Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace was built in the fifteenth century and was the sultan’s residence for 400 years. It was here that all the nation’s intrigues and decisions took place.

We only had enough time and energy for a whizz round the palace – a great shame given its evident splendour.  Blame this on the Galata water supply which reversed our plans for the day.

We concentrated limited resources on visiting the harem, which Jude remembered as special from her visit about 20 years ago. The visit starts strangely: you go down steps, underground, to the eunuchs’ guardrooms, including a prison room with bars. Things then get grander and more beautiful as you pass through to the limited number of the many rooms of the harem open to the public.  There is a sense of a highly organised community, with the concubines apparently leading a life of some pleasure, with the sultan’s mother in charge. What I had not appreciated was that the harem had two meanings: not only the place of the concubines, but also the private quarters for the sultan’s household – his wives, children and relatives – as well as chosen courtiers.

Our first view of Topkapi Palace had been from our boat. The vast palace complex dominated the peninsula of the Old City, with a welcome and rare oasis of green gardens and inviting white buildings. these more than lived up to their promise. Pity we did not have enough time and, in my case, energy to do them proper justice.

Afterwards Ed took the usual combination of tram and then walk uphill to get back, while we took a taxi with probably the worst driver ever.  He weaved in and out of traffic, talking into his mobile phone, lighting cigarettes, taking prohibited U turns (fairly common) and leaning across my seat to call out to friends on the other side of the road (without slowing down).  When he braked abruptly, jolting Jude and the children in the back, Jude the Stern took over and reprimanded him firmly.  She said afterwards that she was on the point of abandoning the taxi.

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