The Beautiful Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey

One of the highlights of visiting Istanbul is taking a tour of Topkapi Palace that sits high on a hill on a peninsula overlooking the Bosphorus Strait. The history of the palace is fascinating, and it is well worth having a guided tour so that you can learn as much as possible during your visit. Because it is so popular, it is also a good idea to purchase your tickets ahead of time, but you will likely still wait in long lines to get into the palace as you have to go through security before getting to the ticket booths. Standing outside of the main gate, you get a sense of how daunting it must have been to visitors back in the days of the sultans that ruled the Ottoman Empire.

Palace Features
Courtyard Garden
Moorish Tile Work

Once you pass through the main gate, you pass through the first of four courtyards. Each courtyard leads to the next courtyard where only the most privileged can get to the fourth and final courtyard. The first courtyard was where the imperial parades would have taken place and would have been the site of pomp and circumstance. The courtyards feature gardens and fountains and are quite beautiful and provide a sense of calm, which was the desired effect.

View of the Bosphorus Strait
Sultan’s Throne
The Initial Gate

The third courtyard is the location where the sultan would hold private audiences, but only to the most distinguished dignitaries. It is also the location of the library where the boys would be taught all that was necessary to become future leaders. It was also the location of the harem and the sultan’s concubines. The fourth courtyard was the private residences of the sultan their immediate family members. The entire palace is built in the Moorish architecture. It is quite stunning and at times overwhelming.

Building in the Fourth Courtyard
Fountain in the Courtyard
Ceilings in One of the Gate

You can spend hours walking the grounds of the palace and seeing all of the various buildings. There are also depictions of what life was like for the powerful sultans back in height of the Ottoman Empire. There are plenty of sites to see when visiting Istanbul, but the Topkapi Palace is certainly one of most important to put on your itinerary along with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

Display in the Palace
Gate to the First Courtyard
Lantern in a Palace Building
Crowds Waiting to Enter
View from the Fourth Courtyard
Palace Exterior Wall
More Details Inside of the Palace
Inside of the Fortress Walls
Another Building
Large Fountain

Walking the Historic Old Town in Lima, Peru

Old town in Lima, also referred to as the Historical Center, is probably most known for its colorful colonial buildings with their fascinating balconies, but there is certainly much more to see than just the architecture. To make the most of your time in the downtown area and we would suggest starting out at the Plaza Mayor or the Main Square and then exploring out from there. There are palaces, the cathedral, official buildings, and other churches in the area, each uniquely beautiful. It is very walkable and you will also find stores carrying tourist items as well as restaurants in the area. We stayed in the Miraflores district, which is by the beach, but it was only a short taxi ride to the Historical Center.

Intricate Balcony
Looking Up at the Cathedral
The Government Palace
Colorful Architecture and More Balconies
Detailed Facade
Fruit for Sale

The architecture is certainly the highlight of the Historical Center and the buildings are either colorful or covered with intricate details. There are several palaces including Government Palace, the Archbishop Palace, and the Justice Palace. Obviously there is the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, but there is also the Church and Convent of San Francisco as well as San Pedro Church. There is also the Palacio Municipal or Town Hall located downtown as well. Even with all of these buildings and monuments, your eyes will be naturally drawn to the intricately carved balconies that are on every street in the Historical Center.

Church Bell Tower
Crowded Streets
Inside of a Store
Pigeons Taking a Bath
Church and Convent of San Francisco
Cathedral Entrance

Being the heart of Lima, you can certainly expect to find plenty of crowds walking the streets with you. There are vendors selling food and drinks as well as shops to buy items made by the local people of Peru. Occasionally you will see indigenous people dressed in their authentic clothing with items to sell as well. As with many cities, you will also find an abundance of pigeons making the city center their home as well. During our time in Lima, there were guards and police plainly visible, which did provide an extra sense of security as there can be protests on a semi-regular basis. We’d recommend that you register your trip with the local embassy so that you receive notifications of any travel alerts in the region.

Casa de la Literatura Peruna
Colorful Clothing
Standing in Front of the Government Palace
Cathedral Basilica of Lima
Prepared for Any Trouble
Local Band Performing

Lima is certainly an interesting city and should not just be a landing place on your way to Machu Picchu or other destinations within the country. With wonderful beaches and a vibrant food scene, there is much to do within Lima, but visiting the Historical Center should definitely be at the top of your itinerary. The architecture, culture, and history make it one of the most interesting old town areas in South America.

Statue Downtown
More Details
Pigeons Trying to Find Shade
More Balconies
Another Local Peruvian
Walking the Streets of Lima

Bergpark Wilhemshöhe in Kassel, Germany

The very first trip that we took while staying in Germany was to the city of Kassel where we spent most of our time at the incredible Bergpark Wilhemshöhe. There are so many wonderful sights to see on the grounds of the largest European hillside park. Due to it’s size of 590 acres as well as the fact that it sprawls across a steep hill makes it a strenuous day of walking, but the views and historic sites are well worth the effort. The park is made up of four major points of interest, Schloss Wilhemshöhe, Lowenburg Castle, Hercules Statue, and the fountain and water feature that cascades down the hillside.

Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Entrance to Lowenburg Castle

Hercules Statue

As you enter the sprawling estate, Schloss Wilhemshöhe looms large across the landscape as the prominent feature for anyone who enters the park. As the one-time summer home of Kaiser Wilhem II in the early 1900’s, this magnificent palace was originally built in the 12th century as a monastery and used as a castle for centuries before becoming the summer home of the aristocratic elite. There is no doubt as to the reason that this site with it’s beautiful gardens is still the site of many fairytale weddings, which was also the case on the day that we visited.

Part of the Palace

Pond Behind the Palace

Front of the Palace

For us, the Lowenburg Castle was one of the highlights of our visit to Bergpark Wilhemshöhe. First of all, it was the first true castle that we visited while staying in Germany. It has all of the typical features that one would expect of a castle such as the turrets and fortress walls. In order to reach the castle, you have to walk through a relatively dense forest, which certainly fosters the images of the stories of the Brother’s Grimm who came from the area and whose museum can also be found in Kassel. Walking the grounds of the castle certainly provided all of the images that we had imagined when we envisioned ourselves travelling to Germany.

View of the Castle

Castle Turret

View of the Castle from the Trail

Hercules Statue is certainly a site that cannot be missed. Mostly due to it’s prominent location at the top of the hill and presiding above the cascading fountain, it can be seen from throughout the park. To reach the statue itself, you must scale a long series of stairs the climb steeply up the hill. We chose not to go all of the way to the top, mostly due to the fact that we had a single day in Kassel and we were quite exhausted at this point with all of the walking that we had done through the park. It was certainly an impressive sight to see.

The View from the Bottom

Under Construction

Palace Grounds

Unfortunately for us, the cascading fountain was not running at the time that we visited, but it was still wonderful to see and we could imagine how impressive it must be when it is running. The thought that the statue and the cascading fountain were created in the early 1700’s is something truly hard to imagine. We can only imagine what it must have been like for the elite of Germany society to visit to walk along the grounds and see such an amazing sight.

Bottom of the Falls

Water Cascades Down from the Statue

Pond on the Property

Kassel was definitely a worthwhile location for our first exploration of Germany outside of Frankfurt. Specifically Bergpark Wilhemshöhe was truly incredible to see with everything that is located inside of this incredible UNESCO Heritage site.