To say Istanbul is a busy city would be an understatement. With a population of more than 14 million, Istanbul hums with a constant frenetic energy that can weary the most seasoned traveller. After days of wandering the crowded narrow streets around the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Sultanahmet and Galata Tower, I was looking for a place to just sit,relax and recharge away from the hawkers and hustlers that wasn’t my hotel room.
I came upon Gülhane by accident when I decided to take a different route from Aya Sofia to Galata Bridge.
Nestled below Topkapi Palace and hidden behind the outer palace wall, Gülhane Park is calm in the chaos, the perfect spot to take a a leisurely stroll or just sit in the rose garden and listen to the calls of the green parrots that inhabit the park.
Covering 16.3 hectares,or slightly more than 40 acres, Gülhane, translated as “rosehouse”, was originally the outer gardens of the palace, opened first to the public in 1912. Over the years, it has gone through a number of renovations, the most recent in 2003.
The park teems with history. In addition to its regal past, the park was the site of the signing of the Edict of Gülhane in 1839 which modernized the Ottoman Empire and ensured protection of all citizens under the law, regardless of religion.
On the west side of the gardens, the former stables have been renovated to house the Museum of the History of Science and Technology of Islam. The museum holds replicas of inventions from the 8th to 16th centuries in astronomy, physics, medicine, architecture and many other scientific fields.
A small pond with a fountain and bridges, a botanical garden and a child’s play area are some of the park features. The children, however, seem more interested in climbing on the stone lions that line the promenade. There is much more to explore among the many paths of Gülhane.
Sanity restored after a slow meander around the grounds and an overpriced tea at a cafe overlooking the Bosphorous, I was ready to return to the beautiful chaos that is Istanbul.