Christopher Robin didn’t bring Alice here though. Watching these young men march up and down, looking fierce and composed one minute, then stepping out of line and suddenly becoming ordinary young men again was quite entertaining. Observing the trouble taken by some visitors to compose the perfect shot of themselves with the guard, only to be thwarted by an unexpected addition to the snapshot was yet more amusing. But we were here to see other things.
Explaining our dilemma to the concierge this morning resulted in the same suggestion as the one we had from someone yesterday. The Dolmabahce Palace was only a step from our hotel and was well worth seeing, we were told. So, that’s what we did.
Before stepping inside, we had to clad our feet in plastic showercaps. You can imagine how comfortable that is in 30C heat, not to mention the increased hazards of wonky carpets and stairs. Shall we say, it concentrated the mind, somewhat?
But any distraction from such things was banished the minute we stepped inside the building. Six huge chandeliers, all lit and sparkling were the first hint of what we were to see. There on the ceiling, above the chandeliers were painted surfaces, trompe-d’oeil mouldings in taupe, grey and brown – breathtaking decor and so much to see.
Except that there wasn’t time to see it. A guided tour is obligatory and our guide whisked us through at breakneck speed, for other groups were hard on our heels and we had to keep up with the one in front. We kept pace, nudging each other to point out the next glorious vision, me frantically scribbling notes in my sketchbook, determined to refer to the website which she promised would have photos to download, because, of course, photos were forbidden. There were striped silks in raspberry and dove grey, a blue room with matching blue glass chandelier, cases of treasure and incredible cutwork blinds at the windows. Also at the windows were hanging the most beautiful lace curtains, silhouetted against the cream blinds pulled down to protect the decor from the sunlight.
Keep going, follow the red carpet. Keep up there at the back.
Everywhere there were chairs. Every room had a dozen. Many rooms had more. All lavishly upholstered in beautiful fabrics. Most rooms had a chandelier in the centre, mostly English glass, though in the Harem, the chandeliers were French, we were told. “More romantic”. ( ? )
Room after room, each with another variation on the central table, chairs, chandelier theme.
Until we reached the last room of all. The Ceremonial Hall. The only chandelier which wasn’t lit. The four and a half ton chandelier which was given by Queen Victoria and which is lit only on special occasions. By this time, we were pretty much chandeliered out and yet this amazing piece left us all with gaping mouths. Neither ballroom nor mosque but suitable for use as either, the painted ceilings, pillars, walls were stunningly beautiful and it’s hard to imagine anyone who could fail to be impressed by it. Which is exactly the idea.
Almost exactly an hour later, we found ourselves outside in the sunshine again, not quite believing what we’d just seen. How pleased we were that we’d taken that advice and not tried to battle our way through to the old town. Even more pleased to think that we’d not had to queue in the hot sunshine like those arriving now – possibly another reason why we’d had to scuttle through so fast.
What a great place to go. How lucky we didn’t miss it.