For Pierre Loti fans who have read the previous post, it might be of interest to know about the Loti Cafe on the hill of Eyüp overlooking the Golden Horn in istanbul. being one of his admirers and fascinated readers, I did the ‘pilgrimage’ to both places.
For Muslims and people interested in Islam, its history and art, Eyüp is a place of pilgrimage and an absolute must see. The district is vast, but the best known and most frequently visited part is the hill which rises from the Eyüp pier along the shore of the Golden Horn. I took a ferry from the Galata Bridge on the Eminönü side and enjoyed a 20 minute boat trip, crossing the water fron one side to the other until at last arriving at Eyüp pier. To get up to the hill you can take the easy way or the more challenging one. The latter is to climb up on foot through the cemeteries which cover the hill until you reach the Pierre Loti Café. The easy way up is by funicular. I chose this one, not only out of laziness but because I also wanted to enjoy the fabulous view as the entire Golden Horn unfolds before your eyes.
Ayyub al Ansari, the close friend and standard bearer of the prophet Mohammed died near here around 670 at the time of a first attempt by Arabs to conquer Constantinople. He was buried on the hill and his grave was forgotten, until Sultan Mehmet II was successful in 1453 and, so legend has it, his mentor rediscovered the tomb. Sultan Mehmet II ordered a mosque to be constructed, the first Ottoman mosque and a türbe over the tomb of Ayyub-al-Ansari. Since then, the mosque, türbe and other buildings have become an important place of worship for Muslims. More and more wanted to be buried near the old tomb and now the entire hill is covered with grave upon grave, many with elaborate head stones.
Walking around the complex of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and through the cemetery, shaded by cypress trees and listening only to the twitter of birds whilst contemplating the tranquil waters below is a spiritual experience, regardless to which religion you adhere to.
Then, of course, there are the followers and admirers of 19th century French novelist Pierre Loti, who not only fell in love with a Turkish lady who lived in a harem but with the country herself. Between his travels due to his profession as a naval officer, he returned to Istanbul many times, living in different places, among them a wooden house in Eyüp where he conducted his clandestine meetings with his beloved Aziyade. And got inspired for his novels by sitting in the café which bears his name, wandering around the cemeteries and waiting for the sun to set over the waters turning it golden and hence having given it its name.