2012 April 7 – Day 27 – Istanbul, Turkey (Day 3)

The ship remained docked in Istanbul until five o’clock, so we had another opportunity to see some of the historic sites.  This day we visited two of the famous palaces built by the sultans.  First was the absolutely massive Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the European side of the Bosporus, which stretches almost 580 m (1990′) along the shore.The palace was constructed on land created in the 17th century when the bay used by the navy fleet was filled in.  The new land was used as an Imperial Garden.  There were several buildings on the site but they were demolished and construction of Dolmabahçe Palace took place between 1843 and 1856.

Since completion the palace was the home of six sultans and the last Caliph.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the army officer, revolutionary, and first President of the Republic of Turkey stayed in the palace for about four years between 1927-1938.  Up to 1949 it was used a a Presidential House.  It was opened to the public as a palace-museum with its original furnishings in 1984.

The various arms and annexes on the building used to house a glass factory, smelter, aviary, stable, and other specific uses.  The main building was divided into three functional spaces.  The first was the Administrative section where the country affairs were discussed, the second is The Privy Chambers (Harem) where the Sultan and his family lived.  The final part was the Grand Ceremonial Hall where dignitaries of state were received on religious or ceremonial days.

There was a mix-up over our entrance tickets and we (all three bus loads from the ship) had to wait about an hour until a person from the tour company could arrive and straighten it all out.  These things do happen sometimes.  The tour staff person arrived on the run to fix the problem for us.  Fortunately it was a nice day so not a major hardship to stand around outside. We walked through a beautiful garden to the palace entrance.             Oh, the glorious hyacinths!  I love the perfume.                                                  The Imperial Gate

The palace has 285 rooms, 44 halls (ceremonial reception rooms), 68 toilets and 6 Turkish baths.  It is the largest palace in Turkey covering 14,500 square meters (157,000 square feet).  It was beyond ornate!  Gilt covered everything.  It is said that 15 tons of gold was melted for the decorating.  There were no photos allowed inside but I took some photos of the pictures in the brochure to give you an idea.  (They are not really sharp photos, I’m afraid.  I was too lazy to set up the tripod.)                        President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s bedroom             The Library of Caliph Abdülmecid (the last Caliph of Turkey)                                            The Crystal Pavilion                                        Sultan’s Private Bathroom   The Grand Ceremonial Hall                                   The Red Room                                                          The Blue Room                                         The Reception Room                                                            The Pink Hall

The place was chock-a-block full of priceless artwork, vases, furniture and incredible chandeliers.  Obviously money was not in short supply!

I guess if we are tired we can just lie on the lawn and have a nap.  The line of people waiting to go inside and tour the palace was still long when we left.  Dolmabahçe Palace is on the European side (not far from where the ship was docked) and our next palace, the smaller summer palace of the Sultan’s brother was on the Asian side – so a bus ride across the bridge was necessary. Beylerbeyi (means “Lord of lords”) and the surrounding hillside has been used as a residential area since the Byzantine period.  The wooden palace buildings on the site during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) had burned. and a new palace was ordered by Sultan Abdülaziz and constructed between 1863-1865.

Beylerbeyi Palace is a summer residence used especially to entertain foreign statesmen. There are three stories including the basement, 24 rooms and 6 reception halls.  The floors are covered in Egyptian straw mats.  Carpets are primarily from Hereke, Turkey.  There are French Baccarat crystals chandeliers, English and French clocks, vases made in China, Japan, France, Germany and Yildiz, Turkey.  Plus, plus, plus.

Access to the palace grounds is through a tunnel which was built between 1829-1932.  It was used as a highway but is now used for cultural and artistic events.

 The Bosporus Bridge built in 1973 passes just north of the Marine Kiosk.

                          I loved the lions on either side of the entrance.As at Dolmabahçe there were no photos allowed inside the palace.  So, once again I have inserted some photos from the brochure.                      The Upper Terraced Garden and Yellow Kiosk.                                                                                This is simply room no. 13.This is a two page spread in the middle of the brochure so the center fold is quite prominent.  It is called the Blue Hall.                                                  And this is room no. 26.

Queen Victoria gifted the Sultan of the day with a 4 1/2 ton crystal chandelier that hangs in the ballroom.  I loved Beylerbeyi.  It was as ornate as Dolmabahçe but I found it somewhat cozier due to the smaller size.  From the water you can get a lovely view of the two bathing pavilions – one for the harem women and another for the men.

                                   This is the glass pavilion tea and gift shop.  And then, it was back on the bus for the ride across the Bosporus Bridge to the European side and the ship.  We had a few hours before sailing at 5 so we thought about finding a good internet place but we decided instead to just rest our feet in the cabin.  The captain set sail at five and we had a lovely sail up the Bosporus Strait on our way to Romania.

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