We continue our Istanbul series of travel articles by visiting Eyüp the site of the holiest shrine in Turkey at the top of the Golden Horn.
Eyüp is at the top of the Golden Horn and is the site of the holiest shrine in Turkey, erected over the tomb of Eyüp Sultan who was Mohammed’s standard bearer, and was killed here during the Ummayad siege of Istanbul in 668-9.
Our image shows the view from the hill above Eyüp but, first of all, here’s a lovely way to get there.
Take a ferry from the Eminonu end of the Galata Bridge, all the way to the Eyüp landing stage. Once ashore turn right and walk along to the cable car station, then catch the cable car up the hill.
If you have an Istanbul Kart it works on both the ferry and the cable car.
Eyüp is where Ottoman Sultans underwent the Turkish equivalent of a coronation.
They would land at the jetty you use (if you come by ferry), walk along the ‘accession road’ which was lined with the finest tombs (some of them previous sultans) and small mosques to the main Eyüp Sultan Mosque, where they were officially declared sultan and put on the sword of Osman – equivalent to a crown.
Unfortunately road works have removed almost all traces of the ‘accession road’, but there are still some wonderfully elaborate tombs to be seen at the side of the new road.
Eyüp is also known for the cafe on top of the hill, from where this image was taken, which is named for the French romantic novelist Pierre Lotti.
He arrived in Istanbul in 1876 and wrote an apparently autobiographical novel, Aziyade, detailing his love affair with a woman called Aziyade, who was a member of the harem of a wealthy merchant.
Forty some years ago there was no cable car and the only way up to the cafe was to trudge up a muddy track between the gravestones – the whole hill above Eyüp is one huge cemetery.
I first visited on a rainy day in winter, was soaked when I reached the cafe, and appalled to find a glass of tea cost ten times the normal price. One glass was purchased and eked out while I dried beside the stove.
The tea is still expensive, (2.5TL) but there are other cafes up there now, and it is worth it for the view.
Afterwards you walk down a cobbled path through the cemetery to the shrine and mosques below.
We’ll tell you more about them next time.