September 8, 2013, Türkiye
Today we visit Dolmabahçe Palace. Oh. My. Goodness. As I walk beneath the grand, gated entrance and pass through the small courtyard I find myself amidst a lush, manicured, waterfront garden. I am overcome with serenity. It’s calm here along the deep, blue Bosphorous–soothing to the soul and eyes. An elegant white iron gate races along the edge of the garden right up to the water. It’s wondrous. It feels somewhat like Venice. In the center of the garden a gentile fountain splashes high and joyfully into a large, placid, green pool, while peacocks flock through pristine grass lined with flowerbeds in the distance.
To the right of the peacocks resides the grand palace, built in the 19th century when the 31st Ottoman sultan decided he wanted a change from the sprawling, prestigious grounds of the 400-year-old Topkapi Palace across town. We climb the stairs and as we reach the top we are handed thin, elastic-lined, blue booties to place over our shoes. I’m amused. We enter a fairly dark room of rich reds and golds, but my eyes are drawn beyond it to the beautifully lit just ahead. Here I find a curling, bright red carpet-covered staircase beneath a gigantic glass ceiling and massive, sparkling chandelier–one of many, I come to discover. From here we enter a large room with one of the biggest rugs I’ve ever seen in my life. It baffles me just to imagine how long and how many people it took to craft the magnificent work. Rugs are perhaps Turkey’s finest art, praised especially for their unique double-knot technique making the rugs particularly strong and therefore also long-lasting. Over the rug is another spectacular piece, a low-hanging chandelier dripping with crystal and lights. It could easily take an entire day to clean. As we tour from room to room we encounter marble pillars holding up gold coffered ceilings, thick crimson curtains, ornate rugs, pristinely upholstered furniture, ivory tusks, mirrored walls rising above the fireplaces, hanging and standing chandeliers and plenty of other gold accents adorn the tremendous palace space. Oh, and of course there is also a spacious, marble Turkish bath.
What takes the cake is the Ceremonial Hall. The room is covered with another rug and this one is certainly the most enormous I’ve ever seen (about 406 sq. ft.). As if that weren’t impressive enough, hovering over it is the most enormous chandelier I’ve ever seen. The massive crystal teardrop is perhaps 10 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter bearing 750 candles and weighing 4.5 tons! The lavish, domed ceiling it hangs from is painted in shades of warm white and cool blue and gilded in extreme amounts of gold. And, all is “held up” by 56 ribbed columns, gold-painted, of course. It’s opulence like I’ve never known.For a fuller picture of the spectacular site (including interiors which we weren’t allowed to photograph) I recommend you to the following youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvJUlKk0i54