Dear friends,

The third week of November is turkey talking time. This year my Turkey came with a capital T. As in The Republic of Turkey. Specifically Istanbul – where East truly meets West as the world’s only metropolis that spans two continents. I had such an amazing time that I wanted to share some of my Turkey with you…


Istanbul’s architecture is compelling. The golden dome of the splendid Byzantine style Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) dominates the skyline. As the nearby Blue Mosque which signals the Muslim Call to Prayer five times daily, stately minarets reflect the Ottoman influence. Elsewhere Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassic elements combine with dignity.


Today’s construction crews might learn a lesson from the 10,000 6th century workers who completed the Hagia Sophia in a record 5 years, 10 months and 4 days. Considered the world’s most beautiful basilica for 1,000 years, it was converted to a mosque when the Turks conquered the city in 1453. Later restored as a church, it is now a world class museum of Byzantine art.


While Istanbul’s Muslims do not require women to wear head coverings, the three woman on the terrace of Topkopi Palace admire the breathtaking view of clear blue surface of the Bosphorus (which overlooks the city’s Asian sector) where some areas are thought to have existed 3,000 years B.C.


An evening at Reina, the seaside queen of Istanbul’s scintillating nightlife scene, is a must. At the very edge of the Bosphorus, the expansive, expensive and enormously popular club is the nightly home grounds of the local celebrity-party glitterati. The blue canopy over the dance floor is made from Bacarat crystal at a cost of over $2M US.


Sultan Abdulmecid’s Dolmabahçe Palace is an outstanding symbol of 19th century decadence.. Like any Sultan’s palace, it is huge and sumptuous with 285 rooms, 43 large salons and a ballroom with an inspired focal point – a 4 ½ ton Bohemian glass chandelier. This was the Winter Palace to the Sultan. The marble columns of the interior had hot water running through them to heat the massive interior. Our hotel was the Summer Palace to this estate located less than a mile away. Don’t you want to just move right in?


The incredible Ϛiragan Palace, the summer palace of Dolmabahce Palace is now the luxury wing of a Kempinski hotel. This was our home base. Harmoniously blending Ottoman-era sophistication with today’s technological amenities, the hotel’s palace quarters include banquet rooms 10 over-the-top suites plus the Sultan’s quarters with private butler privileges and other royal pampering.


The marble-style of the Palace’s renovated lobby is considered Istanbul’s most impressive public space. Notice the stairway’s impressive balusters. Baccarat crystal, of course.


Every Sultan has his harem. Here’s mine. What happens in Istanbul stays in Istanbul.

Turkey was on my menu a bit early this year. The people were lovely. We felt totally safe. The services that were offered/provided were over the top. If you haven’t been, I would tell you to add it to your bucket list.

In the meantime, enjoy your other turkey on Thursday.

“May your world be beautiful.”

John Robert Wiltgen

John Robert Wiltgen, Professional member IIDA
© 2011 John Robert Wiltgen Design, Inc. All rights reserved.

There are 27 comments

  1. Pelin

    Istanbul could have not explained better. Even from a point of view of a native.
    I hope one day I will have the honor of meeting you if you can give me a moment in your busy schedule.
    Thank you.

    With love,

  2. Patrick Coveny


    Thanks for the email pics of Istanbul. Now I am sorry I just turned down a conference there this fall.

    Patrick Coveny
    KEY Awards Committee Judge
    2010 Builder of the Year
    Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago

  3. Jose Oberholzer

    Thanks John for sharing this beautiful journey. I admire your harem, your taste is phenomenal…

    Best regards, yours

    Jose Oberholzer and the Chicago Diabetes Project.

  4. Anna

    Oh John,
    this looks like wonderful trip you had!!
    Turkey is becoming one of the world power and they definitely have a base for that, beside all the beauty, man made and nature made. I’ve been in Istanbul many moons ago, as a matter of fact, a year before I met Darko, in 1991. My father was a mayor of Zagreb and there was a conference of European mayors he was invited to. We stayed in Swisotell overlooking Bosporus.
    I was amazed, coming from the country in the middle of war, but still, I was too young (?), 34, to appreciate everything I saw. We had a private party at so many places, but I can’t remember where exactly. One was in the palace,I think this one that is now hotel you stayed in. It was not hotel than. Is it possible?
    We had that cruise on Bosphorus and it was amazing to now that one side is Europe and other Asia.

    I bought some silk there since I was just starting my silk painting endeavor. It was purchased in that street where one tram rides back and forth, guys are running with those trays of tea and coffee, it was interesting.
    Some area were so poor, so dirty, there was a lot of dust. But stores and businesses everywhere. I would love to go back and would love to rent a boat and sail. That’s what we plan, if we get this f.. lottery tonight,ha,ha!! No, no, we will go, sooner or latter, I just have to watch Darko from falling….

    Now, next rip?! Croatia? You are getting closer. We will make an itinerary for you, you will love it. It is nothing like Turkey, but pristine beauty, good food, a lot to see.
    If you watched yesterday Ashley Judd in “Missing”, it was filmed entirely on the island and city of Hvar, but they didn’t mentioned it. They wrote Italy!!!!! What can you do!?! Next episode is in Dubrovnik. Anna

  5. tmac

    sounds and looks awesome, i gotta tell ya, i’m more than a bit jealous, thx for the blog, it was good to see you at rays, we talked about getting together, maybe next couple weeks try to get together – tmac

  6. Bonnie Rhodes

    John, Istanbul looks fabulous architecture outstanding, Kempinski hotel breathtaking!
    Count me in your harem next visit!

    Bonnie Rhodes
    LALIQUE Design Showroom

  7. Sue

    Thank you John. Ken and I are taking a Black Sea cruise in September with two Stanford professors on board. We are doing a pre trip to Cappadocia and an after trip to Efhesus (sp). Both give us one night in Istanbul. We were there briefly a few years ago and loved it very much. Would enjoy hearing favorite spas and restaurants of yours. I am so excited for Cappadocia. Sue

  8. Judi

    John thanks for sharing with me. Although I have been to Turkey 2 times it looks like more fun with you. Who are all the beautiful women with you???

    Call me to take a lunch date.


  9. Isabel

    What a lovely travelogue John, many thanks. It brought back happy memories for me of my trip to Turkey years ago. I also stayed at the Cirgan Palace and what a fabulous hotel it was. It sounds like a terrific trip and keep me informed of future ones. You are a great traveler.
    Hope all is well.

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