Lale Sürmen Aran
Good Appetite or Good Digestion, being a Gourmet and the Ottoman Topkapi Palace
I try hard not to forget wishing “Good Appetite” to my travelers before meals, as, in my language and culture we wish “Afiyet olsun” and it is uttered after meal is finished. Afiyet means well being, health. When we say “Afiyet Olsun” after a meal, we wish a person well being and health, meaning may the food they eat bring good health for them. Well, after a certain age, you can take this as good digestion!
Writing about food tempts me to share a recent Ottoman vocabulary I learnt during the recent 3 week intensive workshop for the Topkapi Palace. Ottoman was the language of the palace court and it was a mix of Turkish, Arabic and Persian. The word gourmet had a counterpart in the Ottoman language, and it was “Şikenperver”. Both words are from Persian, “şiken” means tripe and “perver” means to love, the phrase translates to “someone who loves her/his tripe”, therefore provides the tripe delicious foods to digest!
During the visit of my colleagues, Rick Steves guides, in Istanbul and Turkey, I was also running to the Topkapi Palace almost daily, for 3 weeks to attend the intense workshop put together for guides who want to specialize. There are some jobs, when you finish their school you are done learning. My job is not one of them, we need to keep up with new researches and publications. Luckily, guiding is taken as a serious career in Turkey and the strong / influential guide’s chamber regularly puts together specialization courses for certified guides to attend. Usually, lecturers are professors, the best of their topics. The downside is, not all guides can attend. These courses usually have a quota up to approximately 50 people and admittance is first come (sign up) first served. Dates of these courses sometimes coincide with the peak season preventing many guides to carry on without attending any. Out of approximately 12,000 certified guides nationwide, there were about 50 of them attending the Topkapi Palace workshop.
Group photo of the guides who attended the specialization education at the Topkapi Palace.
My recent daily trips to the palace gave me a chance to take some photos. I particularly photographed the ticket booths, so I can visually suggest the ways to enter the palace to individual travelers.
The traditional way of entering in is lining up in front of the ticket office to buy your ticket.
There are many ticket booths next to one another.
At these booths, you buy the tickets both for the Palace and the Harem. Yes, you are right, you aren’t reading incorrectly. You need additional tickets to enter the Harem. In case you forget or don’t want to buy them as you enter the palace, you still have chance to change your mind as, inside the palace, just outside the Harem entrance there is a ticket office solely for Harem tickets.
Admission fees to Palace and Harem (December 2014)
If there is a scary long line at these ticket booths, don’t be upset, there is a plan B. There are vending machines for the tickets. At these machines you can buy the ticket just for the palace and you can buy your Harem ticket once you are in the palace.
Vending machines for Palace tickets.
The sign next to the ticket office tells you exhibits that are open for that particular date.
Daily sign of exhibits
Once you equip yourself with a ticket, proceed to the security check at the Gate of Salutations.
Gate of Salutations. Arabic inscription at the top of gate is Profession of Unity (oneness of God).
Before you arrive at the Gate of Salutations, pay attention to the marble fountain resting against the wall on the right. This was the “Executioner’s Fountain” where he washed his hands, swords and axes after an execution. It is known that there were executioners in the pay roll in the Palace, at certain periods. While an official position, people never wanted to be anywhere near the executioners, not even after they die, therefore they were buried in graveyards outside the city and their gravestones were completely blank. The executioners fountain should not discourage you from visiting the Palace, it is full of interesting corners and the Harem!
Executioner’s Fountain. The small platforms either side of the basin is to display the “head”.
Thank you for reading. 





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