MICHELIN Travel Discover the world
Home > > > > > > Tulip Season in Istanbul

Leaving for Turkey

Tulip Season in Istanbul

Tulip Season in Istanbul

Gautier Battistella - 2010-04-06

From 12th to 19th April Istanbul, the 2010 European capital of culture, is in full bloom and is teeming with tulips. This is the ideal moment to pay a visit to the city of the Blue Mosque and St Sophia, where lilting saz music fills the streets.

Every spring in Perama, a suburb of Constantinople, in the gardens of Ahmed III, at the time of the full moon, Sultan Ahmed III used to throw lavish parties in honour of tulips or “lale” in Turkish.  
Vases encrusted with Lapis-lazuli were overflowing with flowers; guests with brightly coloured clothes that resembled the tulips themselves took strolls during the hot and sleepy hours. Trills of nightingales and canaries emanated from the trees, and muffled rumours arrived from the city. At the time of the 18th century or “the Tulip Period” known for its cultural vibrancy, Ahmed III, was accused of emptying the treasury coffers through excessive spending and ended up being assassinated by a group of conspirators. 
Originally from Persia and Turkey, the tulip won over the court of Suleiman the Magnificent as early as the 16th century. The bulbs were offered to noblemen and foreign plenipotentiaries who came to present their credentials, in much the same way as chrysanthemums were used in Japan.  Ambassadors heaped praise on the Sultan’s gardens which rivalled those of Megara, Hamilcar’s prized jewel on the outskirts of Carthage. The oldest known book concerning tulips, which dates back to this period, lists no less than 1588 names of the flower.
A Flemish diplomat, Ogier de Busbecq played a role in changing the course of the tulip’s  history. The representative of the Austrian Habsburgs in Suleiman’s court sent some bulbs to a friend in Holland, who subsequently hastened to put them on the Dutch market, which enjoyed the success that we now know. Europe thus took this flower under its patronage. It became an object of speculation which brought great fortune to the bulb merchants. Prices became exorbitant. The prize winner in every category, the Semper Augustus reached sums of five thousand guilders, which at the time was the value of an Amsterdam apartment house!      
The tulip is a wild flower that became an Imperial one, as it is now stands as a symbol of Istanbul and its past glory. For one week, from 12th to 19th April, tulips adorn the parks (especially at Gulhane, Florya and Emirgan) but also the private gardens and roundabouts which are splashed with the vibrant colours of this beauty from the Bosphorous.  
TO AVOID
In the first fortnight of April the historical district of Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque and St Sophia) is besieged with tourists. The Taksim district is a better choice at this time.   
NOT TO MISS
Turkey has a very old tradition of humour. The Turks love jokes, proverbs and colourful characters. From 6th to 10th July don’t miss the Caricature Festival which ends with awards for the best cartoonist. 
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION
 
Getting there
There is an abundance of UK flights to Istanbul.
Airlines include Pegasus Airlines www.flypgs.comand Turkish Airlines www.thy.com .
Accommodation
Çırağan Palace Kempinski, www.kempinski.com/istanbul
This is the most sumptuous of Istanbul’s palaces with a view directly over the Bosphorous. Balconies and terraces overhang the river or gardens. It is a place of luxury, calm and delight for the senses. The service is exceptional.
Eating 
A gastronomic dinner in the superb restaurant of the Çırağan Palace Kempinski led by French chef Olivier Chaleli for modern Ottoman inspired cuisine or one of the many small street restaurants like Doy Soy (meze, kebabs) located behind the Blue Mosque: the choice is yours.
More informations

From 12th to 19th April Istanbul, the 2010 European capital of culture, is in full bloom and is teeming with tulips. This is the ideal moment to pay a visit to the city of the Blue Mosque and St Sophia, where lilting saz music fills the streets.

Top of page