Monday, October 26, 2009

Summer Travels - Part 6: The Gardens of the Topkapı Palace

As promised, here are my pictures of the grounds of the Topkapı Palac. These were all taken in the area of the third courtyard of the palace, which in Ottoman times constituted the private realm of the Sultan and the royal family. The plantings today are fairly informal, with clumps of cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), oriental plane trees (Platanus orientalis), crape myrtles (Lagerstroemeria indica), and many other tree species scattered across wide expenses of lawn. There are also beds of roses and annuals, the latter mostly consisting of impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) and wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens).
Much of the gardens was probably layed out in a similar fashion in Ottoman times since Ottoman landscape architecture was often much less formal than the irrigation-dependent garden designs of other Islamicate cultures, such as those found in Iran, South Asia, or Islamic Spain. Close to buildings and garden pavilions, however, one would have probably found fairly formal, ornate, parterre-like flower gardens. Some glimpse of this might still be caught in the small rose garden adjacent to the magnificent Baghdad Pavilion. The fountain of that garden is a beautiful piece of playful, intricate stone carving. I wish there had been water in it...

Even though the beautiful fountain in the rose garden was completely dry, there was water spurting from the small fountains around the edge of the pool on the large terrace facing the other side of the Baghdad Pavilion. Perhaps the most eye-catching ornament of that terrace, however, is a small balcony graced by a gleaming gold-plated roof. It juts out from the terrace to offer fantastic views across the golden horn to the area of the city known as Beyoğlu with the famous Galata Tower. Also notice how the golden finial of the roof is shaped into a delicate tulip containing the word ﷲﷲﷲﷲﷲﷲﷲﷲالله‎ "Allah" or "God" in an allusion to the anagram of the word formed by the Ottoman Turkish name of the tulip لاله "laleh". In addition, the tulip finial appears where on the domes and minarets of a mosque one would find a crescent-shaped finial, which might be a reference to yet another anagram of الله and لاله, namely هلال"hilal" or "crescent".

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