On arrival at Hotel Sultania, we were offered a choice of tours to review. We usually prefer to explore on our own, but one tour looked so interesting and the price VERY reasonable, so we decided to do it. I am glad we did, it was one of the best tours we have ever been on! It was the Bosphorus and Golden Horn Boat Tour. But, it was so much more than that!
The 4 hour guided tour, for 20 euros each, included two hours on a boat touring the Bosphorus, to see the palaces along the shore, and the two hour, “Golden Horn Tour”, which included the historical heart of the city and the the Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul harbors. In addition, there was a stop at Pierre Loti. The tour also includes picking you up and dropping you off at your hotel at the end of the tour. This is really good because I have been on tours where the tour ended and we had no idea where we were, and had to take a cab back to our hotel. A real bummer! This tour was excellent!
Since Hotel Sultania is located on a pedestrian-only street we walked one street over with the guide, who came to get us, and realized the bus was waiting for us on the corner. Since it was Ramadan, our guide announced, we would be doing the tour backwards, going to Pierre Loti first. I didn’t know what Pierre Loti was, I thought possibly it was the name of the boat docking area, so I just settled in talking to two Australian women and enjoying the scenery along the way when……….
Following a 15 minute ride we stopped and got off the bus at a funicular on the side of a steep hill overlooking the water. The guide paid our funicular fee and we started up the hill in small glass lifts that offered a beautiful view of the Sea of Marmara on one side and a cemetery on the other. I thought, “Where in the world are we going?”
At the top was a cluster of shops and tables of the Pierre Loti Restaurant (sadly not serving meals because of Ramadan), but the waiters offered soft drinks to us as we admired one of the most beautiful views in Istanbul! We sat at red-checked draped tables under the trees and enjoyed the views with several guests. This is a very popular spot in the city for tourists and the locals.
As we looked out over the Bosphorus, we observed through the view finder on our cameras, a boat making it’s way to the boat dock well below and away from our magnificent perch on the hill.
I seem to remember making a comment that would come back to haunt me, “Well at least we don’t have to walk all the way to the boat.” Soon our guide called us together and told the first story. He would reveal the story of Pierre Loti. Oh, I love stories! I was captivated!
Pierre Loti, a pseudonym for Julien Viand, was a French novelist and naval officer, who wrote books about exotic spots he visited during his naval career and throughout his lifetime. His noted first works were tales of his love affairs; love, death and despair. Other books were travel guides presenting beautiful tales of Islamic life in countries before the exploitation of tourists.
In 1879, he wrote his first book, Aziyadé. It was a story of a love affair between a 27 year-old man with a “Circassian”, harem girl of 18. Many believe this was semi-autobiographical, based on a diary Loti kept during the fall and winter of 1876. Here is the Turkish interpretation of the story as told by our guide.
While Loti was serving in the military in Istanbul, he met and fell in love with a beautiful Circassian woman. They would meet secretly on this hill high above the city. Her family would not approve of her marrying a non-muslim and they were both in turmoil over this. Aziyadé suggested they run away together and go to France, where he could marry her. The only problem; he had not been quite honest with her, because he was already married and his wife was in France! After a few months and several meetings in their secret meeting place he did leave, without her. When she believed he was never coming back she married the person her family had chosen for her.
He did come back several years later and was distraught that she had married! Really, men! Their liaison started up once again, up on the hill. Eventually, her husband suspected something was up and when he found out about her affair with Loti, he killed her. Short and not sweet. Pierre Loti wore a gold ring with her name, etched on the inside, for the rest of his life. The hill is now a popular overlook of the city, with a restaurant and more shops up the hill, but we are headed down the cobbled path along the edges of the Eyüp Mosque and Cemetery.
Yes, I said that right, we’re walking to the boat! The next story better be another good one! It’s about the cemetery and who are buried there! We’ re off!
Follow me, won’t you, as we explore on the rest of the tour? Enjoy!
For the Bosphorus Tours; Short and Full see:
Blue Brothers Travel Agency
For reservation please contact your travel agency or hotel concierge.
Alemdar Mah. Alaykosku Cad No 17 D Cagaloglu, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: 90 (0212) 528 73 74