Madness and Peace: Topkapi Palace and Hagia Irene

It was a Saturday and Madame P and I were still quite sleepy from the 6:20am flight from Baku. Check-in at the hotel was still at 1:30pm so we just left our luggage and went out to the busy street and ducked into a cafe. We couldn’t spend the rest of the morning eating bakhlava so we just decided to walk uphill and go to the Topkapi Palace. Our mistake was not buying the Museum Pass at the Archaeologi Museum which we passed by on our way as the line was so much shorter there than at the palace.

It had just rained a bit so the air was damp and hot. The lines to the ticket counters were long and slow. I couldn’t quite get it why some were taking so much time at the counters. Shouldn’t it be as simple and quick as paying for and receiving your tickets? It took us about a minute to give 200 L and receive change and our Museum Pass.

We went to the palace kitchens first. Hahaha! Of course! I managed to get a few pics before a guard told me no pictures. They should have placed bigger and more signs (I didn’t even notice them) as the exasperated guard kept going around the chambers stopping people from taking pics.

In the days of the sultan, the kitchen would feed up to 5,000 per day! That explains the huge vats and cooking utensils. If I was the chief cook, I would probably never have eaten as the smell of cooking food would have made me lose my appetite.

It was a Saturday and the main palace grounds were filled with people.

Getting inside the beautiful and ornate rooms was a challenge as they were really packed. It was hot inside and it stank of people’s sweat.

Better to have gone on a weekday when there would have been less people. But then again, it’s peak tourist season. It would have been relaxing to just wander the palace grounds just taking in the lovely structures.

It’s mostly forbidden to take pictures inside the buildings which is a pity because the tiled walls and ceilings are so ornate. The only building where you could take them are in the meeting room for court officials.

Exiting the palace, we were drawn to a building to its left. It was Hagia Irene.

The ancient church is empty but you can still sense how beautiful it was with its choir loft and arched apse.

It was so peaceful inside, just as its name suggests, the Church of Divine Peace. A stark contrast to the madness of the palace.

It reminded me of the ancient churches of Israel.

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