Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Asia and Europe. Turkish İstanbul, formerly Constantinople, ancient Byzantium, largest city and seaport of Turkey. It was the capital, of both the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. The fact that the city straddles, two continents, wasn’t its only draw card, it was the final stage on the legendary, Silk Road linking Asia with Europe, and many merchants, who came here liked it so much that they, too, decided to stay. In so doing, they gave the city, a cultural diversity, that it retains to this day.
Istanbul, while being the ancient capital, of many empires, from Rome, to the Ottoman, it is not the modern capital of Turkey, as Ankara is. The old walled city of Istanbul stands on a triangular peninsula, between Europe, and Asia. Sometimes as a bridge, sometimes as a barrier, Istanbul for more than 2,500 years, has stood between conflicting, surges of religion, culture, and imperial power. For most of those years it was one of the most coveted cities in the world.
Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople, thanks to the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills, to match the seven hills of Rome. The old city contains about 9 square miles, but the present municipal boundaries stretch a great deal beyond. The original peninsular city has seven hills, requisite for Constantine’s New Rome. 6 are crests of a long ridge above the Golden Horn, the other is a solitary eminence in the southwest corner. Around their slopes are ranged many of the mosques and other historic landmarks, that were collectively designated a UNESCO, World Heritage, site in 1985.
Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned, for having more than 1,400 public toilets. Some ancient cities, are the sum of their monuments, but İstanbul factors, a lot more into the equation. Chief among its manifold attractions, are the locals, who have an infectious, love of life, and generosity, of spirit. This vibrant, inclusive and expanding community, is full of people who work, and party hard, treasure family, and friendships, and have no problem melding tradition and modernity in their everyday lives.
While not the capital, Istanbul, is Turkeys largest city, with more than 13 million people 99% of which are Muslim. The Galata, and Atatürk bridges, cross the Golden Horn, to Beyoğlu. Each day before dawn their center spans, are swung open to allow passage, to seagoing ships. The shores of the Horn, served by water buses, are a jumble of docks, warehouses, factories, and occasional historical ruins. Ferries to the Asian side of Istanbul leave from under the Galata Bridge. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3.000 shops.
Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to Netherlands. British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul. Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches. Istanbul has the same population 13 million and rising as one of the smallest countries in Europe, Belgium.
It has been a noted inspiration for authors from Paul Theroux and Ernest Hemingway to Orhan Pamuk and Abdülhak Sinasi Hisar. Istanbul was once renowned as the most crowded city in the world in 1502. Istanbul has the third oldest subway in the world, built in 1875. It’s 573-M long and located in the Beyoglu district. Istanbul was the European Cultural Capital City in 2010, but has never hosted the Olympics.