After a well earned a rest and some lunch, we head over to the Blue Mosque. From the outside, this is the building people often think is the Haggia Sofia. It’s definitely more impressive looking.
However, while the Hagia Sofia is a museum of both Christian and Islamic art and architecture, the Blue Mosque (real name – Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is still a working mosque and appropriate dress is required for entry. Apparently my leggings are too tight (I think) and I’m required to put on a long skirt. They are provided for free upon entering. Entry to the mosque itself is also free.
It doesn’t take long to get through the mosque. It’s only one main room, but it’s so beautiful, I could stay for hours.
The detail is exquisite.
Our last stop of a VERY long day is the Topkapi Palace. Conveniently, it’s located just on the other side of the Hagia Sophia from the Blue Mosque so we don’t have a long way to walk. We buy our tickets just outside the gate and include an electronic audio guide, so we know what we’re seeing. I particularly like these because they allow me the freedom to see the sites at my own pace, but still learn information I would otherwise need a guide for.
The grounds are beautiful, but it’s the harem we’re mainly here to see. Fortunately it’s the first stop.
Topkapi Palace is where the sultans lived for hundreds of years. The harem is where the wives and concubines of the Sultan lived and the children were raised. The harem was guarded by eunuchs – castrated men who were considered “safe” to be around the women and trained to protect them.
Past the eunuchs quarters is the concubines and consorts court. Concubines were young, beautiful and intelligent girls from neighboring countries that were brought to the Sultan, raised in the palace and eventually became his mistresses. Depending on how many children they gave the Sultan and many other political reasons, these women could rise through the ranks and eventually wield great power.
It seems no expense was spared in the constructing of these rooms. Even with the furnishings removed, they still look lavish and rich. I love the details on the walls. It’s stunning.
Our next stop is the Sultan’s bedroom and apartments. I wish they had a bed actually set up so we could see what it would have looked like, but just using my imagination, I bet it was luxurious.
Just outside the Sultan’s quarters was once a pool. I could have happily lived here (minus the sex slavery and oppression and all that stuff).
After the harem, we walk around the rest of the palace complex. All the buildings are really impressive. We see an old library and collections of clothes, jewels and weapons worn and used by the Sultans who used to live here. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed inside the areas that have these artifacts, so I photograph the outsides.
We make it out to the end of the palace overlooking the Bosphorus, all while listening to our audio guides. We’re so tired, we barely even know what’s happening anymore. It’s official, we’re done.
By this point, we’re exhausted down to our bones. We’ve seen so much in one day, walked over most of Sultanahmet, slept little on the bus and are ready to call it a day. We somehow make our way back to the hotel (shopping along the way, of course) and finally check in. We’re too tired to even eat, so we do our best American impressions and ask about having pizza delivered to our room. But, since this is not a normal concept for the Turks, when Maggie asks about a menu at the front desk, they walk her over to the restaurant itself to order. I don’t know how she made it. To our credit, at least it was Turkish pizza (which is a must try if you find yourself in Turkey). To the hotel’s credit, they do bring it up to us when it’s ready. It’s delicious – we gobble it up and pass out. We need to rest up for tomorrows shenanigans!