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Jul 10, 2013

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace was the primary residence to Ottoman Sultans and their courts in Istanbul until the middle of the 19th century. Constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conquerer of Constantinople, the palace was also considered the administrative and educational center of the state. In the early 1850's, the palace was deemed inadequate for the requirements upheld for certain state ceremonies and protocols, so the sultans moved to the newly constructed Dolmabahçe Palace directly across the Bosphorus. Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapi Palace was transformed into a museum with only the most important rooms (including the Sultan's Harem) and relics available to be viewed by the public today.

On our tour of Istanbul, we were able to visit the Topkapi Palace, its relic museums, and my personal favorite, the Harem. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ways of Ottoman sultans, the Harem is the private living apartments of the sultan. This particular Harem contains over 400 rooms that also served as living quarters for the sultan's mother, his concubines and wives, and the rest of his family including his children and their servants. What's most fascinating to me is that the apartments of the sultan's mother (also known as the "Queen Mother") are the largest and the most important sections of the Harem. The sultan may be king of the empire, but the Queen Mother also had significant influence on the affairs of the state. She also was the one who chose the sultan's wife. Throughout the Harem, there were numerous opulent rooms covered with brightly colored tiles, lavish fabrics, and gold-plated ceilings. Around every corner was a new room with a totally different array of colors and patterns, all of which were commanding and fitting of a sultan's living quarters. At the museum, you could view some of the outfits and traditional jewelry worn by the sultan and his servants, as well as weapons of every kind.

After wandering around the palace and the Harem, we made our way over to the cafe for a quick Döner Kebap lunch with a Bosphorus view. FYI, I've had better döners in Germany. D and I had majorly high expectations for the döners in Turkey (where they originated, of course)...but we left thoroughly disappointed. Leave it to the Germans to perfect a Turkish meal. Other than our lackluster lunch, we enjoyed diving headfirst into the Ottoman empire and exploring our first Harem. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, make sure to carve out a few hours of sight-seeing time for Topkapi Place. But, go ahead and skip the döner.


  1. Oh my, this place looks gorgeous! I would live to visit a building with Islamic architecture one day! By the way, Döners - at least the one we're used to from Germany - don't actually originate from Turkey. At least, that's what people in Germany say ;) They were thought of by Turkish immigrants of course, but like Chicken Tikka Masala in the UK, they're not really Turkish cuisine.

    I would definitely love to visit this palace! :)

    1. Isn't it gorgeous! So much beauty to look at around every corner! I hope you can visit someday, too!

      But I'm going to have to disagree with you about the doner originating in Germany. Berliner's (and Turkish immigrants to Germany) have definitely perfected it for German tastes and spread its deliciousness all over Germany, but it's inherently Turkish. It's a variation of the Shawarma (Arabic). But I'm not surprised that Germans claim it as their own creation! What don't they claim these days?! Hehe! There are variations all over Europe (gyros in Greece, for example, derived from the doner kepap), and of course, the Middle East. So I guess we can agree to disagree? :)

  2. Great photos! Istanbul looks amazing! I can't wait to go. I love how you took up close pictures of the tile and patterns so we can see the detail. Thanks!

  3. Gorgeous pictures, once again, almost felt like I was there with you....if only!! Love all the beautiful colors, and details you shared Casey.

  4. Wow, that looks amazing. I really love seeing all the photos from all your travels!


  5. What gorgeous photos!! Thank you for sharing your travels with us!

    xo Brandi- Cupcakes and Curves

  6. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!


  7. wow! these are gorgeous photos!
    and very interesting. it made me google this.

    to be in the midst of all this history is amazing. It makes me wonder how it was back then.
    Thank for sharing!

  8. So awesome! I really really want to go there. One day!

  9. Wow it's almost overwhelming how many details go into creating everything there. Such a unique place to see!

    A Golden State of Mind

  10. Your photos are so gorgeous! My husband and I visited the Topkapi Palace back in November and loved it--thanks for sharing these! xoxo

  11. The designs in all of the buildings are absolutely gorgeous!

  12. I have never been but it is definitely on my to-do list, thanks for sharing!

    Sparkles and Shoes

  13. We loved Topkapi when we visited Istanbul. It was pouring rain when we went, jealous of your nice weather! Can't wait to hear more of your adventures :)

  14. Interestingly, England and India have the same thing with curry dishes as Germany and Turkey with donners and the like! I was reading an article about this... when immigrants take their food elsewhere, it often becomes better because of the influences of the new country and its native food!

  15. Hi! We did a Med cruise in August that went to a few of the same ports as yours did, so I'm enjoying reading about your experiences (with a touch of déjà vu here and there!!) I had to laugh with your comments about the döners….we said the exact same thing. We're in Spain so while our döners aren't quite as delish as German ones, we were still left a little underwhelmed…but everything else was AMAZING!

  16. I didn't like topkapi. There isn't something excited to see.

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