- Posted on 24th April 2012 by Nicola Holden
I had a wonderful Easter break in Istanbul this year. It is a city I have long wanted to visit, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There was fabulous inspiration around every corner, beautiful buildings, wonderful food, and with spring around the corner it was a city in full bloom.
Istanbul is a vast, sprawling metropolis that 15 million people call home, and is a magnet to tourists from every corner or the world. I have never heard so many different languages spoken in one place! Unlike Abu Dhabi (which I visited last year), it is also a city full of history, from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, and under Roman control in between, and much of ancient Constantinople’s building stock remains, including palaces, churches and cisterns.
I was awed by every church and mosque that I visited, but the building that held my attentions for the most amount of time was the Topkapi Palace. Described in the Lonely Planet as an ‘… opulent palace complex [that] is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world’s royal residences put together … [and] was home to Selim the Sot, who drowned after drinking too much champagne …’, I knew that a visit was required.
The palace was built in 1453 by Mehmet the Conqueror, and was occupied by subsequent sultans until the 19th century. It is built around a basic four-courtyard plan, designed to seclude the monarch from the people. The first court was open to everyone, the second court only to people on imperial business, and the third and fourth courts only to the imperial family, VIPs and palace staff.
Here are some of the design features that caught my eye:
I was just wowed by the beauty and intricacy of these ceilings, and my head is brimming with ideas to transform these designs onto other furnishings.
I loved these small chambers and the mix of design elements that they bring together – elaborate rugs, Iznik tiles, stained glass windows, embellished ceilings and inlaid doors.
Everywhere you turned there were Iznik tiles – all different designs worked together into a mind blowing whole. Simply stunning! In fact, I fell in love with these tiles so much that my darling BF bought me eight for my birthday, which I plan to inlay into a piece of furniture some day.
Nothing had slipped the attention of these early designers. Every element in this palace was ‘designed’ – from the cobbled, colonnaded verandas to the arched windows and decorated eaves, right down to the carved and mother-of-pearl inlaid doors. I just loved it all, and after an exhausting but exhilarating five hours I dragged myself away from this wonderful palace. Truly inspiring!
Have you been to Istanbul? What was your favourite bit?
“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
St. Francis of Assisi
All images © Nicola Holden.