Richard & Stacy's Round the World Trip 2001

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Ferry up the Bosphorus
The Fortress of Europe
The Dolmabahce Palace

Sultan Abdül Mecit (1839-61) had the Dolmabahce Palace built in 1856. The sultan was one of the reformers of the Ottoman empire, providing salaries for government officials (to cut down on corruption), replacing the grand vizier with a prime minister, establishing a professional army, and so forth. This reformation is known as the Tanzimat - the Reordering.

The word Dolmabahce means "Filled-in Garden." The land that the palace and grounds stand on is reclaimed land from the Bosphorus - the reclamation work done in the 16th century.

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The Entrance Gate into the Dolmabahce Palace grounds where we waited for our tickets to enter and the special ticket for the camera.   In front of the Entrance Gate is a guard, like the guards at Buckingham Palace in England, he doesn't move, doesn't blink, doesn't anything - for his entire two hour posting. And the hand behind his back rests on a very large knife.
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Looking back the way we came to the Entrance Gate is a clock tower. On the right of the photo is the metal detector and x-ray station.   The other side of the Entrance Gate - we're in! 
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Approaching the palace proper, we pass the Swan Fountain in the Imperial Garden.   As we reach the entrance to the palace, to our left is the Imperial Gate, once used only by the sultan and his ministers.
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Statuary of the Imperial Garden.   The entrance to the palace. Remember that its Museum Week, so there's still a lot of schoolchildren around.

The palace was both residence for the sultan and diplomatic facilities. The entrance used for tours starts on the diplomatic side, known as the Selamlik.   

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The entrance hall. Notice all the carpet runners covering hardwood floors. Visitors are required to stay on the carpet.   The ceiling of the entrance hall.
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The entrance salon adjacent to the hall, just a taste of the beautiful objects we would see in the palace...   On the opposite side of the entrance salon is a massive painting of the sultan traveling with his entourage.

The only "staged" area of the palace is the Expo Hall, where many of the riches of the palace are on display: dishes, glasses, gifts from other nations, weapons, etc. On our way to the Expo Hall we passed through one of the symmetrical entrance ways in this wing of the palace - the room is a mirror image of itself, with a circular staircase, doorways, furniture all duplicated on each side of the room. 

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The circular staircase that exits out to the veranda in front of the Bosphorus.   A view to the other side of the room, showing the matching circular staircase. The room is completely symmetrical, down to the furniture and artwork.
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Gold and crystal wine glasses and decanter in the Expo Hall.   Opal and silver drinking service.
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Gold tea service.   Crystal Tea Set.
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Gold dinner service, must go with the tea set...    A silver samovar!
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Silver tea service.    A collection of rifles and other weapons.

The "staged" part of the tour over with, we were taken from room to room, exploring the massive palace. After looking through a couple of rooms, we were led to the Crystal Staircase - one of the first gasp-causing wonders of the Dolmabahce Palace.

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The prayer room, with Islamic prayers on the walls and a beautiful rose chandelier. Next door to the prayer room is the library, with a more dramatic chandelier... not that we understood what a dramatic chandelier was.
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A mirror in the library - there are mirrors in almost every room in the palace... I guess they were worried about the place seeming "spacious." That gasp moment, entering the crystal stairway, with its huge chandelier and crystal domed ceiling... unfortunately the bright sunshine through the ceiling destroyed the contrast of the room in the photo...
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From the top of the staircase, looking down... yes, those are crystal balustrades with brass trim and a mahogany rail. The columns are actually wood with a stucco covering - the palace is made of wood, stone columns would be too heavy. A better look at the one-and-a-half ton crystal chandelier, which is actually grey from the lead in the crystal itself - its not dirty. You can also better see the double-horseshoe symmetrical design of the staircase itself.

The Crystal Staircase is the entrance way to the Süfera Salon, where ambassadors to the Ottoman empire waited for an audience with the sultan. The Süfera Salon is one of the most luxurious rooms in the palace. 

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Looking toward the Bosphorus across the narrow side of the Süfera Salon, showing the table and huge carpet (that we weren't allowed to walk on).   Perpendicular to the previous picture, looking the length of the Süfera Salon. There are two bear skins in this room at opposite ends (keeping that symmetric motif going). These skins were given to the sultan by Russian czar Nicholas II.
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A detailed view of the ceiling, showing gold foil and mother-of-pearl inlays.   Close up of the chandelier - not as big as the one in the Crystal Staircase, but still pretty darn big...
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An interesting piece of ivory art, identical versions adorn each side of the salon.    This stag vase is one of kind, and a good thing too.
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Another unique piece, a table clock from Queen Victoria.    One of the four identical fireplaces in each corner of the Süfera Salon.

Of course, the Süfera Salon is just a glorified waiting room (okay, seriously glorified, but still). Off of the salon, effectively over the entrance hall are two receiving rooms. One of them, known as the Red Room, was reserved for the use of the sultan to receive ambassadors. The other receiving room was used by other officials for receiving ambassadors. 

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The small salon between the Süfera Salon and the Red Room where the sultan held audience with ambassadors.   The Red Room, where the sultan received ambassadors. The windows look out onto the Bosphorus, although the combination of sunlight and computer color enhancement have washed out any exterior imagery.
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The left side of the Red Room, with plush sofas, chairs and the famous "ottoman."   Detail of the chandelier and ceiling in the Red Room, showing more gold foil.
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In the other audience room, far less opulent, but still beautiful.    A crystal fireplace in the corner of the "other" reception room.

Going out of the audience rooms (which are literally above the entrance hall where we started), through the Süfera Salon and the Panorama Room (which isn't as panoramic as it sounds), we visit that most popular set of chambers, the Sultan's bathrooms. Like every serious sultan bathroom set, its actually three separate rooms.

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Entering the first room of the sultan's bathroom, the walls are marble and the ceiling made up of little decorated cones with glass lenses for light.   The second room has a wrought iron ceiling with crystal windows.
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The walls of the second room are all alabaster, the center second of this wall is actually a fountain.   The most popular room, the toilet... the key shaped hole is actually on the floor (the camera got bumped during the shot).

Coming out of the bathroom we were led along long corridors, to the Harem side of the palace. The first area we visited is the Valide Sultan's reception room - this is where the Sultan's mother would meet important guests. From there we headed downstairs, to a central Harem room that had a number of other working rooms connected to it, including the school room for the sons of the Sultan. 

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A window along the floor of the long corridor connecting the Selamlik portion of the palace with the Harem. The top panel of the window is actually open in this picture.   The Valide Sultan's reception room, decorated in red with roses. This room is remarkably similar to the Sultan's Red Room at the other end of the palace.
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A detailed look at the ceiling of the Valide Sultan's reception room.    The chandelier in the Valide Sultan's reception room. Notice the crystal red roses around the base.
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Downstairs from the Valide Sultan's reception room is a central room connecting various working rooms of the Harem. Still a beautiful room on its own.   One of the rooms off the central room is a school room used by the sons of the Sultan. Apparently all education of the Sultan's sons was done by women, since no other men were allowed in the Harem.

Exiting the connecting room, we were led into the big gasp of them all... the Great Hall. This room was built to entertain 2,500 people at a time. It is almost incomprehensively huge, stretching from the bottom floor through to the top and beyond - in pictures of the exterior of the Dolmabahce Palace, the Great Hall is the entire tall centre section of the palace. 

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Our first gasp into the Great Hall. Here you can get a hint of just how tall the room is - its the tallest point of the palace, perhaps five stories top to bottom.   A zoomed in, detailed look at the ceiling far, far above.
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This upper balcony is called the Observers Alcove, where important people in Turkey could sit and watch major ceremonies.    The Ambassador's Alcove is seating for the ambassadors to Turkey.
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Opposite the Observer's Alcove is the Musician's Alcove where musicians would play during the opulent balls that were held in the Great Hall.   Just below the Musician's Alcove are these half circle windows - they are on the floor of the same hall that has the blue semi-circle windows shown earlier. Ceremonies being men only, women would watch the proceedings from two windows like this one.
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A close look at the columns supporting the alcove structure of the Great Hall - these columns, like all columns in the palace, are made of wood covered in stucco.    A close up look at what is believed to be the world's largest chandlier - 4.5 tons of Irish crystal, hanging in the centre of the Great Hall.
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Beneath the titanic chandelier is a table and huge vase. Notice the velvet ropes to keep the tourists off the 200 year old Turkish carpet.    As we left the Great Hall back outside again, we came out beside the Main Shore Gate, where dignitaries would arrive by barge and enter the Great Hall.

The Great Hall is still used for major events in Turkey, most recently the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Turkish Republic, an event attended by European Royalty and world leaders. 

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