Today we went to the Topkapi Palace Museum, along with about a million other tourists from all over the world.

Aside: It struck me last night that Istanbul was the world's first major international city. Think about it. The Silk Road begins (or ends?) here. This is where East meets West -- for real. Greece, the Balkans, and Europe to the west/northwest, the Middle East and Africa to the south, Persia (Iran) to the southeast, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the east, Russia and Ukraine just across the Black Sea ... this is where it all comes together, now as it has done for centuries. If any city should be used to multiple cultures, it's this one.

Just a few shots from inside -- you can't take photos of the museum pieces (they have several examples of clothing, jewels, personal items, etc. of some of the sultans) but these photos are from the harem. Harem means "forbidden place" and it was mostly the living quarters of people who lived in the palace such as the sultan's family and concubines. It's said that the most beautiful girls of the empire were brought here at a very young age to be raised here and to live their lives here, never to leave these walls again.

This might have been their view of the outside world ...

... from windows like those above, or perhaps from this courtyard or another one like it:

After walking through the various parts of the palace, we took tea and lunch at a restaurant next door. Check out the view we had! In this photo, Europe is on the left and Asia is on the right. The Bosphorus straights (where the bridge is, if you can see it in this photo) is considered to be where the two continents meet.

That's my report for today. Not sure yet what the plans are for tomorrow. Maybe we'll go to Asia, or to the Grand Bazaar, or something else entirely! Come back again and find out. :)

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