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History of the croissant

Croissant turc

The croissant, emblem of the Turkish flag and French breakfast, was invented in Vienna, then besieged by the …. Turks.
To commemorate the victory over the invaders (the first failure of the great Soliman, due to the harshness of time), the Viennese bakers decided to make a pastry in the shape of a crescent, thus reminding the Ottoman flag, and the warning given by one of them during a Turkish night attack. It is through the Austrians that it is exported to Paris.

Later, the Franco Austrian queen Marie Antoinette will introduce her favourite dish, which reminded her of the flavours of her childhood country. But it was only when the bread dough of the crescent was replaced by a puff pastry that it was successful and the "viennoiseries" (Vienna specialities) were born.
But apart from the flags, you won’t find croissants in the streets of Istanbul.



Angora cat, turkish First class

Chats angora

The croissant wasn't the only turkish import in the life of Marie-Antoinette. She owned several Angora cats, which she sent to America before getting her head cut off.
The Turkish angora is then a race much appreciated by the European aristocracy, a sign of luxury. Richelieu raised fourteen, which he all made heirs to his death! Louis XIII and Louis XVI also owned several.


Father Joseph, Richelieu and his cats


Pierre Loti,
the best ambassador of Istanbul

Pierre Loti

There are many Orientalist writers who have been fascinated by the old Constantinople, feeding on their journeys to give birth to their works. Flaubert, Gautier, Lamartine, Farrère. But only one of them wished to register his daily life in this dream Istanbul, bearer of fantasies, secrets and lyricism.
Pierre Loti, alias Julien Viaud, will blend in, learn the language, and even wish to become an officer of the Turkish imperial fleet. Back in France, he went so far as to install a Turkish salon and an Ottoman mosque in his house.
Which makes him very nice to me! Not only because I was also touched by the Ottoman culture and the magic of the city, but also because Pierre Loti was one of those men who doesn’t seem to want to temper their passions, want to know and do more, and who, far beyond the mere stealth wonder of the traveller, show themselves capable of vibrating for a culture and civilization that are not their own, and carry this passion as a shoulder strap.

Pierre Loti

Loti in his Turkish lounge… in Charente-Maritime.

While almost every tribulation of this naval-writer-officer – also a member of the French Academy – around the world has earned us a novel (from Tahiti to Iceland), it was in Turkey that he left his heart, since he has located several of his novels: Aziyadae and A phantom from the east born of an impossible romance with a Turkish woman, or even Disenchanted.

His “unique city in the world”, his Istanbul, was able to pay homage to his French friend : a street Pierre Loti, a French school Pierre Loti, and especially his famous café, where the view on the Bosphorus, from the district of Eyüp, is impregnable.


Why French people are talking about "Turk’s head" (whipping-boy) ?

Tête de turc

In the French fairs of the end of the 19th century, a head with a turban, supposed to recall a head of a Turk, an unbelieving barbarian, symbol of strength.
 So everyone worked on this head, to measure their own strength. An expression that is used only in France.

Tête de turc

A true "Turk’s Head".


1, 2, 3 James Bond 

From Russia with Love in 1963, The world is not enough in 1999, Skyfall in 2012: the old Constantinople didn't fail to inspire the secret agent.
From the Byzantine cisterns at Sainte Sophie, from the Tower of Leandre to the Grand Bazar, she gave him some mythical places of the saga.

James Bond


 The flying ottoman 

In 1638, during the reign of Murad IV (son of Kosem and Ahmet I), a courtesan of the sultan, Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, would have succeeded in flying from the Galata tower (63 meters high), to reach the Asian shore in Usküdar. He would then be the first man to fly with artificial wings.

Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi

Inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci, studying birds and the resistance of air on its mechanical wings, “Man of a Thousand Sciences” manages to travel the 3,358 km that separate the two banks of the city, under the astonished eye of the inhabitants and the sultan, who observes it from the promontory of Sarayburnu.
If at first the exploit delighted the sultan, his political and religious advisers saw this man in a bad light and changed his mind.

Imagine what means for the empire, and the period— an educated man close to succeeding in such a thing is a threat to the power of the sultan, who declares that Çelebi is “a frightening man, capable of doing whatever he wants”. He exiled him to Algeria, with a few pennies in his pocket. Given the tyranny of the man – who had his 3 brothers executed (and the 4th was very hot….), - it could have been worse. However, Hezârfen died two years later.

His story recalls that of another scientist too far ahead of his time, contemporary of Çelebi: Galileo, under house arrest for his scientific ideas judged against nature.

« (…) which I have been held highly suspect of heresy, for having professed and believed that the Sun is the center of the world, and is without movement, and that the Earth is not the center, and moves. I abjure and curse my errors with a sincere heart and a not-faking faith ».

One of Istanbul’s airports bears the name of the scientist: İstanbul Hezarfen Havaalanı.

Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi


Basil Zaharoff :
Lord of war in Tintin's world

Basil Zaharoff

In The Broken Ear, a certain Basil Bazaroff sells weapons to General Alcazar before going to sell the same ones in the country next door…

Basil Zaharoff

For this character, Hergé was inspired by an existing historical figure, barely changing his name: Zacharias Basiléos Zarapoulos alias Basil Zaharoff, one of the greatest arms dealers of all time.

Of Greek origin, Basil was born in a miserable district of Constantinople, among the needy and prostitutes (for whom he was certainly a bully).From small jobs to real scams (he passed counterfeit bills to tourists), he leads his way thanks to his business acumen and up to the greats of this world, especially those preparing for war. He sells weapons without a soul to all the belligerents.

Basil Zaharoff

An abnormal opportunist

  • He's fluent in French, English, Russian, German, Italian, Greek and Turkish.
  • In his youth, he pretended to be a general exhibiting false decorations at the support.
  • He abandons his first wife to marry another.
  • His memories, containing revelations, were stolen and then recovered and burned by Zaharoff himself.
  • He took advantage of several wars, including those in the Balkans and World War I, to sell his weapons.
  • He managed to sell a submarine to Greece (in conflict with Turkey), then two others to Turkey, all of which would sink quickly.
Basil Zaharoff
  • He offers credit facilities to his buyers.
  • A woman-to-woman man, who kept affairs going.
Basil Zaharoff
  • He lived in France at the castle of Balincourt (Val d'Oise)


  • He wields propaganda, false rumors and bribes to ensure war and his markets.
  • To thank him for his armed support during the First World War, he will receive the Legion of Honour, and will be elevated to the rank of baron in Brittain !

The first film about the hupette journalist, Tintin and the Golden Fleece, was shot partly in Istanbul, in 1961. Even if the film is not based on the script of a comic book, the director nevertheless slipped a few winks to some albums.