Guide to SKOPJE


When at the entrance of one city you are welcomed by millions of variosly collored tulips, then you will immediately understand why someone has said that “the first impression is very important”.

Although my romance with the City of Bosphorus lasts for almost a whole decade, my recent visit was equal to a fresh falling in love complemented with the  vivid landscape of the colorful tulips. The first thing I noticed on the road from the airport to the hotel where the perfect tulips that were planted along the the highway and the main city boulevards, parks, avenues and traffic roundabouts. If that view was a pleasant surprise for me, the inhabitants of Istanbul and those who frequently travel there have been enjoying in this scenery in the last seven years. Since 2005 in the period between 7 to 29 April, Istanbul is the center of the International Tulip Festival (Lale Devri) which sends a message that the most beautiful tulips grow in Turkey, against the common conviction that the country of tulips are the Netherlands.

The festival is organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, who wholeheartedly supports this event which gives a  special charm to the already fascinating city situated on the two continents. On several occasions the mayor of the city Kadir Topbaş has underlined  that the festival of the tulips caused a radical revolution in the city look and dramatically changed the landscape for the better. It does not only bring more visitors, but it also stimulates the producers of the tulips near Istanbul and in the remote villages that participate in the adornment of the city.

During this year festival 11.6 million tulips of 104 different species were planted, as well as 4 million other flowers that were impeccably decorated in perfect geometric shapes, waterfalls, various figures, the Turkish flag and the well-known evileye. Given the fact that this year Istanbul is the European Capital of sports, many of the tulip figures were inspired by the various sport disciplines. Exhibitions, concerts, street artists and various festivities were happening on prominent points as the Taxim and Sultanahmed Square and in the Gültepe and Gülhane parks. Various decorations with tulip motifs, ranging from diffrent trinkets to sculptures and paintings, were sold in the shops. Also there was an ongoing competition for the best photography “50 Most Beautiful tulips” which will award the best photos.

Because of  this colourfull atmpsphere, it was real luck and pure joy  to be in Istanbul at the time of the blooming tulips whose true origin is from Turkey. Naturally, this horticultural perfection at a megalopolis such as Istanbul, made me think about how little is needed for the same flower revolution to happen in Skopje too.


Tulips (the word comes from the Persian lâhle and) originally grew wild in the Asian steppes. Although today the first association for the tulips are the Netherlands because of the largest commercial cultivation,  both the origin and the name are associated with the Ottoman Empire or more exactly with the turbans or the Ottoman Turkish tülbend, “muslin, gauze. The Turkish word for gauze, with which turbans can be wrapped, seems to have been used for the flower because a fully opened tulip was thought to resemble a turban.

The most widely accepted story is that of Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq , ambassador of Ferdinand 1 in the empire of  Suleyman the Magnificent in 1554. He noted in a letter that he saw abundance of flowers like hyacinths, narcissus and those that in Turkish were called lale. It is no coincidence that this period-the wealthiest in the Ottoman era- is called the Tulip Era (Lale Devri). In the 16th century, tulips were brought to Holland, where they became popular in a short time.

Elena Petkovska