Is Midnight at the Pera Palace Based on a True Story?

Even though Netflix has no dearth of Turkish titles, ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ has created a niche for itself among international audiences. Directed by Nisan Dag and Emre Sahin, the drama series follows a young journalist Esra who is tasked with writing about the famed titular hotel. Her once-in-a-lifetime adventure becomes something much more as she is transported back to 1919 and gets involved in a political conspiracy. While the series evidently has an element of science fiction (due to time travel), the storyline appears to be somewhat realistic. So, in case that has got you wondering whether the show is inspired by real-life events, we have all the information you need.

Is Midnight at the Pera Palace a True Story?

‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ is partially based on a true story. In fact, the show is based on a book titled ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul’ by Charles King. However, the screen adaptation does not follow the book to a tee. In an interview in December 2014, author King explained that the “midnight” in the title of his book actually refers to the New Year’s Eve of 1925. That is when the Turkish Republic began following the Gregorian calendar instead of the Islamic one.

However, most of the events in the show take place in 1919, which was an important time in the history of Turkey. It marked the beginning of what is known as the Turkish War of Independence, a series of military campaigns carried out from 1919 to 1923. These were driven by the Turkish National Movement post World War I.

While the storyline of the series is largely a work of fiction, it is grounded in reality. For instance, Pera Palace is actually a hotel in Beyoğlu, a district in the European side of İstanbul. Constructed in 1892, it was meant to host the passengers of the Orient Express. Interestingly, the grand establishment was a symbol of modernity back in the early 1900s as well, since it was among the first places in the city to offer amenities such as elevators, radiator heat, and electrically powered lighting.

Pera Palace lies close to important landmarks in Istanbul, such as Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue. Moreover, consulates for various countries also lie in the vicinity, such as that of the UK, Russia, France, Germany, Sweden, and Italy, to name a few. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine why Pera Palace became the nucleus of economic and political activities as well as espionage.

In fact, during World War II, Istanbul found itself at the eye of the storm once again – despite being a neutral country – as it provided passage to Jews fleeing from Europe during the Holocaust. So, the socio-political unrest seen in Pera Palace and Istanbul is not so removed from reality. But apart from the factors discussed above, it is safe to say that Netflix’s ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ is not based on any particular person or set of people.

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