This post is part 15 of 17 of my trip to Istanbul. The series intends to give more than just a I-saw-this-and-did-that review. It aims to share the voice inside my head as I explore a world I’ve only read in books.
The more I travel, the more I realize that the less explored sites often take my breath away more so than popular touristy sites that everyone says it’s a “must-do.” Maybe it’s because I have higher expectation for sites that everyone talks about and less expectations for sites that aren’t mentioned in every single guide book and travel blog.
When I come across something totally unexpected, it leaves an impression and makes me wonder why it doesn’t receive the same amount of publicity as other popular sites. Maybe the impressiveness of the sites becomes diminished once it’s a major tourist attraction. To me it’s no longer as authentic as something that’s hidden in a back alley. It becomes another form of western commercialism charging additional fees for this and that and higher fees for more experiences.
However, not all popular tourist destinations fail to live up to it’s hype. For example, everything I’ve ever read about the Forbidden City was nothing but praises of beauty and extravagance. Even with high expectations, it still blew me away. I had the same kind of expectation for the Topkapi Palace but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. Maybe my expectations were too high.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former primary residence for the Ottoman Sultans before they moved to the more westernized Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosporus River. The Topkapi Palace became museum for it’s fine example of Ottoman architecture and it’s collection of porcelains, weapons, armors, calligraphic manuscripts and it’s most prized treasure and jewelry.
JC and I bought our entrance tickets and proceeded through the Imperial Gate. It was covered in marble and written with gilded inscriptions over a high arch. The gate led to the first courtyard followed by the Gate of Salutation, which was also richly inscribed with calligraphy.
The first building that instantly caught my eye was the Imperial Council. You can’t miss it with it’s naturally illuminating gilded exterior. The porch and floor was made entirely of marble. The white and green wooden ceiling was decorated in gold. The exterior walls and entrance was plastered in gilded gold. No other building in the Topkapi Palace that I had seen matched up to the lavishness of this one.
JC and I wandered in and out of the courtyards just to get a feel of the palace. It was grand in size but it didn’t match up to my expectations. Like any other major tourist attractions, swarms of tour groups and visitors filled up the palace as the day progressed. Lines were getting excessively long and visitors were getting impatient.
The Imperial Treasury was one of the main sites of the palace. The line to enter snaked around and around and it moved at a snail’s pace. When we finally got in the air was humid and musky. Swarms of people crowded around the glass windows to get a glimpse of the glistening jewels. I’m not a big fan of things that sparkle but curiousity made me wonder what everyone was drooling over.
The one thing that did make me go ga-ga was the view from the balcony. Of course, the photo doesn’t do it justice but I had an amazing front row seat since every one was too busy being enchanged my jewels. I got to enjoyed another one of Mother Nature’s masterpiece.