Turkish mystery author Ahmet Ümit illuminates Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel
The acclaimed novel writer and poet, along with the Pera Palace Hotel's communications manager, Can Erol, delivers an in-depth discussion of the iconic 125-year-old structure built by French-Turkish architect Alexander Vallaury and its incredible history.
For fans of mystery and crime novels with a historical bent, Ahmet Ümit is an international household name. The Turkish author has had his books translated into 20 languages and has reached 4 million readers in 60 countries. Now, in an exclusive video, he's uncovering the secrets and sharing the stories of one of Istanbul's architectural and cultural landmarks: the Pera Palace Hotel.
Joined by the hotel's communications manager, Can Erol, Ümit rehashes the history and delves into rarely discussed details of this spectacular structure, often mentioned in the writings of legends such as Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene. This is a special opportunity for viewers at home to hear and see the man whose written voice they know so well.
(Note: Please click the title on the video to watch in full screen.)
Besides being a best-selling author in Turkey as well as a poet and essayist who writes about historical figures, including Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Patricia Highsmith, and Edgar Allan Poe, Ümit is an esteemed historian known for his deep knowledge of İstanbul's roots, especially the Pera (Beyoğlu) area where the Pera Palace Hotel is located. In many of his novels set in Istanbul, Ümit embeds real places and historical facts to make his stories more colourful and inspiring for the reader. The Pera Palace Hotel is one of his favourite literary locations.
Built by legendary French-Turkish architect Alexander Vallaury in 1892, the establishment is the oldest hotel on Istanbul's European side and the first electrified building in Turkey aside from the Ottoman Palaces. Vallaury, who also designed the Ottoman Bank Headquarters and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, created the Pera Palace as a sophisticated place to stay for travellers passing through on the Orient Express. The hotel is in walking distance from the train station and a number of European consulates, and it boasted ahead-of-its-time amenities such as a patisserie and a post office—both crucial in an era before coffee chains and free Wi-Fi.
During the video, Ümit reveals how the Pera Palace's proximity to important places, along with Vallaury's mix of neo-classical, art nouveau, and oriental design elements, gave the hotel the unofficial status of "where East meets West" and the "jewel of Istanbul." He also reviews history and how the Pera Palace Hotel was a prime fixture during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Independence War, and the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Ümit focused on this wild, international espionage-filled time period in his novel Farewell, My Beautiful Country. Among other famous anecdotes about the hotel, Ümit and Erol also note how British mystery novelist Agatha Christie supposedly vanished for 11 days while staying at the Pera Palace during its heyday in 1926, and why room 411 is now named in her honour.
The Pera Palace Hotel also played a pivotal part in World War II and the ensuing westernization that occurred in Istanbul, ultimately becoming popular lodging for jetsetters such as actor Greta Garbo, who once stayed there for 50 days. Archival documents from the hotel, including menus, newspaper clippings, and photographs, some of which are nearly a century old, bringing the stories of the Pera Palace and its history to life.
Tune in to this exclusive and inspiring video discussion to learn about it all and hear these experts dive into the magic and mystery behind this invaluable Istanbul institution that is still delighting travellers to this day.