6 min read

Topkapi Palace – Lost & Found

You know that feeling you get when you’re looking for a place, come to a cross road, choose a direction, only to find that you are going the wrong way and have to double back on the same road in the opposite direction? That is one of our pet peeves. Granted, there are exceptions of course (i.e. “that’s the only way back down the mountain..”), but generally speaking, it thoroughly makes us feel like we’ve “revealed ourselves” as tourists.

Yesterday we pasyal’d through Gülhane Park (passing by a couple of wedding photoshoots) to the tea house overlooking the Bosphorus river only to get a glimpse of the Topkapi Palace peaking over the compound wall. We saw the intricately gaudy decor glistening in the setting sun and hoped that a late entry was still possible.

Unfortunately, the palace was already closed for the day and the security guards at the gate sadly broke the news that we’d have to return in the morning if we wanted to enter the massive property.

Extremely tempted to pass on backtracking, we decided to fulfill our “touristic” duties and trolley back bright and early to try and beat the lengthy lines of which we were forewarned— after all, this was not a wasted revisitation to McDonald’s.. this was a must-see.

We hopped off the trolley at Gulhane and meandered down a typical shop-studded street in the general direction of the Palace. Clearly, there was a family ahead of us in search of the same place as even store owners were almost psychically giving us directions while simultaneously sporting their best one liners to gander at their goods. We did, as usual, ignored their advice (same as the other tourists did) and continued on, only to find ourselves lost in a barren fortress. Right on the heels of our fellow travelers, we overheard them stopping for directions and somehow reentered the same park from yesterday through a seemingly secret pathway.

All efforts to avoid the lines have been for naught as the entryway was flooded with people. We waited patiently for our turn and opted against the audio guide. Like many of the others persons on around us, we all felt “lucky” that the harem happened to be open for viewing as well (for an extra fee of course—how dare guests expect to see the multi-mistress dwelling quarters for free!).

One thing was for sure, and captain obvious would proclaim: “This place is HUGE!”.

Three hours later and we emerged with very similar thoughts. We’ll never forgo an opportunity to revisit a landmark, especially when the tiny teasers are enough to make you pause and wonder with curiosity (Spoiler alert: This eventually held true in Spain for the Sagrada Familia). Additionally we were grateful for splurging on the harem, for it was the most interesting part of the tour, which, only slightly edged out the circumcision room (hehehe. OUCH!)

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