I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie – and sometimes I cant tell if I like the creator or her creation Hercule Poirot more. That said, when I was in Istanbul again (for the World Tourism Forum), I decided to finally visit the hotel Agatha Christie had stayed at nearly a decade ago – in 1926, so the story goes.
Apparently, in the year 1926, the Queen of Crime vanished for a few weeks (following her husbands infidelities) and is believed to have come to Istanbul and stayed at Pera Palace (Jumeirah) Hotel and there after written her most successful novel Murder On Orient Express.
Just walking through the antique hall of the neoclassical hotel with marble columns, a rather faded carpet that said “PERA PALACE JUMEIRAH HOTEL”, oriental gilded windows was delightful. Before I walked up to the marble-lined reception, I had imagined many things that could have taken place here – the hotel had a very majestic presence – you might excuse my gushing, but I am a HUGE fan of Agatha Christie – and I was over the moon just being there.
The concierge sensed this emotion and quietly asked for my camera and shot off few brilliant pictures for me!
In the inside was the Kubbeli Tea Lounge where a tall vase of flowers stood welcoming the visitor. I raised my eyes to the ceiling and saw a series of soaring well lit domes that somehow crowned the elegance and stylishly appointed room lit by chandeliers and subdued lights. It definitely had that cloud of intrigue hanging over it!
I didn’t get into Room No 411 for it was occupied, as the concierge told me. He was kind enough to walk me around the hotel to show me the deep and rustic interiors. I had questions for him – did they have a copy of the book I could pose with?
Did Agatha Christie sit in that chair over there?
Did she write by the candlelight in that corner?
Did she look down into the lounge from her room above? Or better still, did she go through that revolving door in the front?
No, the concierge told me that the revolving front door was a much later addition, and no, she did not write by the candle light because, Pera Palace was the FIRST hotel in Istanbul to have electricity!
He told me how the room was Agatha’s favourite – he said Agatha’s as though she were a personal friend, but I suppose if you worked long enough at the same hotel, you tend to feel as though you are friend! I did wish I could sort of “run” into Room 411 for a quick look – but well, it was not to be. I am sure, if walls could talk, there would be lots of stories the room or the hotel itself would have to tell.
I have since added staying at Room 411, Pera Palace, Istanbul on my list of things to do during my lifetime. For once, I’d like to surrender myself to the temptation to touch and feel a part of my favourite author’s life (I am an author as well, so the connect is deeper!)
Room No 411 was apparently her favourite and it is said that it is where she hid the “key” to the hiding place of her secret diaries. Well, the key was found under the floorboard, but the actual diary was never found!!!
Is it still at the hotel? I’d definitely like to know!
Interiors of Pera Palace Istanbul
THE HOTEL – Someday I hope to stay at Room No 411. For sure!
The 1934 book Murder on the Orient Express is perhaps the best known stories related to the Orient Express. It takes place on the Simplon Orient Express. More about Orient Express here.
Some of the well known guests who have stayed here include Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Alfred Hitchcock, Ian Fleming, King Edward VIII, Mata Hari and Ernest Hemingway.
About Pera Palace Hotel
The Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah built it 1892 is a historic special category hotel and museum hotel located in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. It was built to host passengers of the Orient Express and is the the oldest European hotel in Turkey. The Pera Palace Hotel is about 20km from Ataturk International Airport.
- Harry, the main character of Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, stays at the Pera Palace hotel while serving in the military during the Allied occupation of Constantinople (Istanbul) in World War I.
- Henry Pulling and his aunt Augusta Bertram, protagonists of Graham Greene’s 1969 novel, Travels With My Aunt, stay at the Pera Palace during their Istanbul adventure.
On a side note…
To complete the “Agatha Christie Adventure” pay a visit to the Sirkeci Terminal and the Terminal Museum to get acquainted with the history of the now defunct Orient Express. Sirkeci Terminal was built in 1890 by the Oriental Railway as the eastern terminus of the world-famous Orient Express and has now become a symbol of the city.