Eminönü, Turkey
41° 0' N 28° 55' E
Mar 09, 2008 14:01
Distance 4km

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Two Palaces

Istanbul.  Sunday March 9th.

Today, I visited two different palaces in Istanbul. The first is called Topkapi Palace, and it is in the old part of the city and very near to where I stayed (walked over in 10 minutes). This palace started to be built in 1459. It was used by the Sultans (Kings or rulers of the Ottoman Empire) until 1850.

The palace is on a huge site (over 60 acres). It had upwards of 10,000 people living and working on it at any one time. As the photos show, it is very spectacular and grand. One of the features that the Sultans were especially famous for were the numbers of wives and concubines they had. One Sultan in the 19th century had 809 wives and / or concubines. The Sultan and his women lived in a special part of the palace called the Harem. Harem technically means 'forbidden area', and that is what the area was. This Harem has over 400 rooms in it. We were allowed to tour this area using one of those personal audio players. Very impressive, as the photos suggest. Also interesting to learn that the second most important person in the royal court was the Sultan's mother. Her quarters were between the wives' and concubines' quarters and the Sultan's.

Also of note was the immense treasury of gems and gold that the Sultan had accumulated. Part of the palace tour was to see the wealth of the Ottoman ruler. I must have seen a few tons of gold, including solid gold thrones and candle sticks. The palace had a very royal feel to it.

The second site I visited was the new palace, which was built in and around 1850. It is called Dolmabahca Palace, and is in the modern part of Istanbul. The new palace was built because the Sultan was feeling vulnerable to being overthrown in the old palace, so he wanted one that was easier to be safe in and defend. Learned that of the 30 plus Sultans, most did not finish their term, but rather were murdered or overthrown. This palace was built in a European style to resemble Versailles in Paris. Overdone rooms and hallways full of stuffy chairs and crystal chandeliers everywhere. Everything was too big and empty, but it felt like a palace - I imagine Queen E. lives in something similar. We were shown throughout the palace, including into the Harem area. Difference was that this palace had furniture in it, so you got an impression of what it was like to live there. Again, the Harem area was over the top in opulence. At the end of the day, I liked the old palace better.

Other stuff I learned or may have forgotten to mention: Population of Istanbul, depending on who you listen to, is between 10 and 15 million. Also, this is where Florence Nightingale did her pioneering nursing work as part of the Crimean War in 1854. There is a musuem to recognize her achievements, but I did not visit it.

Photos / videos of "Two Palaces":

Ceiling of the harem area of the Old Palace Corridor area of the Harem area of the Old Palace Open courtyard in the most public portion of the Old Palace The reception area for head of state. One of the many meeting areas in the public portion of the palace. Another meeting area Note the complex tile work on the ceiling.  This palace was built in 1850. The ceiling of the ballroom in the publc (non-Harem) portion of the palace. Ceiling of the ballroom The back side of the palace.  This fronts on the Bospherus. The crystal chandaller in the public dining area of the Harem portıon of the New Palace the bed where Mr. Ataturk died on November 5, 1938 at 9:05 AM.  the clock in the background is stopped at this time. the entrance to the New Palace