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A World of His Own

Abdülhamid II amazed his subjects by retreating behind high walls on a hilltop above Beşiktaş, taking his court and government with him. Here he created a city within a palace – in part with his own hands. In a two-part feature, Berrin Torolsan tells the story of the palace, its park and its guesthouse. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg

On April 7, 1877, Abdülhamid II moved, lock, stock and barrel, up from the vulnerable waterside Dolmabahçe to Yıldız, on the heights above Beşiktaş, where his uncle Abdülaziz had built one of his many palaces. It had an exuberant Neoclassical reception hall with marble fountains and crystal banisters, and was surrounded by woods dotted with pavilions. Abdülhamid restored all these, but he was also his own man, transforming Yıldız in modest style.

A prolific builder, he added annexes and offices, a theatre, pharmacy, imperial museum and art gallery, a school, a library with an observatory, apartments for retired harem ladies, a carpentry workshop next to his hamam, a porcelain factory, even a zoo. Gone were the pomp and circumstance of the mid-19th century. This was a sultan who drove his own carriage to the mosque on Friday.

Two main areas are now open to the public: the Yıldız Palace Museum (part of the palace itself, closed Tues) and Yıldız Park (open daily, dawn to dusk), which includes the Şale Köşkü (Chalet Kiosk) used by the Kaiser (following pages). Although next to each other, they must be explored separately as there is no access between them. (It is worth taking a taxi between the two as walking can take up to an hour.)…

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Issue 52, Spring 2015 Istanbul Unwrapped: Bosphorus Requiem
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 52
  • Village Bosphorus: the European shore

    Andrew Finkel extols the charms of a trip up the western, European, shore of the Bosphorus, whether by water or by road

  • City Bosphorus: The Anatolian Shore

    Over 56 pages, we cross the Bosphorus to explore the lower reaches of the Asian shore. Sailing past the ruins of stately Haydarpaşa Station, we land at the busy Kadıköy docks, wander round Moda’s old cosmopolitan backwaters and head upstream to the sparkling hilltop mosques of Üsküdar

  • Village Bosphorus: The Anatolian Shore

    Continuing our tour of Bosphorus villages, we cross back to a more untamed Asian shore. Heading upstream again, we start in Beylerbeyi and Çengelköy, with their grand views of the Old City, and make for the fortress of Anadoluhisari, where the Bosphorus narrows and the yalis are at their most captivating. Our journey ends on the hilltop of Anadolukavağı, with the Black Sea in our sights

  • Earthly Delights: the Humble Potato

    The potato was a latecomer to Turkish cookery, but today it is hard to imagine life without it. The humble spud, the ultimate in comfort food, is endlessly versatile,and also comes packed with goodness. Berrin Torolsan serves up some favourite dishes

  • City of Domes and Dames

    Üsküdar – its history shaped by three powerful queen mothers and a tireless English nurse – has surprises to offer behind its unprepossessing façade: dazzling mosques, villagey tranquillity and epic views…

  • Seeing and Believing

    Lovely churches, a lively market, enticing ice cream, shady cafés… and they called this the land of the blind. Andrew Finkel introduces Kadıköy, and Harriet Rix mooches around the district of Moda. Photographs by Monica Fritz

  • Memories light the corners of my mind

    Maureen Freely goes ‘Bosphorising’ with her father, John Freely, in search of her treasured childhood in Istanbul. Could it be that it was all so simple then?

  • City Bosphorus: the European shore

    Turn your back on the Old City and make for the water. Andrew Finkel takes a drive along the Bosphorus’s lower shore: from the half-abandoned docks of Karaköy, past mammoth cruise ships and hangars for modern art, to the palaces of Beşiktaş and Ortaköy

Buy the issue
Issue 52, Spring 2015 Istanbul Unwrapped: Bosphorus Requiem
£15.00 / $18.95 / 622.02 TL
Available from the Cornucopia Store
  • European Music at the Ottoman Court

    The London Academy of Ottoman Court Music, with Emre Aracı. Produced by Ates Orga,

    £ 7.50
  • War and Peace

    The London Academy of Ottoman Court Music, with Emre Araci

    £ 7.50
  • The Bosphorus by Moonlight

    The Prague Symphony Chamber Orchestra with Cihat Askin, violin. Directed by Emre Araci and produced by Ateş Orga

    £ 9.00
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