Sultan Abdülhamid II built this gigantic wooden palace-cum-guesthouse at the top of Yıldız Park, close to his own residence, for the visiting Kaiser Wilhelm II. A extraordinary ‘Victorian-period’ timewarp, the palace was the cover story in No 22. In his article ‘The Sultan’s Chalet’ the historian Philip Mansel concludes: ‘It is so well preserved, and so rarely visited, visitors can imagine that they are not tourists but the Sultan’s guests.’ The photographer Fritz von der Schulenburg captures the atmosphere of the palace in his beautiful photograhs. The sultan’s Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco added a wing and ballroom circa 1900, with the largest Hereke carpet in the world. His work in Istanbul is described in Paolo Girardelli’s article ‘D’Aronco: Architect to the New Society’, in Cornucopia 46.
The Yıldız Palace is a time capsule of Ottoman art nouveau, an expression in wood and stone of the style and reign of the enigmatic Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876–1909). Yıldız – from the Turkish word for star – so named because it was easy to see the stars there – is set on a hill above the Çırağan Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus.
Since the early 17th century there has been an imperial kiosk here, to which more substantial buildings were added in the 1860s by Sultan Abdülaziz. In March 1877, during the Russo–Turkish war, his nephew Abdülhamid moved to Yıldız from the Dolmabahçe Palace. He had an acute sense of his vulnerability, and Yıldız was less exposed to attack from land or sea. By the end of his reign Yıldız had become the last great power statement of the Ottoman dynasty, at once a palace, a ministry, a military headquarters and a university campus.