Dolmabahee Palace Questions
The first thing you notice about the palace is how ornate it is – every surface inside and out is elaborately carved, gilded or embellished to within an inch of its life, as befitting I suppose the home of six sultans and the first president of the republic. It’s very European rather than Turkish, at the time it was built the sultans were looking to impress and copy Europe and so Dolmabahce is a curious blend of sumptuous architectural and decorative styles from both East and West. It would certainly have impressed European emperors and kings such as Germany’s Kaiser Bill who was a great friend – in the vast Ceremonial Hall hangs the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier (a present from Queen Victoria who probably thought it a bit vulgar) and there is the stunning Crystal Staircase in the shape of a double horseshoe with bannisters made of Baccarat crystal, and many great glittering halls for formal state occasions. But within the palace is the traditional, self-contained harem or private quarters where there are the bedrooms, studies, salons and hamams of the sultan’s wives,concubines, siblings and children, often just as showily decorated as the state apartments next door. A pair of skinny guards stand outside and it’s strange that the Bosphorous just outside the palace windows is pretty much ignored and the gardens are all on the other side with no view of the river and the shore of Asia Minor beyond. But it makes for a great excursion in Istanbul to experience the last gasp of the old Ottoman Empire that was already crumbling by the time this extravagant and grandiose symbol was completed.