Our time in the iconic city of Istanbul was limited to two days. We were on a cruise of the Mediterranean and the adventure was like speed dating with the great capitals of classicism. At the end of the first day, just before its gates closed shut for the day, we scurried into the massive Topkapi Palace complex.
We would have had more time, but we first had to fend off dozens of rug merchants along the way, each attempting to lure us in with mint tea and the promise of a great deal. Finally we paid the admission fees and slinked away into the gardens and courtyards of Topkapi. All at once the frenzy of the city was forgotten, we had stepped into paradise.
Topkapi served as the capital of the Ottoman Empire and home to its Sultans for more than four centuries. Vestiges of this Imperial past can be seen throughout the complex from ornate doors to relics in the museum belonging to the Prophet Mohammad.
Since it was nearly closing time, we rushed about the Palace, glancing through Treasuries and small Museums, more interested in the intricate design and architecture than anything else. My moment of Zen was standing in a patio overlooking the Bosporus. It was gorgeous, gazing out across the intersection of continents and cultures and imagining the people who stood there before me. Throughout Istanbul, but especially at Topkapi, the city’s rich history is palpable.
Prompted by the crowds strolling to the gates like lemmings, we left with hesitation, not wanting to leave the calm, peaceful world of the palace complex behind. It may have been at that moment when I fell in love with this great quirky city.