Posts Tagged ‘istanbul’

Life with 4,000 Roommates

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The Topkapi Palace Complex, Instanbul. Photo: BjørnChristianTørrissen.

Sultan Mehmed II began construction of Topkapi Palace in 1459. Having recently conquered Byzantine Constantinople for the Ottomans, he needed a nice place to stay. The perfect location, he decided, was on the Seraglio Point, which provided commanding views of the Golden Horn, Bosphorous Strait, and the Sea of Marmara, providing a security advantage. Here’s a few good things to know about Topkapi:

— The palace is really a complex—a city within a city comprised of myriad low buildings connected by streets, passageways, and paths, with gardens, courtyards, and fountains in between. In its heyday, more than 4,000 people lived there.

— Topkapi not only served as the sultan’s residence; it was also the seat of the Ottoman government. Courtly behavior was regulated by a strict code of conduct, including the observation of total silence in the inner courtyards.

Apartments at Topkapi. Photo: Serhinho

Apartments window. Photo: Serhinho

— Security was of top priority to the Ottomans, and the palace was designed with its own water supply, kitchens, stables, libraries, gardens, art galleries, bath houses, schools, and mosque. Residents rarely left the complex.

— The Imperial Harem, once home to the Sultan’s mother, wives, concubines, and other family members, has 400 rooms. The harem is actually a complex of its own, with each major group  having its own living quarters and courtyard. Few residents of the harem were allowed outside its doors.

— Ottoman sultans lived at Topkapi from 1465 to 1856, when Sultan Abdul Mecid I moved the court from Topkapi to the newly built European-style Dolambache Palace.

— In 1924, Topkapi was transformed into a museum, which continues to hold collections of Muslim relics, decorative items, military weapons and armor, artwork, jewelry, textiles, and more.

What’s the most intriguing place you’ve ever visited? Please share.

See Topkapi, and much, much more of Turkey on our Legendary Turkey and the Turquoise Coast tour, with four departures this fall.

Video: Sunrise on the Bosphorus

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The Bosphorus is a strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, on which sits the city of Istanbul. As one of the key routes from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus and its surrounds have been enormously important in world history since ancient times. In fact, one of the reasons that Emperor Constantine located his capital on the shores of the Bosphorus was its strategic importance.

The area is also uniquely beautiful. Stop a moment and take in a sunrise on the Bosphorus.

Where’s your favorite place to see the sunrise? Please share!

See the Bosphorus and its surroundings on our Black Sea tour.

Photo: Golden Istanbul

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
Istanbul at Sunset

Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque incorporates Byzantine elements with classical Ottoman architecture.

From its Roman remains to its magnificent mosques, Istanbul’s landscape features stunning cultural monuments. The Sultan Ahmen Mosque, more commonly known in the Western world as the Blue Mosque, is the national mosque of Turkey. Built between 1609 and 1619 during the reign of Ahmed I, the mosque features 6 minarets (of which five are pictured above). Not to be outdone by its splendid exterior, the interior is richly decorated with more than 20,000 hand-made ceramic tiles from Iznik. No visit to Turkey is complete without a stop at the incomparable Blue Mosque.

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