The Crown Jewel of the Aegean
It’s not a secret that one of our favorite couple travel destinations is Turkey. She offers so much in the way of culture, history, and hospitality. Perhaps what we love most about Turkey is that it is a thinking person’s country. Short of a stopover in Istanbul on some cruise circuits, most couple travelers don’t put Turkey on their must see list. This is a huge mistake. Turkey has so much to offer couple travelers. One of the many architectural highlights of Turkey is Dolmabahçe Palace. Come with us as we explore this palace of privilege and power.
The country of Turkey and the city of Istanbul straddles two continents, Asia and Europe. The city is devided by the Bosporus Strait which connects the Black Sea with the Med. The Palace is situated on the north side right on the water level. The Palace is three stories tall including a basement. There are 45,000 square meter of “livable” space including 285 rooms, 46 hallways, 6 Turkish baths, 1500 windows and 68 toilets.
The Dolmabahce Palace was built by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid I. Construction stared in the early 1840s and was completed roughly ten years later. A father and son team of Garabet and Nigogayos Baylon were the principle architects. Ottoman Sultans and their Harems historically resided in the expansive yet Asian and Middle eastern designed Topkapi Palace. Six generations of Sultans called the palace home. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of modern day Turkey, was the final full time tenant of the home. Atatürk passed away in the palace on November 10, 1938. All of the clocks in the palace are stopped at the time of his passing 9:05. This caused us a little panic during our visit as we kept thinking we were making great time on our tour.
Abdulmecid admired the grand palaces of Europe, and wanted a more Western, more ornaite, more modern residence. Enter one of the major flaws of the palace. Instead of picking from the tastes of other royal residences the contained Baroque, Rococo and Greek influences, Abdulmecid said, “I will take them all!” The collection of all of these styles crammed into one area leaves the viewer a little overwhelmed.
The interior of the palace is simply “over the top”. The world’s largest crystal chandelier hangs prominently in the entry hall from the sea. It was a house warming gift from Queen Victoria. It weighs in at four and a half tons! It is exquisite. To match this addition to the home, the sultan had a solid Baccarat crystal bannister leading up the stairway. Words cannot, and pictures even cant describle how beautiful this stairway is. Mike just kept starring at it. The guide finally asked us to keep moving.
This wouldn’t be Turkey if they didn’t have great rugs. It does. The royal carpet makers were located in seaside town of Hereke, located just up the Bosporus. Master rug makers from this hamlet used the finest silks, cotton and virgin wool in making some of the finest carpets on the planet. The rugs look like they were made yesterday. They are impeccably made for sure. Interestingly enough, not all the carpets in the palace are Turkish, a 150-year-old bearskin rug was presented to the Sultan as a gift by the Tsar of Russia.
So what does Dolmabahce mean? In the Turkish dolma meaning “filled” and bahçe meaning “garden.”
The Palace was divided into two areas, the formal government administrative areas and the Harem-Humayun or private section. The entry to the private living quarters of the Sultan were heavily guarded. No man was allowed to enter except for the sultan and his eunuch servants. The private Harem included bedrooms and baths for the queen mother, favorite wives, wives, and of course concubines. Talk about a 1000 Fights!
The construction cost of the palace was five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, the equivalent of 5 tons of gold. Fourteen tons of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings. Wikipedia.com
Visiting the Palace
The Palace is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. It is open between 09:00 to 17:00. Get there early, as this is a very popular site. Entry fee is 20 Lira or $12usd. Istanbul is an amazing city to visit, and it is super easy to get to. There are a ton of great flights to Turkey. For the best deals try going in Oct. or May.