Every April, millions of tulips decorate Istanbul and its parks and this year instead of making the trek out to the tulip festival in Emigran Park, I decided to venture close to home and visited Göztepe 60. Yıl Parkı near Caddebostan in Kadıköy.
Once again, for anyone that doesn’t know (or remember), tulips are originally from Turkey, not Holland.
Being my second year enjoying the beautiful tulips, a friend introduced me to the story behind how Turkey’s tulips got their colors.
The Turkish Legend of Turtles Coloring Tulips
During the Ottoman Empire, from 1718-1730 was the Tulip Era, an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity without any uprisings, wars or border disputes. It was also considered the “Ottoman Renaissance” a time of political, social and cultural advancement. Gardening and “tulip mania” spread across the country.
Hafız Çelebi, was planting sweet flag (eğir otu), a perennial herb, and noticed the turtles were eating his plants. This gave him an idea.
Autumn came and in anticipation of planting tulip bulbs for spring, he collected the turtles together and left them in wooden baskets for two nights. He covered the bottom of the wooden baskets with a mix of different color soils, mint, basil and flour to attract the turtles to eat the soil and to leave them hungry (upon their release). Upon releasing the turtles, he let them bite the tulip bulbs – the tulip bulb would then grow to be the color of the turtle’s bite. Making Hafız famous for creating different color tulips, and knowing what color the tulip bulbs would become.
I assume making him an asset, especially when creating the annual colorful tulip displays.
Whirling dervishes are not only a symbol of Turkey, but also of the poet Rumi. Followers of Rumi achieved mediation and unity with God through listening to music, focusing on God and spinning, for hours on end.