Tulips and History of Turkey Tour 2014
April 14th - 23rd, 2014


‘The Tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia and was first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1,000 AD. The flower was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a famous biologist from Vienna. In the 1590’s he became the director of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, the oldest botanical garden of Europe, founded in 1587. He was hired by the University of Leiden to research medicinal plants and while doing so he got some bulbs from Turkey from his friend Ogier Ghiselain de Busbecq, the ambassador of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). He had seen the beautiful flower, called tulip after the Turkish word for turban, grow in the palace gardens and sent a few to Clusius for his garden in Leiden. He planted them and this was the start of the amazing bulb fields we can see today. In our tour we will have a chance to see the lands of the historic Tulip, West Coast of Turkey including Ephesus, an ancient Greek city and later a major Roman city and also Cappadocia, a spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion.

I arrived into Istanbul the day before the tour started, as usual with all my tours, where my transfer was waiting and was in our tour hotel in jig time. The Arcadia Blue was a super pleasant hotel with lovely quiet rooms. It was the dining area that was so special here though because it directly looked out onto the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque with the water behind them both. Magical is an understatement, especially at night with the lights on. In fact all our rooms had this view. When the call to prayer was heard it was like being transported to another world….just magical. The hotel is in a very quiet area but minutes away from a street that is abuzz with activity and at night it is just the same as everyone goes out to eat, stroll and shop in the many shops close by our hotel.

April 14. Monday. Arrival in Istanbul

Quite a few came in the day before, but most arrived today. You always worry that there will be flight problems, missed connections but it was a great day. The whole group was here to enjoy the beauty of Istanbul. I met with my ground handler today to have lunch just by our hotel at Pasha. What delicious food we had and the outside cafes afford all sorts of people watching. Afterwards I did some walking and took a few photos. One of the places I stopped in was an outdoor hooka pipe café. All manner of pipes, both antique and modern, and the coals were burning hot on that stove! Fresh pomegranates and oranges that are pressed for juice, fresh Turkish delight that was so yummy – they gave me samples, windows of cafes stuffed with some of the meal ideas and of course baklava too. A flower shop and trees in blossom made for a wonderful walk along these streets…and don’t forget the people watching. A lady sitting on the sidewalk selling seeds for the pigeons, hawkers selling juicy watermelon, a wonderful memorial tomb with the most wonderful garden inside full of magnolia trees and roses just ready to pop…a secret garden that you would only discover by walking through the big iron gates. A shop that sells hammam towels and soaps, a bakery with delicious looking cakes (sorry about the glare through the glass) I also sat down here to have Turkish coffee in the old cup with lid that you see while spying all the sweets (very difficult to resist) then further down this same street I found lots of outdoor cafes getting set up for the evening guests. Across the road now and heading to the Hagia Sofia where trees were in bloom, thousands of tulips were dancing in the breeze and cats were every where. Totally a wonderful way to start the tour off. I know my guests are going to love Istanbul.


DSC08957 – 0958