Second courtyard (Divan Meydani)

Little changed from the days of Sultan Mehmed II, the second courtyard is ringed with porticoes and adorned with many ancient cypress trees. If you turn left and walk downhill you can peer through a locked gate at the stable complex where the sultans’ horses were kept. In the rooms behind the portico immediately to the right of the gate some of the carriages used by the later sultans and their families are on display; the finest is also the oldest, an 18th-century landau with latticed windows.

Continuing to the right you come to the enormous domed kitchens whose soaring chimneys are a feature of the Istanbul skyline. This is where the famous Ottoman palace cuisine was prepared and cooked, with upto 300 people working here at any one time. Today the kitchens house an impressive collection of Chinese porcelain and celadon mainly built up by sultans Beyazid II, Selim I and Suleyman the Magnificent, and ranging in date from the 10 th to the 18 th centuries. In the confectioners’ kitchen can be seen some of the huge cauldrons and ladles used to prepare meals for the sultans’ extensive household, as well as a collection of porcelain and silverware.

Two huge stone capitals, one in the grounds of the kitchen complex and one on the lawn just outside, are preserved on the sites where they were dug up; they probably formed part of a late Roman monumental arch. Parts of the brick vaulting of a Byzantine cistern can also be seen midway along the path leading from the second to the third courtyard.

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