Saturday, January 02, 2016

Sultanahmet Park in Istanbul: Great Place to While Away Time

I went to Istanbul, Turkey in springtime, arriving exactly on the 1st of May in 2015. This means that the flowers in the city are in full bloom.

Can we ban people sitting on flower beds just to take a picture please?

Trivia: Did you know that tulips originally came from the Middle East, such as countries like Persia (Iran), Turkey, throughout the Levant Region, and not the Netherlands?

Tulips were brought to the Netherlands by a Flemish biologist who became the director of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden which eventually led to the Tulip Mania Period in the country and the tulip horticultural industry in the Netherlands. Tulips bloom in springtime.

Fatih, which is the old historical district of Istanbul, is beautifully decorated with tulip flowers in spring. The best place to enjoy the flowers are none other than the Sultanahmet Park located between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii). So after visiting these two historical buildings, one of which is still a functioning mosque, while the other is a museum, I took a nice walk along the park.

The park extends to Sultan Ahmet Square beside the Blue Mosque which used to be the Hippodrome, a Byzantine chariot racing stadium during the Roman and Byzantine Constantinople times seating up to 100,000 spectators. Interestingly, the 4 bronze horses on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy were used to be displayed here in the Emperor’s Box of the Hippodrome. The crusaders looted them in 1204.

Here is a question to ponder on: Should present-day Italy give it back to present-day Turkey?

Today the square is filled with monuments including an ancient Egyptian Obelisk from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor and a German Fountain (Alman Çeşmesi) which is a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The park is also a favourite hangout by many Istanbulites and visiting locals from other regions of the country. Many come here to enjoy the park and the flowers. Some I noticed were pushing their photo shoots to the limit by climbing on top of the flower beds. Such a shame.

Sadly, this reminds me of my visit to the largest flower garden in the world many years ago—the ‘Keukenhof’ in the Netherlands where people literally throw themselves on to the flower beds just so they have their picture taken up close and personal with the poor flowers. I really have no qualms telling people to get their selfish bodies off the flower beds but I am in a different country this time and I have not seen any get off the grass sign here at the Sultanahmet Park as well.

I have a nice tip if you want to have something to drink here: Right next to the Blue Mosque on the Sultan Ahmet Square (this is the adjacent park) is a nice café terrace. It’s a great place to sit down and while away time whilst sipping Turkish coffee or tea and watching everyone go by. Read here my experience: Turkish Coffee at the Grand Vezir and a Chance Meeting

Moi just outside Hagia Sofia in front of the Sultanahmet Park. I just finished visiting the Hagia Sofia (will post soon an entry of course) and will then be checking out the park.

Ah, these girls are taking a selfie =)

Beautiful tulips in bloom in springtime.

The Blue Mosque aka Sultan Ahmet Camii.

At the park you will find bread vendors, these are the pretzel-like breads or pastry if you wish called Simit. I also noticed that many older Turkish men tend to go around in suits which quite like reminds me of Madrid on Sundays.

I just find it strange that people are sitting relaxing on the gardens beside the flowers. I mean the flowers and plants are so fragile...

You can see the Hagia Sofia behind the fountain.

This is at the adjacent park beside the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmet Square which used to be a Hippodrome. Two obelisks stand on the square, the Egyptian Oblelisk (of Thutmose III circa 1479 BC) and the Walled Obelisk. The Egyptian Obelisk was brought from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt to decorate the Hippodrome stadium in 4th century AD. 

This is at the bottom of the ancient Obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III or the Egyptian Obelisk showing the submission of the barbarians. The obelisk was re-erected for the Hippodrome and now it serves as a monument on the square. I am sure this is just a copy.

The Sultan Ahmet Square above is a Hippodrome stadium before where chariot racing games were held. Now see a picture below of its glorious heydays. 

Yup, the Sultan Ahmet Square used to be like this during Constantinople times. What a contrast huh? The stadium has 100,000 seating capacity. In the middle you can see the Egyptian Obelisk.

No more chariots and horses here, but dogs having their siesta time on the square. If you just look closely, these stray dogs are tagged. 

This is the German Fountain (Alman Çeşmesi), a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to Sultan Abdul Hamid during his visit in 1898. 

Travel Period: May 2015
Destination: Fatih, Istanbul (Marmara), Turkey

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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