Istanbul is a city of wonderful buildings. In my 1971 visit here I couldn’t afford extravagances like entry fees, and relied instead on wandering the city to soak up the atmosphere and hearing reports from other, less poor travellers.
So during our time here, I wanted to see everything.
Highlight was the palaces – the old and the new.
The old palace, Topkapi is set on the south side of the Golden Horne in the famous Sultanahmet area. It was home to the Sultans until places like Versailles came into fashion. It is big, made up of court yards within court yards. Rooms like the Baghdad Pavilion and the Circumcision Room are elaborately decorated with beautiful tiles, stunning windows and wonderfully painted ceilings.
Topkapi is also home to an amazing collection of armory, jewellery and wardrobe. There is also a display dedicated to the prophet Mohammed, including relics of his hair.
The last five sultans, impressed by what was happening in Europe with regard to comfort and style, built and extended the Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphorus. It is grand and ornate with a crystal staircase and the biggest crystal chandeleir which was gifted by a young Queen Victoria. The Harem (or family quarters) provided accommodation for the mother, wives, concubines and extended family of the Sultan. Three and four storey apartments, all opening onto a central meeting area were lavishly decorated and coloured.
After the last Sultan was deposed by Atatürk in 1923, he moved his administration to Dolmabahçe. When he died here in 1938, all the clocks in the palace were stopped at 9:05am.
No photography is allowed within the palace, however we made up for it in the beautiful gardens.