Turkish Delight

Tulips on platter, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul


By now you might know that tulips play an important role in Baker’s Magic. Well, we visited the country of Turkey this month, and I noticed something strange and unexpected. There were tulips everywhere! Not growing, of course — it is December, after all. But there they were in the art — in mosaics, carpets, fabrics, and tiles.


Tulips and Turkey? But…why?



Tulips on wall tiles, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Tulips on carpet, Carpet Museum, Istanbul

It turns out that tulips come from Turkey. That’s right — we might think of them as Dutch, but they aren’t. Originally they grew wild in Asia Minor — what is now Turkey — and possibly in what is now Iran. Turkish people began cultivating tulips nearly a thousand years ago. In 1554 the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to the Court of Sultan Suleiman in Constantinople (now Istanbul) first saw them. He expressed his amazement at the flowers’ beauty, and the Sultan sent some bulbs back to Europe. They came to the attention of Carolus Clusius, a botanist in Leiden, Holland. Fascinated, Clusius studied them and gave many bulbs to his friends. With that, the craze for tulips — known as Tulipmania — and their place in Dutch history began.

Tulip fields, Keukenhoff Gardens, Netherlands

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