Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Istanbul, Turkey: Topkapi Palace, The Harem and Gülhane Park

Actual date of this event: 2-7 April

One of my most favorite things we did in Istanbul was visit Topkapi Palace. But it wasn't the palace as a whole that won me over - it was The Harem and Gülhane Park. Beautiful. Stunning. Major Eye-candy! We took an extremely large amount of pictures, so it was really really difficult to sift through and choose the best. I really wish I could share them all, but you'll have to live with only 52 (the last ones are my favorite).
Topkapi Palace is a massive palace which sits up high on the "peninsula" of Sultanahmet. Construction of the first parts of the palace began in 1453, and was the court of the Ottoman empire and the home of several sultans until the 19th century. To enter the palace, we passed through two gates. The first is the Imperial Gate which opens to the grounds where the Hagia Irene and the Archaeology Museum are. We chose to skip those attractions because we knew we had loads of ground to cover in the palace.

{Hagia Irene}
The second gate is the Middle Gate which is where you actually use your ticket to get in to the palace grounds. Once we entered, we saw long paths of trees, flower gardens, and it all seemed so peaceful even though there were quite a lot of people inside.

Luke and I had purchased a museum pass which allowed us to skip ticket lines at various attractions. I had read online that The Harem was a must-see, and I am so glad that I listened! There was a separate fee to visit The Harem, but it was included in our pass which is partly why we got the museum pass.

The Harem, which means "forbidden", was the living quarters of the imperial family as well as the sultan's concubines (at one point he had around 300 of them) and eunuchs (at one point he had 200 of them). As it was a private residence, the sultan could basically do whatever he wanted. The Harem is six floors, but we were only able to view one level. The walls of the rooms were covered in intricate tile, all perfectly aligned with one another. The windows were even more beautiful with colorful stained glass with parts being normal glass to allow natural light to flow into the rooms. Each room was decorated completely different, but all of them were a sight for sore eyes!

After we left The Harem, we walked around the palace grounds a bit more. There were a few other buildings that we could enter, which also has spectacular tiling and stained glass. I had a really difficult time choosing which windows were my favorite, but I think the ones below were.

While in Topkapi Palace, we found a few look out points. One looked out toward Beyoglu and Galata Tower, and the other to Asia. I could definitely see myself living here just for these views!

Little did we know, that while looking out toward Beyoglu, that there was an amazing park just below us. We almost missed it, too. We visited Topkapi Palace on our second day in Istanbul, but on our last day, we decided to head back to Sultanahmet to enjoy the beautiful historic sights. While doing so, we discovered Gülhane Park which is hands down the most stunning piece of land I have ever seen. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with a giant purple flower bed.
We both immediately said, "Wow!" After snapping a few pictures in awe, we turned our head slightly and were literally blown away!
I was so in shock by all of the tulips and other flowers that I hardly noticed how many people were in this park. Thankfully, everyone was respectful of the gardens, and I saw no one picking any flowers. People, including us, were slowly making their way along the paths, taking way too many pictures, and sitting next the beds for photo shoots. We even saw a bride, who looked like Cinderella, no joke, with her new husband taking their wedding photos. What.a.backdrop!

 {Go Coogs!}

We could have stayed for hours and hours in the park, but our camera would have run out of battery life in exhaustion! Anyway, lately Luke and I have steered away from spending so much money on visiting tourist attractions like these, but I am thankful we chose to go Topkapi Palace and The Harem. It was definitely money worth spent!

Other posts from Istanbul: Galata TowerBeyoğluThe MosquesHagia Sophia & Basilica CisternTopkapi PalaceThe Bazaars & Galata BridgeKariye Museum & Theodosian WallBosphorus & Golden HornKadıköy

Islamic law allowed the sultan to have four wives. The Ottoman Empire did not observe the first born son the right to be the next heir to the throne, so brothers (who often had different mothers) would battle in a bloodbath for the title.

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