When serendipity happens, it’s quite magical … Right after I spoke at the #WorldTourismForum, a group from the audience approached me about the material covered during our panel discussion. Waiting to speak to me last was Neslihan Sen, the PR Director at the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, who wanted to say hello. It just so happened that I didn’t have a reservation for my last night’s stay in Istanbul. Thanks to Neslihan, not only did I get invited to have a drink at her hotel, but I was also invited to stay at a palace on my very last night in Turkey!
The Çirağan Palace is breathtaking, and it’s a hotel where celebrities like Madonna and Justin Timberlake frequently stay. I was beyond grateful to have such a beautiful suite with an awe-inspiring view reaching across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Turkey. There are moments in life that are so ideal, you want to freeze them in your memory. My first sight of the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul was one of them.
During my stay, Neslihan told me many facts about Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul that I found very interesting, and I want to share 10 of them with you.
- The Çirağan has a history dating back to 17th century, but recently celebrated its 25th year anniversary under Kempinski management as a hotel.
- There was a love affair between Sultan Abdullaziz and Empress Eugenine de Monjito of France, the wife of Napoleaon III, at the hotel. During the Sultan’s reign in 1869, Empress Eugenie de Montijo was one of the hotel’s first celebrity guests when she visited the Turkish bath of the new Çirağan Palace on her way to open the Suez Canal. A legend—unofficial—speaks of a love affair between her and the Sultan.
- The Palace hosted the opening of the Ottoman parliament with a great ceremony after the announcement of the Constitutional Monarchy II, following the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit II.
- The Palace is located on the European side of the Bosphorous Strait and looks over to the Asian side. A dip in the infinity pool is one of the best experiences in the world, because you’re swimming on the European continent while looking at the Asian continent – and you feel you are actually in the Bosphorus.
- Arriving at the Çirağan is very interesting, as it is the only palace and hotel on the shores of the Bosphorus that can be reached directly by air, by sea and by land. It has a licensed helipad and two piers!
- The entire property has been rented out for single events. Last year the hotel staff organized an international wedding celebration, complete with a glamorous view of the Bosphorus. (The historical palace is a very popular wedding destination site.) This matrimonial extravaganza with 500 guests lasted three days. Yes, the wedding party reserved the entire palace for three days! The nuptial lunch was in the East Garden under palm trees and the dinner was on the marvelous palace terrace. The amazing after party continued to dawn. As part of the festivities, a white horse was brought in for the traditional Baraat Baraat, from North India, is the groom’s wedding procession and he rides the horse to the wedding venue. Baraat includes close male relatives of the bride and groom. Turbans are always worn as they indicate honor. When the Baraat, or procession, arrives, the milni ceremony (literally, meeting or merger) is held and relatives from the groom’s and bride’s sides greet each other.
- Here’s another over-the-top party example: A very famous American talk show host treated her 1,500 employees to a grand feast on the palace terrace. In addition to the fabulous Turkish cuisine, there was a spectacular fireworks show over the Bosphorus along with a whirling dervish and modern dance performances.
- There’s no “busy season” at Çirağan Palace Kempinski. It’s a top choice all year round. The infinity pool, which gives a feeling of floating on the Bosphorus, is heated in the winter.
- Çırağan Palace Kempinski is the only Ottoman imperial palace and hotel that has hosted Sultans and continues to host guests from near and far. Its distinctive architecture, matchless location on the Bosphorus, and unparalleled level of personalized service make it Turkey’s iconic hotel. Just ask the countless government delegates, royal families, world stars and celebrities who keep walking through its doors.
- Although Çirağan Palace Kempinski has received many international awards during its 25 years, the hotel is proud to announce that the World Hospitality Awards selected their general manager, Mr. Ralph Radtke, as the “Best Hotelier.” He visited the hotel first as a guest in June 2011, and at the end of August 2011, received a phone call from the president of Kempinski. Although he was not expecting a job offer, Mr. Radtke accepted the position immediately and took over running the Çirağan Place Kempinski in October 2011.
Mr. Radtke shared one of his favorite memories at the hotel with his team. He met a woman and an elderly gentleman, who just happened to be HIH Prince Osman Osmanoglu, the last representative of the Ottoman dynasty. After dinner at the hotel’s Tugra restaurant, the prince was served birthday cake. When Mr. Radtke introduced himself and passed on his best wishes, the prince advised him that they were celebrating more than his birthday. At almost 90 years old, the prince was proposing to his dinner date! Immediately, Mr. Radtke offered to organize the wedding ceremony at Çırağan Palace, where the prince’s great-grandfathers, actual Sultans of Ottoman Empire, had lived. The whole imperial family gathered at Çırağan Palace for the very special occasion.
When I return, I would like to dip into their magnificent infinity pool and enjoy the view of the Bosphorus Strait. I spent my #WineWednesday at Tuğra Restaurant & Lounge. I would love to just sit on my balcony and savor how serendipity magically brought me to such splendor. Thank you again, Neslihan, for welcoming me to your beautiful sanctuary and allowing me to end my trip on such a high note. Until we meet again …