The Ottoman Empire was amongst the largest and most influential kingdoms in the world. At the zenith of its power, it spread from South-eastern Europe to the Horn of Africa. It was founded in 1299 by Osman I, whose father had come to Anatolia from Merv in modern-day Turkmenistan to fight the Byzantine Empire. The two empires coexisted in Turkey till 1453, when the city of Constantinople fell and the Byzantine Empire ended. Upon its defeat, the city became the new capital of the Ottoman Turks and after the dissolution of the empire, it was renamed as Istanbul and was made the capital of the modern country. Istanbul is located in the northwest of the country, bordering Greece in the east, Bulgaria in the north, Mediterranean Sea in the south and Black Sea in the northeast. Tourists during their Turkey holidays can flock to the Topkapi Palace, which served as the centre of the Ottoman power for 400 years.
The Topkapi Palace is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Turkey. Its construction began in 1459 and in the past, as many as 4000 people lived inside the complex. Four main courtyards and several buildings are located inside its premises. The main gate, located to the south of the complex, is a high archway, which leads to a covered passage. Verses from the Quran, done in Turkish calligraphy, adorn the arch. A huge park is situated in the first courtyard, which is the largest of all such areas.
Surviving structures in the yard are the Mint, a Byzantine church and some fountains.
The Gate of Salutation leads people to the second courtyard. An inscription on the gate traces its history to 1542. Near the gate is a fountain, which was reportedly used by executioners to wash their hands and swords. Buildings, previously housing kitchens, hospital, bakery, divans and harems, surround the second yard. Some of the royal carriages are often displayed behind the gate. The imperial kitchen has three doors, 20 chimneys and a collection of 10700 Chinese crockery. More chambers housed stables, royal council, treasury and an arms collection.
The Tower of Justice is the tallest tower in the yard and the palace.
Apartments of servants are situated in the third courtyard, which is reached via the Gate of Felicity. Located here are the audience building, imperial wardrobe chamber, treasury, portrait gallery, library and a mosque. A chamber here apparently housed the robe, swords, bow, tooth and a hair strand of Mohammed. A large Harem occupied the private apartment of the sultan that had bathrooms and apartments for women. The third yard is deep inside the palace and has gardens and terraces. A room dedicated solely to circumcision is present here along with gazebos known as kiosks. Another building here served as a dispensary, where the physician saw patients on the second floor while the first floor was used as a drug and medicine store. Lush gardens surround the whole complex and a section of them faces the sea. Europe holidays can be planned to see this magnificent example of Turkish architecture.