Spring comes with its colors and flowers. It becomes İstanbul so stylishly that a smile settles on the faces of all local residents. What shall we call it; purple or pink or fuchsia?
The redbud or Judas tree, the harbinger of spring, has the most beautiful color that a short life span can have. It twinkles, leaves a delightful memory in our hearts and then disappears until it paints the whole city to purple next spring once again. It is time for redbud or Judas trees to blossom in İstanbul, beginning in the first few days of May lasting for only a few weeks… Take a Judas tree tour before you miss this beautiful sight. Get your place in the Bosphorus ferry trips organized between Eminönü and Anadolukavağı. Witness the Judas trees blossom, with all other enthusiasts. You can also walk along the coastline to see and appreciate their beauty.
The color of shame
According to the legend, Judas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, betrays him by telling his location to the Romans and causes Jesus to be captured and crucified. Judas commits suicide out of remorse by hanging himself on a redbud tree. White flowers of the tree turn into purple because of shame. Redbud tree is also called Judas tree after this incident according to this legend. The Turkish word ‘erguvan’ that names the tree comes from a Persian adjective that describes this pinkish purple color.
The color of Byzantine power
Purple is also recorded as the official color of the Byzantine Empire. According to a belief, Byzantine was established in May when the Judas trees blossomed. The births to the emperors were given in the purple colored room of the palace and they wore purple colored clothes. This tone of dye was derived from the rare spiny dye-murex snail. It became a symbol of power and wealth because it was the hardest color to be produced through natural methods. No one but the emperor could wear a purple cloak. The right to dye the clothes to purple, worn only by the royal family members, belonged to one of the oldest guilds of purple dye. The hardcovers of the bibles made for the emperors were written in gold and dyed to purple.
The color of festivals
Purple was also one of the symbols of the Ottoman State. Among the Anatolian saints, Emir Sultan, son-in-law of Sultan Yıldırım Beyazıt, used to unite with his disciples in Bursa every year when it was time for Judas trees to blossom. For this reason, Erguvan Festivals that had begun to be held in the 14th century was continued to be held annually until the 19th century. Hard and strong branches of the tree were used to make canes; its flowers used to decorate salads; and its barks used to be boiled for healing purposes.
The color of spring
The Judas tree grows in a large geography expending from Turkey to Crete. It is also seen in the Aegean besides the Marmara Region. İstanbul is among the places where it grows easily. This strong tree that decorates both sides of the Bosphorus is resistant against air pollution. According to experts, Judas trees that blossom white flowers are rare and the trees that are located in the south hills of the Bosphorus are well developed because these trees like it warm. Here are the locations where Judas trees are most photogenic and densely found.
Gülhane Park, without a doubt, is the place where those who want to stay away from the tourist crowds at Sultanahmet find some peace. It was used as one of the private gardens of the Sultan and the outer garden of the Topkapı Palace during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The park, which used to harbor rose jam factories, spreads over an area of 100 thousand square meters. The park, with over ninety tree species, is very rich in terms of species. This is one of the most frequently visited places in spring to see the Judas trees. The fresh air, flowers, birds, shade seekers, cafes and the Tulip Festival held in April meet all expectations as a park. The old Column of the Goths on a hill overlooking the Sarayburnu attracts the attention of those who take a tour of the landmark and its surroundings.
The park located in the Beşiktaş district of İstanbul, one of the city’s youngest and most dynamic neighborhoods, is a well fit for those who long for both greens and redbud trees. You can take a break at the Beşiktaş Marketplace, dive into the past observing the statues of the intellectuals who died fighting for Turkey’s democracy, and see the architecture of the 17th century mosque that shares the same name with the park.
Another shelter in Beşiktaş is the Yıldız Palace, one of the Ottoman palaces in İstanbul. The park on the wooded hill that surrounds the palace is also sharing the same name. Yıldız Park is a peaceful spot away from the city’s chaos to see the redbud trees. It is an ideal stroll with its aesthetic structures such as the Çadır Mansion, the Malta Mansion, and the Şale Mansion, the marble fountains, the porcelain factory of the empire, the City and the Yıldız museums, next to a crowded district such as Beşiktaş.
Türkan Sabancı Park
This park on the seafront of Bebek, the fashionable stop of the Bosphorus, is a small area where people can enjoy watching the blue waters together with the statue of the famous poet Fuzuli of Divan Literature and walk their dogs. The redbuds that blossom right next to the Bebek Mosque when spring comes are the oldtimers of the park. Take a break in the cafes on the seafront and don’t miss to see the redbuds surrounding the Yılanlı Yalı (a waterfront mansion) while strolling towards the Rumeli Fortress.
Aşiyan/ Rumeli Fortress
The shore of the Bosphorus that extends from Bebek towards the Rumeli Fortress has plenty of Judas trees. Located on the Aşiyan hills, Tevfik Fikret’s Kuş Yuvası (Bird’s Nest) Mansion, also known as ‘Aşiyan’ takes its share of those beautiful trees. The writer contributed his efforts in the decoration of the mansion, and even the plans of the house were drawn by him. The mansion can be visited as a museum today.
Fatih Grove TEMA Vehbi Koç Center of Natural Culture
The narrowest location of the Bosporus is where the Rumeli Fortress and the Anadolu Fortress faces each other. Spring is among the best times to be on the hills of the Anadolu Fortress in this green area, which belongs to TEMA Foundation that forested many regions of Turkey. Redbuds, as well as many flowering plant species, turn this place into a festival ground in this season. The view from the place, where the landscapes of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, 15 Temmuz Bridge, and the blue waters of the Bosphorus greet you, is breath taking.
The scenic Emirgan Park, spreading over a hill, among the most beloved green areas of the Bosphorus Strait, is a popular park to see the Judas trees blossom, besides the fact that it also offers the most striking colors and landscapes of hundreds of thousands of tulips planted each year. The park presents peace to its visitors with its lakes and mansions used as cafés and the name of the park is hidden in history. While Murad IV conquered Yerevan, Tahmasb, son of Iranian commander Emir Gûne Khan, who delivered the city without war, brought Tahmasb Kulu Han with him to İstanbul and changed his name to Yusuf Pasha and he donated the land called Feridun Garden in the Bosphorus to him. The name of the village, which started to be known as Emir Gûne Garden, which was the nickname of Yusuf Pasha, is pronounced as Emir Gûne in the Ottoman Period and as Mirgün in the Republic Period.
This place is an oasis. 500-year-old gumwood, mimosas, poppies, sakura trees, cornflowers, crocuses, redbuds… The Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus view add blue to this picture. People don’t notice how fast the time passes in here with its garden reserved especially for wildflowers, picnic lawn areas, Romantika Cafe, the restoration of which bears the signature of Çelik Gülersoy.
Büyük and Küçük Çamlıca
Don’t you underestimate it by calling it just a hill… The hills of Çamlıca, a source of inspiration for many songs such as “Sazlar çalınır Çamlıca’nın bahçelerinde” (Stringed instruments are played in the gardens of Çamlıca) and “Biz Çamlıca’nın üç gülüyüz” (We are the three roses of Çamlıca), have still great importance in the social life of the city. Büyük Çamlıca Hill, which is 262 meters high, is the highest point of İstanbul within the city. There are an Ottoman-style coffee house and a restaurant, hiking and picnic areas. The view of Küçük Çamlıca is legendary; the Princes’ Islands, Fenerbahce, Haydarpasa and Sarayburnu… New buildings are the replicas of the Sultan’s iftar (the evening meal during Ramadan) mansion in the Topkapı Palace and its surroundings. These hills, including the blossoming time of Judas trees, are very active on the weekends.
Fethi Ahmet Paşa Grove
Kuzguncuk, one of the adorable neighborhoods of the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, was once the home of the Fethi Ahmet Pasha Mansion. Fethi Ahmet Pasha, married to Atiye Sultan, the big sister of Sultan Abdülmecid, was in charge of the decoration of the palaces. The backyard of the 18th-century mansion is the Fethi Ahmet Pasha Grove, another address of redbuds in the city.
The fame of the Kanlıca yogurt served with powdered sugar is incontestable of course. Kanlıca is also among the living spaces of the Judas trees in terms of being one of the greenest areas of the Anatolian side. Especially the Mihrabat Grove on the hills of Kanlıca provides the opportunity to take a breath away from the hassle of İstanbul with its walking paths, cafes, the Ortaköy coastline, and the landscapes of the Rumeli Fortress and the İstinye Bay. Walking down from the Mihrabat Grove, which was presented to Rukiye Hanım, daughter of Abbas Halim Pasha of Egypt, as a wedding gift in the last period of the Ottoman Empire, and had hosted many sultans, moonlit nights, musical entertainments for centuries, is a wonderful stroll.
This place is among the largest ones of the Bosphorus groves with its centuries old trees, green areas, and the view of the Bosphorus. There are two large caves, five pools, and the ruins of a palace within the grove. The Abraham Grove, which is commonly known as the Beykoz Grove, is the densely wooded area that extends to Riva from the hills between Beykoz and Paşabahçe. It is possible to see the Judas trees in the grove; however, if you are on a tour to see them, it would be useful to visit the nearby Yuşa Hill, the second highest hill after Çamlıca in the Bosphorus. Abraham Pasha, who had lived between the years of 1833 and 1918, was an Armenian vizier who had played an important role between the Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian Khediviate. According to a rumor, Abraham Pasha, who sat down to play the backgammon with the Sultan by calling ‘five sheep for a farm’ to raise the stakes, won the land where the grove was at the end of a game.