Agatha Christie and Istanbul’s Pera Palace Hotel

Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel was built at the turn of the 20th century for Orient Express travelers. It's just as mysterious today. Photo: Exterior Pera Palace Photo: Pera Palace

ISTANBULMay 5, 2013 – In a city that is, by its very nature, filled with mystery and intrigue, the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul is a nostalgic journey into a bygone era.

Built in 1892, the Palace was created to host passengers traveling on the famed Orient Express, and it was here that Agatha Christie got the inspiration for her acclaimed mystery, Murder on the Orient Express.

Situated in the Tepebasi neighborhood of the Pera district of Istanbul, the property is the oldest “European hotel” in Turkey. Until some much-anticipated renovations began in 2006, the once grand establishment was fading from a century of elegance playing host to celebrity guests such as Alfred Hitchcock, Ernest Hemingway, Sarah Bernhardt, Greta Garbo, King Edward VIII and, of course, Agatha Christie herself.

A Who’s Who of guests

Mata Hari, who also traveled aboard the Oreint Express, even stayed there a time or two, which only adds another layer of allure to the fascinating atmosphere of the hotel.

In 1981, the hotel was awarded the status as a “museum-hotel” when it converted Room #101 into the Ataturk Museum. When Mustapha Kemel Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey, stayed at the Palace for the first time in 1917, he was accommodated in that room. As a tribute, Ataturk’s chambers are  now filled with his possessions and painted in his favorite color of “sunset pink.” 

Entryway to Pera Palace

After countless delays, Pera Palace re-opened in September of 2010, fully restored to the classical style that made it famous. As you enter the colonnaded marble hall and view the sedan chair that was once used to transport guests from Sirkeci Station to the hotel, you have an overwhelming sensation that Agatha Christie really had no imagination at all.

So overpowering are the ghosts of the past that you are captivated by an eerie perception that Murder on the Orient Express literally wrote itself.

Today, guests are transferred to and from the airport in a maroon 1949 Plymouth

The famed Pera elevator

usually parked at the entrance of the hotel.

One feature stands out amid the antique furniture, the famous kubbeli (domes), the wrought-iron balconies and the wood paneling, and that is the historic cast-iron elevator. Now returned to working condition, the oldest elevator in Turkey represents an innovation that, in its day, must have represented the ultimate luxury.

Decorated with a red velvet bench and mirrors, as you ascend to the floors above, the elevator conjures omnipotent feelings of peering downward into the past.

Next to the elevator, white marble steps lead from the main lobby to the Kubbeli Salon located in the heart of the hotel. Carrara marble columns, Michelangelo’s preferred material for his sculptures, rise from parquet floors to six domed discs made of turquoise glass.

Add the music of a grand piano, and you have the perfect setting for English-style high tea, which would most certainly have met with Ms. Christie’s approval.

Ernest Hemingway, on the other hand, preferred the Orient Bar in another corner of the Palace where he could indulge in more manly drinking activities.

Elegance renewed at Pera Palace

Christie stayed in Room #411 at Pera Palace while en route to Baghdad in 1928 to visit her husband who was on an archaeological dig in Iraq.

At that time, travelers would cross the Golden Horn of the Bosphorus by the Galata Bridge, which has undergone numerous incarnations during its history.  Galata Bridge remains a popular site because of the fish market on one side where local vendors continuously hawk their fresh catches of the day and sell fish sandwiches to eager customers.

Exotic Istanbul from Galata Bridge

Christie fans should take the opportunity to dine next door to the hotel at the Orient Express Restaurant where photographs and other memorabilia can be viewed at different stages of her life.

Room rates are seasonal and vary according to currency fluctuations. One night in a twin or double room at this time of year is approximately $400 per night. Hair dryers, breakfast and other amenities are included.

In coming weeks, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express with David Suchet reprising the role of Hercule Poirot is scheduled for re-broadcast on PBS. Check local television schedules for details.

Contact Bob at Google+.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

 

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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