THE GOLESTAN PALACE
The Marble Throne Terrace is the oldest part of the complex, built by Karim Khan-e Zand in 1759. A yellow alabaster platform, it was used for royal audiences, whereby the Shah sat upon it under the typically opulent mirrored and stained glass verandah and would face dignitaries and the populace out in the gardens. The platform is supported on the shoulders of maidens, cats and the heads of demon-like creatures with fanged teeth and clawed tails. It was ridiculous that no photography was allowed here. Through beautifully painted doors depicting birds and flowers I entered a chamber adorned with a double tier of arched recesses, each containing still vividly coloured portraits of kings, princes, maidens and scenes of plenty done in lacquerwork, some were notably of English Tudor appearance, very fine. Another door of inlaid wood was exceptionally detailed and intricate, the individual pieces were miniscule so as to be only just discernible to the naked eye. This one piece must have taken forever to create. Outside and to one corner of the palace sat a plainer, flat platform akin to the earlier throne, perhaps for the women of the court. Under the richly mosaiced and tiled arches also lay a small marble fountain and the excellently reliefed tomb of an unstated Shah presumably, it was still in perfect condition. And so to the Royal Museum, though there was no entry to the Hall of Salute, the Mirror Hall or the Ivory Hall it seemed. Further along, a chandeliered and marble floored hall contained many portraits of contemporary heads of state, including Nasser ed-Din Shah Qajar who reigned as Shah of Persia 1848-96. Others were Napoleon III, Vittorio Emmanuelle II who became first king of a united Italy, also Habsburg, Russian, German and Prussian kings. There was a separate photo of Queen Victoria and watercolour of Prince Albert. Also smaller portraits of Ahmad Shah Qajar, Shah 1909-25. Last Shah of the Qajar dynasty, he was a young chubby guy. Various works of art filled the place out, including depictions of journeys taken to Paris, Belgium and Venice by Mozaffer ed-Din Shah Qajar, who reigned 1896-1907, and a pair of clocks gifted by Victoria.
Outside again and the Brilliant Hall and Porcelain Hall were signed but not open, too bad, the marble staircase I saw through a window was superb. Another corner porch here was mosaiced in mirror tiles. The library was signed, then the Shamsul Emareh building with very large twin square towers topped with belltowers and a clock tower in between. At the heart was a large mirrored verandah, huge. Next the Emarat Badgir, another squarish palace with 2 pairs of twin windtowers 26 metres high which could have been mistaken for minarets, though square and greenish coloured. One of the oldest buildings, it contains another newly restored mirrored hall combined with incredibly intricate stained glass, more floral and bird representations painted on yellow marble and mirror, and a tiled floor. Above the doors hung wood panelling and 2 mirrored stalactitic archways, perhaps the best I have seen, certainly difficult to better. The coronation of Mozaffered-Din Shah took place here in 1896. Next a photography museum was hidden underneath it in beautifully spacious vaults with marble flooring and staircases. It was originally the windtower's waterpool building, built in 1809. Nasser ed-Din Shah was really into photography and some on display are his own. Photos of himself, court figures, and "ladies from the Shah's private quarters", he liked his women big rather than pretty by the looks of it.They dated from the second half of the 19th century. Another showed various freaks and dwarfs who were kept for palace amusement and clowns too, who looked more like cut-throat pirates! I also came across a photo I had seen before in the castle in Khorramabad, of a servant being punished by having his feet whipped. It turned out it was for breaking some of the Shah's photography panes! Another was of tribal women using the animal skin butterchurns I had seen there too, they were no honeys! Another of the Iranian parliament in 1906, all turbaned or Fez wearing beardies, but then somethings never change! A gruesome depiction showed the inside of a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence where bodies had been set in rows of open holes and were in varying states of decay. Some were still sat upright awaiting the vultures. It was interesting also to see many of the buildings I had visited elsewhere in Iran as it showed the degree to which they had been more recently restored, added to or encroached upon. A Nowroz (New Year) festival also showed traditional wrestling, the national sport akin to the Turks.
Onto the Chadurkhaneh (tent house) and Diamond Hall. A mishmash of Victorian style red wallpaper printed with laurel wreaths and tulips, mirrored arches, stained glass, and tiled floor against a predominantly white background, it didnt work well. A couple of oil portraits on arch shaped canvases looked centuries out of place. Since there was no access to certain parts, some looking to be the pick of the bunch, and the Ethnography Museum closed to boot, I was left wondering why they had sold me 1 ticket too many. Maybe I missed something but the signing was inadequate to say the least. I spent the rest of the drizzly, muddy day in a wild goose chase trying to get to the airport in search of information. With inadequate maps which didnt show the Metro and no tourist office to help, it was left to guesswork and though I made it in the end, suffice to say that I did not always guess correctly. Though every airline was represented, none of them had so much as a timetable to hand out and there was no-one in the tiny cubicle which served Safiran Airlines. They were Iran's first private venture airline and I wanted to fly with them as they are reputedly the only operator of the new Antonov AN-140, built under licence in Iran as the Iran-140. Anoraks take note. I got back to my thankfully cosy room very wet, tired and none the wiser. What a pisser.