The Maiden's Tower.
Not far from this, one sees the largest and most imposing of all the Sultan's palaces, known as Dolma Baghtcheh. This splendid edifice, constructed two score years ago by Sultan Abd-ul Medjid, borders the Bosporus for more than a third of a mile. It might be called an imperial village, rather than a palace. As many as seven hundred persons have at one time lived beneath its roof. Its long facade is of spotless marble, and from its snow-white terrace broad stairways of the same material descend to meet the sea. It faces the east, and when the rising sun illumines it, the palace's immense expanse gleams like a wall of polished silver, in striking contrast to the azure of the foreground and the green foliage of the hills beyond. The sole condition imposed upon its architect was that, when completed, it should exceed in splendor any imperial residence that Abd-ul Medjid had beheld. As one can easily suppose, therefore, the decorations of the building are of almost incredible magnificence. The furnishings are partly European and partly Asiatic. Its wonderful inlaid work in wood and precious stones, and its luxurious rugs and tapestries from Teheran and Bagdad, are suggestive of the Orient. But frescoes by French artists, a number of fine paintings, candelabra of cut glass, tables and urns of malachite and porphyry, and the largest plate-glass mirrors in the world, are contributions from the Occident. It is a striking commentary on the mutability of earthly grandeur that this magnificent palace, though so recent in its origin, is now practically tenantless. It is true, its wonderful throne-room is still used for ceremonies of state,- but the present sovereign will not reside therein. Sinister memories haunt its gilded halls, ill-calculated to promote undisturbed sleep or peaceful dreams. For it was from Dolma Haghtcheh, on the morning of May 29, 1876, that Abd-ul Aziz, the uncle of the reigning Sultan, was forcibly removed to his mysterious and tragic death; and a few weeks later, the present sovereign's elder brother, the successor to Abd-ul Aziz, here became insane, - a circumstance that enabled the actual ruler, Abd-ul Hamid II, to ascend the throne.
Gate To The Sultan's Palace.
A Hall In The Dolma Baghtcheh.
Not far from this, another palace rises from the waves, dainty and beautiful with marble balconies and columns. This is as small and graceful as the preceding one is massive and imposing. Surrounded by a stately grove, with gardens stretching far out on the adjoining hills, it is a favorite resort in summer for the Sultan and his family. Here, no doubt, are enacted scenes like those which, centuries ago, were wont to take place on the Seraglio Point. For here the favorite Sultanas pass their time in listening to music, wandering through the grove, sailing upon the little river which here joins the Bosporus, - or gazing through their gilded lattice-work upon the ever-changing beauty of the sea.
Abd-Ul Hamid II.
One Of the sultan's retreats.
Sweet Waters Of Asia.
But the charms of the Bosporus are not reserved for Sultanas only. Ottoman ladies are very fond of making excursions to its banks in summer, particularly to a lovely spot known as the "Sweet Waters of Asia." Here, - as in a similar locality on the Golden Horn, called the "Sweet Waters of Europe," - one may behold, discreetly, thousands of Mohammedan women, all clad in brightly colored silken mantles. They are usually seated on rugs, or resting on soft cushions, in the shade of noble trees. Most of them laugh and talk incessantly, while eating sweetmeats and ice-cream served by obsequious domestics; but some are silent and reserved as statues. Turkish gentlemen are also often visible, but they always keep by themselves, rarely, if ever, speaking to their ladies, although the venders of sherbet and confectionery sell their wares indiscriminately to both sexes. Meantime many children run about, and play upon the carpet of soft grass, filling the air with shouts of laughter, and receiving the admiration and caresses of all.