Once I set foot in the Sultanahmed district of Istanbul, I couldn’t help but imagining the sultans and the people at the times of the Ottoman Empire’s height of power and glory. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazar caught my eye wherever I turned. And of course these monuments of the past lead to dreams about which life they had, what they wore, what they ate, how they entertained themselves not to mention the abundance of luxury the sultans and their court indulged in.
No better place for dreaming than the Topkapi Palace. Of course I had heard about the 86 karat diamond, which is the centre piece of the Palace’s Treasury and I couldn’t wait to clap eyes upon it. Here is the story of the diamond which is also known as “The Spoon maker’s Diamond.” According to legend, a poor man found the stone in a junkyard in 1699. He didn’t have a clue what it was, but as he needed spoons much more than a piece of ‘junk’ he exchanged it for three wooden spoons. The spoon maker in turn sells it for 10 silver pieces to a jeweler who recognizes what a treasure he has in his hands. The head jeweler is informed, who is under an obligation to tell the Grand Vizier and finally Sultan Mehmet IV buys the precious stone which then is cut and polished and transformed into the magnificent sparkler, which can be admired at the Topkapi Palace — and believe me, just looking at it brings a glitter to a girl’s eyes.
No pictures are allowed in the Treasury, neither of the diamond nor of the other incredible objects which are on display, like the Topkapi Dagger, a weapon encrusted with three enormous emeralds and many diamonds and meant as a gift to Nadir Shah from Sultan Mahmut I in 1740. Since hearing the story of the wooden spoons I look at garbage with different eyes. I mean, you never know, do you?
All those treasures are out of reach but fuel the imagination none the less. More dreams can be indulged in at a visit to the Jeweler Alley of the Grand Bazaar. The gems for sale there can only be described as poor relations to the exceptional pieces of the Topkapi Palace, but even so, dreams are free! I couldn’t stop admiring the craftsmanship that created these gold necklaces and bracelets and the sheer abundance of them is breathtaking. The consolation prize? At least here visitors are allowed to take pictures!