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  • Writer's pictureJocette Lee

Constantinople: Culinary Tourism through a Postcard

The city of Istanbul has long existed as a point of trade, exchange, passing visits and travel. Due to the constantly evolving nature of this port city, the use of travel postcards has been particularly important in its tourism and trade economy. In the postcard referenced above, the economy of the city is shown through the focus on nautical elements such as water, convoy ships, fish and ports.

The date of creation for this vintage postcard is not known precisely, however there are clues laced throughout the front image that can lead to a more accurate estimate. An image of the backside of the postcard is not provided with the online figure. Therefore, it must be assumed that the postcard is blank and can provide no further information to determine the date of design.

The first clue used to determine the origins of this image is the inclusion of the phrase “Salut de Constantinople” written on the bottom right of the postcard. The meaning of this French phrase is equivalent to “Greetings from Constantinople” in English. While the use of French is important to deciphering the date of origin, a point that is discussed further, the significance of this phrase lies in the reference to “Constantinople.” During the formation of the Republic of Turkey in the 1920s, Istanbul became the official name of the city. Therefore the use and reference to “Constantinople” indicates the design was created before 1923, the official year of formation for Ataturk’s Republic of Turkey.[1]

All of the script found is written in the French language, which is indicative of the international relations of the country. France and Turkey have common roots of tension, knowledge, expansion and dominance. At one time, the language represented education, wealth and culture. Before the war for Turkish Independence in 1919-1921, overlapping with the First World War, the presence of French culture was esteemed, respected and studied as a foreign language.[2] Therefore, the use of French expressions would indicate that the affairs between the two countries were in accord. The French language is used once again in the top central area of the postcard, which reads “La Pointe du Sérai,” known as Sarayburnu in Turkish and refers to a specific area of Istanbul overlooking the historic Topkapi Palace and Marmara Sea. Catering to French tourists through language was clearly the objective of writing this postcard in French.

This iconic view of the Sultanamet region of the city includes the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul University and many other historic sites. The skyline depicted in the postcard bears a strikingly similar resemblance to the current skyline of the city. However, the profile of Istanbul does not reveal much information with regard to the date of creation because all the buildings seen in the image were built before the 1700s. Based upon the printing technologies used to create postcards, this image must have been created at least one hundred years later.

However, when looking at the ships detail depicted in the postcard, the use of sails and masts in conjunction with wooden technology gives indication of the equipment used at the time. While the physical aspects of the ships are not particularly visible, there is a variety of styles depicted. The front most ships have sails with wooden masts while the ships in the back appear to have a smoke stack. This smoke stack indicates that steam energy was being used. This immediately provides a bookend date because the first steamships used for travel and commerce did not appear until the early 1800s.[3]

The purpose of postcards is to capture an image that is beautiful, iconic, unique or rare to represent of a particular city or location. For all postcards, it is important to ask: why did the postcard makers choose this particular subject as a way to represent Constantinople? Based upon this specific postcard, Constantinople was a city rich with history, a bustling economy, a Mediterranean climate, an aquatic setting and finally a palatable diet. Through the inclusion of these specific images on the postcard, particular nuances of Constantinople are captured and circulated.

While not immediately obvious, the three thematically connected images used in the postcard allude to the maritime cuisine of the city. Each section in the design leads to the ultimate consumption of fish, specifically the sardine, as food. The sea represents the habitat of the animal, where the source of food originates. The ships and nets indicate the tools and technology used to capture the fish. The brick smoker, on the left side of the postcard depicts the process of cooking the food by lining the fish on a string and smoking the protein. The fish are presumably cooked which is an assumption aided by the presence of the smoker in the background. The fact that the fish are out of water and laying upside down indicates that they fish are no longer living. Finally, the unclaimed fish laid out on the porch of image represents the food as an enticement for eating. The two cooked fish are presented in the foreground as an invitation to eat the cuisine of Constantinople.

The target audience of this postcard appears to be French speaking travelers who find this image alluring, exotic and out of the norm. The use of food to attract and capture the essence of a culture was recognized at the time as a marketing tool, which demonstrates an early example of culinary tourism.

After gathering together the visual clues in the design, it is clear that the postcard was created between the mid-nineteenth century up until ten years following the turn of the twentieth century, 1850-1910.

Through the examination of representative images, which are used to communicate important information, conclusions can be gathered about the culture of study. Postcards provide an ideal way to peek back into the personal interpretations of a specific time in history.

Works Cited

"Franco-Turkish Relationship during First Empire."Research Subjects: Government and Politics (2008): n.pag. The Napoleon Series. Web. 6 Apr 2014. <

Republic of Turkey. Ministry of Foreign affairs. Relations between Turkey and France. 2012. Web. <>.

Thomas, Ron and Sydenham, Shirley. Ships: A timeline [Online] (2012).

Turkey, Salut De Constantinople. N.d. Photograph., Web. 4 Apr 2014. <,98207218,var,TURKEY-SALUT-DE-CONSTANTINOPLE-FISHING-SARDINES-SMOKING-FISHES-la-pointre-du-serai-OLD-POSTCARD,language,E.html

[1] "Relations between Turkey and France"

[2] “Franco-Turkish Relationship during First Empire." Research Subjects: Government and Politics

[3] Thomas, Ron and Sydenham. Ships: A timeline.

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