01 May 2014

Happy May Day!

I was in the middle of a post about the Aya Yorgi festival (by which I mean I uploaded pictures and was too lazy to actually write anything) and decided to switch gears. May Day, which in many countries is a celebration of workers, spring, good thing etc and so forth...is a little different here in Turkey.

In Istanbul it means that, at 11 AM, people a few neighborhoods over are being evacuated due to the extreme tear gas already infecting their neighborhood. It means that shops are closed, streets are empty, people are finding other places to park their cars so they don't get damaged, several modes of public transportation have been closed, and there are roughly 40,000 police officers deployed in strategic Istanbul neighborhoods.

So I'm not going out today. Which is a real pity because for the first time in over a week there's sun. And it's warm. So since the city is going nuts I'm going to stay in today, stream How I Met Your Mother and Orphan Black on Amazon, and post pictures of pretty flowers.

Which is an appropriate thing to do in Istanbul. Pretty much the entire month of April is dedicated to Istanbul's tulip, or lale, festival. There are accounts of tulips being cultivated in Turkey as early as 1000 AD but it was in the 1500s during the Ottoman Empire when tulip mania exploded.

Gulhane Park

Most people hear "tulip" and think the Netherlands. Or if you're from West Michigan like I am, you think Holland, MI. Home of its own windmills, wooden shoes, tulip festivals, lots of people whose last name begins with 'Van', and a phenomenon known as "West Michigan Dutch".

Gulhane Park

What most people don't know is that The Netherlands didn't get tulips until later, not until the 17th century. While both countries rivaled for a time to lead the tulip craze (and for a bit Turkey was on top) the impact of the flower has had far-reaching effects beyond commerce, particularly in art. In Turkey, the tulip (followed by the carnation) is the most common floral motif found on ceramics, mosaics, materials, jewelry, and so on.

Reproduction of an in museum Iznik vase

And while The Netherlands may hold the crown for tulipy things, I kinda have to wonder about a society in which a single flower bulb set you back more than 10 times your annual salary. And people paid that. 

Also that vase I bought, 240TL sticker price. I got it for 100TL. I'm not Barney Stinson awesome but it's close.

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