This morning we are on the path less travelled. Well really that is a tough thing to do in a place with about 13 million people and who knows how many tourists, on a yearly basis, are added to that population. But here we go – take the train to a stop four away from our hotel area to Yedikule and get off there, walk about 3 blocks away to the entrance of Yedikule Hisari, or Yedikule Dungeon or also known as The 7 Towers! “This seven towered fortress was built in the time of Sultan Fatih Mehmet to protect the treasury. In Murat III’s reign, the treasury protected at Yedikule was relocated to the Topkapi Palace and Yedikule began to be used as a dungeon. The place of imprisonment of many foreign ambassadors and Ottoman statesman, as well as a place of execution for some, the fortress was last used as a prison in 1831. It then became a dwelling for the lions of Topkapi Palace, and later a gunpowder manufacturing place. Today the fortress is a museum, also hosting open air concerts in its inner courtyard during the summer months.” (Burak Sansal, All about Turkey) We have the place to ourselves for most of the two hours we spend here. Briefly two people visit, but only snap a couple photos and then leave. Then when we are almost on our way, we see five people walking along the fortress wall. I take about 75 photos and then trim back to 40 or so. I’ll only inflict about a dozen on you as there are other things to do in this life! I should also mention that the ‘post’ photo at the very top is from one of the Yedikule Hisari towers and shows The Blue Mosque and Fatih Mosque with the Asia side of the city in the background.
After catching the train back to our neighbourhood, we amble up a street to the entrance of Topkapi Palace. There we pay triple what it cost to go into Yedikule Hisari, but we do get to view the most sparkling collection of the Imperial Treasury. Lovely craftsmanship, much from hundreds of years ago. No photography allowed so you will have to take my word on the quality and quatity. Actually, Lawrie sat out the entire last room, I suspect he was bored! We also saw the exhibit of many Sultan’s kaftans. The kaftans were really quite simple in design with narrowly woven silk fabric making up the garment. The fabric covered button and closures were also simply done but several had copious numbers – like a run of 16 on each sleeve and three times that down the front opening. Photos would have been nice. The only photos allowed were outside. Which I will get to, but first a bit of history about this pretty interesting palace.
Home of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, Topkapi Sarayi (“Palace of the Cannon Gate”) was the seraglio, the heart of the vast Ottoman Empire, ruled by the monarch who lived in Topkapi’s hundreds of rooms with hundreds of concubines, children, and white and black servants. There were originally around 700-800 residents of the Palace at the beginning, but during the centuries it dramatically raised to 5,000 during normal days and 10,000 during festivals, approximately. Amongst these, the Janissaries were the biggest part of the population who were based within the first courtyard of the palace. The palace became the largest palace in the world, a city within a city. The walls surrounding it were about 5 kilometers (around 3 miles) long. The palace having around 700,000 m2 of area during the foundation years, it currently has only 80,000 m2 of area because of building constructions in its grounds towards the end.
During the 400 hundred years of reign at Topkapi, each sultan added a different section or hall to the palace, depending on his taste or on the needs of the time. Therefore the palace is formed by a maze of buildings centered around a series of courtyards protected by different gates. Its architecture is predominantly Middle Eastern in character. The initial construction was Cinili Mansion, a tiled kiosk finished in 1472, and the main gate (Bab-i Humayun in Arabic or the Imperial Gate) facing Sultanahmet square and Hagia Sophia church, and the Palace ramparts at the second gate (Bab-us Selam or the Gate of Salutation) were completed in 1478. A third gate, Bab-us Saade or the Felicity Gate, separates the core and most important parts of the palace from other sections, such as the Treasury for example.