It was July in the year 1936 and I was on my honeymoon. The world had recovered from the great war and I, ever the one to be different , had fallen in love with a young Turk. His name was Gurel and the meaning of that name would become more significant than life itself. We had met In Australia of all places in a beautiful mountainous region which I shall speak more of as my story progresses. We were spending some time with his family in Istanbul in a small apartment near the bustling suburb of Gostepe. This had been quite an adjustment for me and I had at times felt very lonely. So I did what I had always done. I read everything I could lay my hands on.
Gurel would buy novels for me from an English book stall near the market place and found it difficult to keep up with my never ending requests for new books. Most were historical romances set in far off places like India or Tibet. Lust, intrigue and unrequited love filled my every day moments with splendour. When Gurel arrived home in the late afternoons he found me full of life and ready to share the intricacies of my new found expediencies with him.
My parents arrived from Cumberland two months later and I was terribly excited to see them. An itinerary was arranged by Gurel’s family and I ,along with my parents , was finally going to experience all the famous sites of the city. There was only one site I was interested in. Topkapi Palace home of the Ottoman Empire.
The palace of the sultans, of gleaming domed rooftops,of a secret harem hidden from the world of men. Although aware that the time of sultan rule was long since past and that the harem was no more didn’t faze me one bit and my imagination ran wild. I remember that first glimpse of the palace from the deck of the ferry gliding through the smooth waters of the Bosphoros
Magnificent! A maze of tiled roofs with towers and turrets reaching to the heavens surrounded by flowering gardens and cedar trees.The palace was now a museum and had become so in 1924 after having been left to retired servants following the demise of the Ottoman Empire.The governing powers had saved it from decay and turned it into a mecca for tourists. When we arrived at the gate of the first courtyard inside the palace grounds we joined a long queue of said tourists and waited for what seemed like an eternity for our guide.
A strange little man with an all knowing, all powerful, all encompassing sense of … something … appeared and we began the tour. In that very moment as I gazed beyond the crowds and into the corridors ahead I had a feeling of a life lived within these walls that I had somehow been a part of. I felt myself drifting as if in a daze but then became aware of the touch of my husband’s hand on mine and attuned myself to the hypnotic voice of the strange little man leading us through ….
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 9/7/2013