Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ottoman Opulence. The Dolmabahçe Palace. Part 2.

The construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid. The European style Palace was built between 1842 and 1853 at a cost of five million Ottoman gold pounds - the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. The Palace served as the official residence of several Ottoman Sultans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the 20th century, the Dolmabahçe Palace remained empty till Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Turkey, took up residence there. Atatürk stayed in the palace until his death on November 10, 1938.

The palace grounds lie just as you pass through the 2nd entranceway. The Turks are not known for their landscaping skills so the Dolmabahçe Palace grounds are modest compared to those of its European counterparts. There's a very small, simple fountain surrounded by well tended flower beds. Stone statuary are scattered about.




















The only way to see the Dolmabahçe is on a guided tour which comes with the price of admission. Lucky for me, I made it to the front door of the palace just as the English tour was getting underway. The first tour was for the Selamlık - the quarters reserved for the men and the Muayede Salonu - the ceremonial halls where the sultan would receive distinguished guests from all over the world.

My jaw dropped as I entered the palace and I continued to ooh and ahh with each room we passed through. I have never seen such sumptuous surroundings in my entire life! It was one ornately decorated room after another. Huge Baccarat and Bohemian lamps and chandeliers were everywhere. In fact, the Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of its staircases has bannisters of Baccarat crystal.

Ceilings were gilded in gold leaf - in all, 14 tons of gold leaf were used to gild the palace's ceilings. Beautiful Turkish and Persian rugs covered the floors. Elegant furnishings and accessories filled each room. The splendor of the palace rooms was unbelievable!!

I snapped one photo after another though it was difficult because the only interior lighting came from the crystal chandeliers and so it was quite dim. Each room had its own character and splendid beauty.




























































































 

Then, came the grandest room of them all - The Ceremonial Hall. Covering an area of 1800 square meters, the massive hall is adorned by the largest chandelier in the world - a gift from Queen Victoria that weighs in at a hefty 4.5 tons and bear 750 crystals. The beauty of the room was in its ceiling - intricately decorated with paintings and with carvings gilded in gold. Oh my God!! The extravagence of the room is beyond belief. I don't have the words to describe the room - maybe the pictures will convey its jaw dropping lavishness!




























































































































































Of course, before I left the Ceremonial Hall, I wanted to have my picture taken. I handed my camera to the tour guide to do the honors. Of course, he focused on the chandelier :-)

The story continues in Part 3.