I’ve had a lot of free time, so I’ve been walking a lot. Atakoy is the next neighborhood across the E5 and the flowers have been particularly lovely in the cool, but sunny weather. There’s a surprising number of roses (gul). It’s been my favorite weather so far. Yesterday, the rain moved in and it looks like more on the way. That will likely ruin the blooms, but I took a few photos to remember them by.
Today was Saturday, my only full day off, so I decided to spend a few hours walking in the bright sunshine of spring in Istanbul. My path? To follow the remains of the old city walls—known as the Theodosian Walls. They are one of the most impressive remains of the Byzantine past, and they held off invaders for more than 1,000 years! I walked from Topkapı Metro (Pronounced: Top Kap Uh. That final letter isn’t an “I” it’s the vowel pronounced uh) south to the Marmara Sea. I walked around the sea park, investigated a few old city gates and cemeteries, and walked back. Probably 4 miles in all. I’ll sleep well tonight! I do a lot of walking here in Istanbul, so I’m glad I’m in fair shape.
It was cool and breezy, but the sun shone all day—perfect walking weather. The tulips are in bloom and (my favorite) daffodils. It is spring in the city of cities!
With 11 fortified gates and 192 towers, this double walled enclosure sealed in the landward side of the old city of Constantinople. The length of the wall is about 4 miles (6km), so I saw approximately half of it today. It extends from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, enclosing an area of about 2.5 square miles. As with many important old Roman cities, the “walls” are actually three layers, each taller and thicker than the one before. A thick inner wall had 60 foot towers that gave a view of any approaching enemy, by land or sea. The outer wall was lower, 26 feet high, with additional towers, offset and between the inner wall towers, creating unblocked line of sight. Both walls were made of alternating limestone blocks and red tile brick. This arrangement is attractive and helped them to withstand earthquakes. Between the walls was a 50 foot terrace, used to move military troops easily. (in many cities, this area is where the bazaar is) A second terrace ended in a short crenelated defense wall. In front of it all was a moat (which may or may not have had water) which was 60 feet across and 20 feet deep. Even dry, the moat would have kept large artillery from coming too close.
The walls were built between AD 412-422 (dates vary), mostly during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (408-50). At the time, they were half a mile outside the city’s original Walls of Constantine, extending the city’s protected area. Though the older Constantine Walls were still standing when the Theodosian Walls were built, nothing remains of them today. In 447 an earthquake destroyed 54 (some reports say 57) of the towers and much of the sea wall. The timing could not have been worse as Attila the Hun was already in the Balkans and on his way to take over the city. For 60 straight days and nights, the population labored to repair the walls.
Ultimately the city finally fell from sheer weight of numbers of the Ottoman forces in May 1453 after a six-week siege. According to Wikipedia, “The walls were largely maintained intact during most of the Ottoman period, until sections began to be dismantled in the 19th century, as the city outgrew its medieval boundaries. Despite the subsequent lack of maintenance, many parts of the walls survived and are still standing today. A large-scale restoration program has been under way since the 1980s.”
Gülhane Park, or “Rosehouse Park,” is an historic urban park in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey. It used to be part of the Topkapı Palace. The south entrance of the park sports one of the larger gates of the palace. It is the oldest and one of the most expansive public parks in Istanbul. I found it a lovely, peaceful expanse of trees, flowers, benches and walkways–an escape from the busy, over-crowded city. I loved it, even if it drizzled the entire visit. It will be even more beautiful in April and May with flowers in bloom. It has it’s own tram stop (Tramvey).
According to Wikipedia: “The namesake of the park, the Gülhane (“Rosehouse”) present on the grounds, was the place where the 1839 Edict of Gülhane (Turkish: Tanzimât Fermanı or Gülhane Hatt-ı Şerif-î) was proclaimed. The edict launched the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire, which modernized the empire and included changes such as the equalization of all Ottoman citizens, regardless of religion, before the law. The proclamation was made by Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha, a leading statesman, diplomat, and reformer in the Empire.”