Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dolmabahce Palace - Istanbul, Turkey

My first thought was of Versaille when I came up to Dolmabahce Palace. It has that French character and sophistication so influential in the 19th century. It is situated on the European coast of Bosphorus in the Besitkas District of Istanbul. The palace was begun in 1843 by  Sultan Abdulmecid I who chose Karabet Balyan as his architect.  It was completed in 1856.
The style of the palace though at first appearing French baroque is truly a blend of many styles, an eclectic harmony of rococo, empire and baroque lines.  My guide, Mehmet Tetik, (www.turkishguides.org\tetik)  explained that the empire was facing difficult financial times during the construction which took a quarter of the tax revenue a year during it’s construction. The Empire  had to borrow for the first time. Part of this was caused by the cost of the Crimean War 1853 to 1856 against Russia. The other part was that Sultan Abdulmecid tended to ignore his financial problems and delved into alcoholism. He also  contracted TB and died after living only a few years in his beautiful palace.
Six sultans resided in the palace until March 3, 1942 when ownership was transferred to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk used the palace as a summer residence.  ,
The palace consists of three parts Mabeyn-i Humayun, Muayede lounge and seraglio).  It has three gates, Sultanate Gate, Valide Gate and Treasury Gate.  The area where it was built had been used by the Navy between the 15th and 17th century until it became a marsh. The palace was built on land reclaimed from the sea that had been first used as a garden.  Thousands of oak poles were used with rock fill and deep plaster over the rock ground and fill then the ground cover paved to ensure against collapse or sliding into the sea.
Dolmabahce Palace  is the largest palace in Turkey, with 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and and 68 toilets.

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Unfortunately photographs weren’t allowed in the palace. The chandeliers were truly magnificent. The sky way which cast natural light over the winding staircase was incredible. The parkay floor, the great woven rugs in every room (2 polar bear rug gifts from the Russian Czar ), piano from Napoleon, exquisite vases,  beautiful upholstery, great chairs and lounges all created a sense of pure gentile opulence.
The chandeliers had baccarat crystal. The fireplaces were decorated in porcelain and crystal.
I loved the paintings, especiall the one which showed the Sultan making the yearly trip to Mecca. As the caliph he held the keys to the sacred mosque and was responsible for the yearly reupholstery of the  Ka'ba.  It was a month journey.  Mehmet said, “They put in a railway  that made the trip three days. You can imagine all the saving in cost that resulted not having to support everyone for a whole month long trip.”
I also loved the paintings of the different military campaigns of the Sultans and imagined growing up in that influence as a little boy.  There would have been a mixture of great confidence but also of great expectation. One hall had portraits of all the Sultans as well as William Kaiser II and the Grand Duke Ferdinand whose death began WWI.  I later bought a small copy of the "women at Seraglio" painting.
The great Muayede hall is quite staggering. I couldn’t help but think of how it would look with a thousand dancing Viennese waltz, not that this occurred but that’s just the sort of space and vision that something so grand evoked in me.  It was used for a feast to with Marshal Pelissier to celibrate the victory of the Crimean War and was also the room where the first meeting of the National Assembly occurred in 1877. The throne was at the head of the room and it clearly was a place of great congregation.  The palace also was early obtaining indoor heating and electricity having begun using fireplaces and candlelight.
 I loved the palace. It was truly a place to see remarkable craftsmanship in every detail. No more large and lavish home could be imagined. By today's prices the cost would be in the billions. I'm not sure I'd like to share my home with so many. I do prefer something a tad more cozy with less company.

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