To the Heart of Ancient Civilization

We are just back from an incredible week of touring Turkey. When I say incredible, I mean INCREDIBLE.

While it would take a book to share all that we have experienced, today I will give you a glimpse with more glimpses to come.

Of course, the first glimpse will be about roses.

Roses or “Guls” have weaved their way throughout history and you cannot go far in many of the history lessons without bumping into rose stories. This is especially true in the Turkish culture where roses are valued for their beauty, fragrance (essential oils and rose water), medicine, flavor and for the sense of well being they create. It is even said that rose essence was used to enhance memory and to improve skin elasticity and so much more.


My first story for you comes from TOPKAPI PALACE MUSEUM in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople named for Constantine). This 15th century palace was the residence and headquarters of the Otttoman Empire Sultans.

On the grounds are beds and beds and beds of roses. Roses line almost every walkway. There are thousands. This area is also home to Gülhane Park (Which means Rose House). Yes, I knew there would be roses, but it was almost overwhelming to see SOOO many roses! I wanted so badly to see them in bloom and know which rose varieties were there, but we were a bit early — most were still small and not yet in bloom. However, we did find a few early bloomers. While our schedule did not allow for us to be there for very long, this place will linger long in my memory.

Roses filled all of these beds and others! Even though you can hardly see them, they were strong and healthy.

I took a great deal of pleasure thinking that while in Turkey, I couldn’t have been too far from the original Garden of Eden. Good thoughts!


I also learned that one of the palace kitchens was dedicated to preserves. The evening meal ended with an “almost celebration” with preserves. While most fruits were preserved, I read that the favorite flavor of Sultan was — you guessed it — Rose Petal.

Rosa damascena, the Damask rose is the primary source for rose oil and flavorings. These roses are most widely grown in Syria, Turkey, and Bulgaria. I recently purchased two Damask roses from High Country Rose in Colorado. You can see their selection here. 

It will take some time to process all that we have experienced, but I know that Turkey and her lovely people will be forever in my heart.


While visiting the mosques, we respectfully wore our scarves. My beautiful rose scarf was a gift from my friend, the amazing painter of roses, Michelle Endersby. It was a great pleasure to wear it. Thank you, Michelle.


"Gule Gule" for now.


8 thoughts on “To the Heart of Ancient Civilization

  1. Dear Teresa, You look so beautiful in your scarf, I now feel like I was accompanying you on your very special and exotic journey! How exciting to see the roses and learn of the rich cultural significance of the rose. Look forward to hearing more and love your photos!

  2. Teresa, That is WONDERFUL that you were able to visit Turkey!!!!!
    I have been to Turkey twice: once to Ankara in winter and once to southeast Turkey (the Kurdish region from Adana to Van and several cities in between). I agree that Turkey is a fabulous place. I have treasured it because of its importance in Christian history and the warm hospitality of its citizens. I didn’t know it is also a horticultural treasure. I hope you can go again when the roses are at their peak bloom.

  3. The Heritage Rose Garden in San Jose was an attempt to collect some of the ancestors of contemporary roses. It was divided into four quadrants, with each quadrant containing cultivars and specie from a particular era of the history of roses. The ‘first’ quadrants was for some of the oldest of cultivated species. The ‘last’ included some of the simpler contemporary hybrids, although there are not many of the common garden varieties that I am familiar with. There is nothing as historical as the old gardens of the World in San Jose, and sadly, there is not much appreciation for history here either. The Heritage Rose Garden is already in rather unimpressive condition.

  4. What torture it must’ve been not to see them all in bloom! I’ll bet it’s quite a site when they are. We travel to Roan Mountain to see the rhododendrons in bloom and usually never hit it just right. The photos of Turkey are lovely.

Leave a Reply