My grandfather had a special interest for all different kind of botanics. He had collected species and categorized them in old parchments. As a child, diving deep into his collection was better than the story books. I remember turning each page of flowers delicately, trying to read his handwriting of plant names in Latin.
When I discovered there is a Hortus Botanicus (Botanic Garden) in the middle of Istanbul, I couldn’t help wander why I have never heard of it, or whether he visited before. So I took a ride to Suleymaniye.
Security at the door asked for our ID cards and he let us in. We asked if we have to pay for anything – he said its free and we can enjoy as long as we want! Let the plant hunting begin!
At the time of World War 2, professors and doctors living in Nazi Germany wanted to escape and Ataturk opened the doors for them. That’s how Alfred Heilbronn settled in Turkey. He wanted to build a botanic garden in Istanbul University, researched different plants all over Anatolia and benchmarked himself to European botanic gardens.
In 1935, with the help Leo Brauner and W.Stephan, he brought his dream to life.
Alfred Heilbronn Botanic Garden has more than 5.000 plants, spread onto a land of 15.000km2. There are 6 big different gardens inside, each of them specialized about different species. While each one is more unique than other, my favorite became the one with a small lake inside.
Now the bad news… This beautiful botanic garden nested in Istanbul University is on the edge of being closed down!
Since 2013, there has been discussions with Director of Religious Affairs about the ownership of its land. On September 2018, the building of Istanbul University will be wrecked by Director of Religious Affairs to be used for their own issues. What will happen to botanical garden is a question mark!
Although in 1955 the garden has been categorized as “protected area”, the common belief is that garden will be wrecked together with Istanbul University. I can’t be more sad and angry to hear these news!
I urge you to visit as soon as you can, to witness this beauty with your own eyes.