Today I visited one of Istanbul’s most well-known sites, the Topkapi Palace. This is where the sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire for the first 400 years before the construction of the Dolmabahçhe Palace in 1856. The place is a giant complex of amazingly intricate rooms and halls that have now been converted into a museum.
Once I got past the overwhelmingly huge amount of tourists there (Turkey is very close for Europeans and this site is technically in Europe), the Palace itself was awesome. The sultans lived in such opulence. Their living quarters – hand-painted ceilings that took 1000 workers three years to create, golden doorknobs, French stained glass and Persian rugs – were of the highest quality.
From several rooms, the palace gives way to sweeping views of Istanbul. Istanbul is an incredibly beautiful city – it might be the prettiest I’ve been to. Through the marble Ottoman columns, you can see steamers bringing people to and from the Asian side of the city while a network of cobbled bridges base gentle hills covered in red-roofed homes. Gulls laugh on the rocky shore of the Bosphorus as old men, drinking Turkish çay, fly alabaster kites. Clouds linger in the light breeze, watching as the world moves around Istanbul as it once did centuries ago. It seems as if time itself has slowed. Everything is…serenely Turkish. I watch.