimpse the first buildings of the citadel.





The first courtyard of the Palace is open to everybody. 
It is possible to walk under the arcades, among well tended gardens and browse through the models that show the first version of the building and how it changed over the centuries.
In this court you can also find the ticket kiosk and  audio guides rental kiosk.
Beware that when buying the ticket to visit the palace, you can add small charge in order to be able to access the Harem too. 
The Harem is, in our opinion, the most beautiful part of the entire complex. 
If you dont' purchase the two tickets together, and you decide to purchase the Harem ticket later on, you will not get a discount at all.

The visit to the palace starts from the second courtyard. On the right side there are huge kitchens, with wonderful fireplaces that currently host a beautiful collection of Chinese porcelain and in the area of the Ancient Treasury hall you can see a rich collection of weapons.

In the center of the second courtyard you can find the Hall of Sultan Council  and the access to the Harem.

In the third courtyard you can find the Kiosk of the Holy Mantle: the Audience Hall of the Sultan.
On the right side there is the New Treasury hall where precious objects,  including the Topkapi dagger with the hilt encrusted with precious stones,  are displayed
The queue to visit the treasures is always very long; fortunately the entrance is under a porch, therefore you are sheltered from the sun in summer and rain in winter.

The  Baghdad Kiosk, further on, has been built to celebrate the conquest of this cityand is a
jewel of the Ottoman Empire. 
The ceramics that decorate this building are really beautiful and the terrace offers a magnificent view over Istanbul. 
From the third courtyard it is also possible to access the Ahmed III Tulips Garden. This sultan was well known for his passion for flowers, especially tulips, and he even appointed a minister who cared about the cultivation of bulbs.




Unfortunately, the tours of the mansion allows you to admire only a small part of the rooms, but at least helps to understand the way of living of the Sultans and the luxury in which they used to live.

The Harem, that was guarded by legions of eunuchs, was the home of the wives, concubines and women relatives of the Sultan; in this area only women were allowed to live. 

The visit to the Harem make us understanding how women lived in this purely sexist culture.
Here women lived a secluded life, in a stylish and "golden" place, but also among subtle political and sexual intrigues.
One of the things that impressed us more was the Harem pool: a huge tub which overlooks the balconies of the concubines of the Sultan rooms with golden grilles on the windows.




The Topkapi Palace is open from Wednesday to Monday from 9 to 17. 
The best time to visit it is in the morning, just after the opening, in order to be able to walk in the halls and gardens without too many tourists that might spoil "The Arabian Nights" atmosphere.
Ubicazione: Istanbul, Provincia di Istanbul, Turchia

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