Topkapi Palace, part 2…Palacio Topkapi, parte 2

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Topkapı is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world’s museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines and scheming eunuchs lived and worked here between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire. Visiting the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into their lives.
Mehmet the Conqueror built the first stage of the palace shortly after the Conquest in 1453, and lived here until his death in 1481. Subsequent sultans lived in this rarefied environment until the 19th century, when they moved to the ostentatious European-style palaces they built on the shores of the Bosphorus.
Before you enter the palace’s Imperial Gate (Bab-ı Hümayun), take a look at the ornate structure in the cobbled square just outside. This is the rococo-style Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III , built in 1728 by the sultan who so favoured tulips.
The main ticket office is in the First Court, just before the gate to the Second Court.

First Court
Pass through the Imperial Gate into the First Court, which is known as the Court of the Janissaries or the Parade Court. On your left is the Byzantine church of Hagia Eirene, more commonly known as Aya İrini .

Second Court
The Middle Gate (Ortakapı or Bab-üs Selâm) led to the palace’s Second Court, used for the business of running the empire. In Ottoman times, only the sultan and the valide sultan (mother of the sultan) were allowed through the Middle Gate on horseback. Everyone else, including the grand vizier, had to dismount.
The Second Court has a beautiful parklike setting. Unlike typical European palaces, which feature one large building with outlying gardens, Topkapı is a series of pavilions, kitchens, barracks, audience chambers, kiosks and sleeping quarters built around a central enclosure.
The great Palace Kitchens on the right (east) as you enter have been closed to the public for a number of years while awaiting restoration. When they reopen they may hold a small portion of Topkapı’s vast collection of Chinese celadon porcelain, valued by the sultans for its beauty but also because it was reputed to change colour if touched by poisoned food.
On the left (west) side of the Second Court is the ornate Imperial Council Chamber (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn). The council met here to discuss matters of state, and the sultan sometimes eavesdropped through the gold grille high in the wall.The room to the right showcases clocks from the palace collection.
North of the Imperial Council Chamber is the Outer Treasury , where an impressive collection of Ottoman and European arms and armour is displayed.

The entrance to the Harem is beneath the Tower of Justice on the western side of the Second Court. If you decide to visit – and we highly recommend that you do – you’ll need to buy a dedicated ticket.
As popular belief would have it, the Harem was a place where the sultan could engage in debauchery at will. In more prosaic reality, these were the imperial family quarters, and every detail of Harem life was governed by tradition, obligation and ceremony. The word ‘harem’ literally means ‘forbidden’ or ‘private’.
The sultans supported as many as 300 concubines in the Harem, although numbers were usually lower than this. Upon entering the Harem, the girls would be schooled in Islam and in Turkish culture and language, as well as the arts of make-up, dress, comportment, music, reading, writing, embroidery and dancing. They then entered a meritocracy, first as ladies-in-waiting to the sultan’s concubines and children, then to the valide sultan and finally – if they were particularly attractive and talented – to the sultan himself.
The sultan was allowed by Islamic law to have four legitimate wives, who received the title of kadın (wife). If a wife bore him a son she was called haseki sultan ; haseki kadın if it was a daughter.
Ruling the Harem was the valide sultan , who often owned large landed estates in her own name and controlled them through black eunuch servants. Able to give orders directly to the grand vizier, her influence on the sultan, on the selection of his wives and concubines, and on matters of state was often profound.
The earliest of the 300-odd rooms in the Harem were constructed during the reign of Murat III (r 1574–95); the harems of previous sultans were at the now-demolished Eski Saray (Old Palace), near current-day Beyazıt Meydanı.
The Harem complex has six floors, but only one of these can be visited. This is approached via the Carriage Gate . Inside the gate is the Dome with Cupboards . Beyond it is a room where the Harem’s eunuch guards were stationed. This is decorated with fine Kütahya tiles from the 17th century.
Beyond this room is the narrow Courtyard of the Black Eunuchs , also decorated with Kütahya tiles. Behind the marble colonnade on the left are the Black Eunuchs’ Dormitories. In the early days white eunuchs were used, but black eunuchs sent as presents by the Ottoman governor of Egypt later took control. As many as 200 lived here, guarding the doors and waiting on the women of the Harem.
At the far end of the courtyard is the Main Gate into the Harem, as well as a guard room featuring two gigantic gilded mirrors. From this, a corridor on the left leads to the Courtyard of the Concubines and Sultan’s Consorts . This is surrounded by baths, a laundry fountain, a laundry, dormitories and private apartments.
Further on is Sultan Ahmet’s Kiosk , decorated with a tiled chimney, followed by the Apartments of the Valide Sultan , the centre of power in the Harem. From these ornate rooms the valide sultan oversaw and controlled her huge ‘family’. Of particular note is the Salon of the Valide with its lovely 19th-century murals featuring bucolic views of İstanbul.
Past the adjoining Courtyard of the Valide Sultan is a splendid reception room with a large fireplace that leads to a vestibule covered in Kütahya and İznik tiles dating from the 17th century. This is where the princes, valide sultan and senior concubines waited before entering the handsome Imperial Hall for an audience with the sultan. Built during the reign of Murat III, the hall was redecorated in baroque style by order of Osman III (r 1754–57).
Nearby is the Privy Chamber of Murat III , one of the most sumptuous rooms in the palace. Dating from 1578, virtually all of its decoration is original and is thought to be the work of Sinan. The recently restored three-tiered marble fountain was designed to give the sound of cascading water and to make it difficult to eavesdrop on the sultan’s conversations. The gilded canopied seating areas are later 18th-century additions.
Continue to the Privy Chamber of Ahmed III and peek into the adjoining dining room built in 1705. The latter is lined with wooden panels decorated with images of flowers and fruits painted in lacquer.
Northeast (through the door to the right) of the Privy Chamber of Murat III are two of the most beautiful rooms in the Harem – the Twin Kiosk/Apartments of the Crown Prince . These two rooms date from around 1600; note the painted canvas dome in the first room and the fine İznik tile panels above the fireplace in the second. The stained glass is also noteworthy.
To the east of the Twin Kiosk is the Courtyard of the Favourites . Over the edge of the courtyard (really a terrace) you’ll see a large pool. Just past the courtyard (but on the floor above) are the many small dark rooms that comprised the kafes where brothers or sons of the sultan were imprisoned.
From here, a corridor leads east to a passage known as the Golden Road and then out into the palace’s Third Court.
Note that the visitor route through the Harem changes when rooms are closed for restoration or stabilisation, so some of the areas mentioned here may not be open during your visit.
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El Palacio de Topkapi (Topkapı Sarayı en turco, literalmente el ‘Palacio de la Puerta de los Cañones’ — por estar situado cerca de una puerta de ese nombre), situado en Estambul, fue el centro administrativo del Imperio otomano desde 1465 hasta 1853. La construcción del palacio fue ordenada por el sultán Mehmed II en 1459, y fue completada en 1465. El palacio está situado entre el Cuerno de Oro y el Mar de Mármara, y desde él se tiene una espléndida vista del Bósforo. Está formado por muchos pequeños edificios construidos juntos y rodeados por cuatro patios.
El palacio está construido siguiendo las normas de la arquitectura seglar turca, siendo su máximo ejemplo. Es un entramado complejo de edificios, unidos por patios o jardines siendo la superficie total del complejo de 700.000 m², rodeados por una muralla bizantina.
En 1853, el sultán Abdulmecid decidió trasladar su residencia al recién construido y moderno Palacio de Dolmabahçe. En la actualidad, el Topkapi es un museo de la época imperial, siendo una de las mayores atracciones turísticas de Estambul.
Puerta Imperial
La Puerta Imperial (Bab-i Hümayun) es hoy en día la entrada principal al palacio. Fue construida bajo el mandato de Mehmet II y Abdülaziz.1
Puerta de la Acogida
Esta puerta (Bâb-üs Selâm) está tras la puerta imperial y el gran patio en dónde está situada la iglesia de Santa Irene.
La puerta construida durante el reinado de Mehmet II tiene dos torres adosadas octogonales construidas durante el reinado de Süleyman I.
Patio de ceremonias
El patio de ceremonias o segundo patio era el lugar elegido por los sultanes para efectuar los actos protocolarios más importantes del imperio. Se efectuaban en este espacio todo tipo de ceremonias: entronizaciones, fiestas de carácter religioso o reparto de dulces.
Establos reales
Los establos reales fueron construidos durante el reinado de Mehmet II, dividiéndose en dos dependencias. Las dos salas forman los establos actuales y el gran establo mayor.
Consejo privado
La sala del consejo privado era en el lugar en el cual se reunían todos los martes tras la oración matinal los oficiales de alto grado del ejército con sus uniformes de gala.
Este recinto lo conforman tres salas, la sala del consejo, la oficina de registro y la oficina del gran visir del imperio.
Colección de armas
Este edificio era ocupado en sus comienzos por el tesoro. En el año 1928, se inicia la exposición de armas de los sultanes, las cuales abarcan unas 400 piezas que van desde el siglo VII hasta el siglo XIX. Dentro de esta colección, se pueden destacar diferentes armas ornamentadas provenientes de regalos de otros monarcas extranjeros como señal de respeto hacia los sultanes. Destacan diferentes dagas, puñales, escudos, hachas, etc.
Cocinas reales
Las antiguas cocinas reales estaban formadas realmente por tres cocinas y fueron construidas por el gran arquitecto otomano Sinan. Las tres cocinas eran:
La gran cocina cuya función era la de preparar la comida para los invitados del sultán. Podía dar de comer hasta cuatro mil personas.2
La Helvahane, era la cocina para la preparación de las delicias turcas, postres y dulces.
La Kuşhane era la cocina privada del sultán y la que preparaba su comida y la de sus familiares.
Hoy en día la cocina alberga una de las exposiciones de porcelana y cristal más importantes del mundo siendo considerada la tercera en importancia tras la del palacio imperial de Pekín y la de Dresde. La colección se compone de unas diez mil setecientas piezas de extremado valor.
Se puede destacar las colecciones de porcelana china, la serie Celadón, la serie azul y blanca, la serie multicolor, la porcelana japonesa, la porcelana y cristalería turca.
El tesoro es uno de los más espectaculares del mundo. Las piezas provienen de diferentes caminos, como regalos por mandatarios extranjeros, joyas de los diferentes sultanes, botines de guerra o herencias. El tesoro se encuentra expuesto a lo largo de cuatro salas:
La sala de las perlas: En esta sala se encuentran la figura del esclavo negro y la del jeque sentado en su trono.
Segunda sala: En esta sala cabe destacar el trono de Ahmed I y la nave de jade. En esta sala se encuentra el famoso puñal Topkapi. Es el puñal más caro del mundo y está elaborado con oro, diamantes, esmeraldas y piedras preciosas.
Tercera sala: En esta sala se encuentra el diamante del cucharero, el tercer diamante más grande del mundo.
Cuarta sala: En esta sala lo más relevante es el trono indio-turco del siglo XVIII.

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