Turkey is located at a point where East meets West and is a vast peninsula, bringing together Asia and Europe through the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus in İstanbul and the Gallipoli Strait in Çanakkale. Because of the geostrategic importance of Turkey formerly known as Anatolia, has always been important throughout history, and is the land where many great civilizations were born.
About 300,000 years ago the first inhabitants of what is now İstanbul made their home on the European side. Meanwhile on the Asian coast of Istanbul, excavations go back to the Lower Paleolithic age, around 100,000 years ago.
Istanbul had become the capital of four Empires: the Roman Empire (330–c.395), the Byzantine Empire (c.395–1204 & 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922), during its long history. Ankara later became the new capital of the new Republic of Turkey. Istanbul became the European Capital of Culture for 2010 and is the European Capital of Sports for 2012. UNESCO added many historic areas of Istanbul to their World Heritage List in the 1980s.
Istanbul is a well-known world city where should be visited at least once in someone’s lifetime. This city having a very unique identity, hosts the mixed culture of East and West, historic and contemporary city view, and traditional and modern lifestyle. It has been protecting its characteristic of being a cultural and business center for years.
Short history of Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople)
The city’s roots go back to before the 7th century BC and experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BC, before being recaptured by the Greeks. Byzantium Empire continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, before gaining independence in 355 BC. Byzantium became a part of the Roman Empire in AD 73. In 330 AD., Constantinople became the capital of the empire known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire.
In 1453 Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Fatih Mehmed IIwho regenerated the city, now known as Istanbul. He invited and forcibly resettled many Muslims, Jews, and Christians from other parts of Anatolia into the city, creating a cosmopolitan society that has persisted till today. By the end of the 15th century, Istanbul grew to two hundred thousand people, and was the second-largest city in Europe.
Istanbul is a unique city in the world being on two continents and was the capitol of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman and two religions, Christian and Islamic, for more than 2,000 years. Istanbul continues as the commercial, historical and cultural force of Turkey, and its excellence and mystery is based on distinctive conflict and contrast including old and new, religious and secular, Asian and European and mystical and earthly.
Istanbul is one of the most glamorous city in the world with its considerable multifariousness. It has numerous ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars which reflect its rich and long-lasting history. Taksim Square is the very important center of the City having shopping, moving life and entertainment. And the calm and unique beauty of the Bosporus, the nearby Princess’ Islands which are a combination of nine islands off the Asian coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara, parks, forests and excursion spots take one’s breath away in such a chaotic and energetic metropolis.
The very long and successful history of the three great Empires has left the City a golden inheritance. Most of the major historical monuments have now been conserved as world heritage sites. On the other hand so much of the architectural heritage, particularly along the banks of the Bosporus, still needs to be conserved and maintained. Istanbul mushroomed incredibly in the last half century and according to the 2007 census, the population of Istanbul is about 12 million.
Places to see in Istanbul
The Istanbul Strait: Istanbul Strait known as Bosporus and having a wonderful day and night landscape and a peculiar topography is identified with Istanbul. One of the world’s most strategic waterways, the Bosporus is 32 km long, 730-3300 m wide and 30-120 m deep and separates the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. People can easily experience the Bosporus by using the Public Ferries and the privately owned ferries.
The Golden Horn: the Golden Horn, now called Halic, is a horn shaped estuary and one of the best natural harbors in the world. It was a very important port during the Byzantine and Ottoman period. Today, the Golden Horn draws attention from people through the parks and promenades located along the shore, and are a picturesque scene especially at sunset. The Golden Horn is occupied by old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues going back to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
Beyoğlu and Taksim: Beyoglu and Taksim regions are the heart of Istanbul in terms of cultural, historical and architectural aspects. Most of the buildings were built under the European-influence in the last century. Tunnel, Europe’s second oldest and the world’s shortest subway, was built by the French in 1875. The Galata district located near Tunnel became famous with its Galata Tower which is the symbol of İstanbul. It is possible to see a 180 degree view of the city at the top of the tower.
Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque): Hagia Sophia is one of the numerous churches which were built across the city, and remained the world’s largest cathedral for a thousand years. Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia are located in the heart of the Imperial Center of the Ottoman period. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque attract thousands of people each day. The open space called Sultan Ahmet Square between Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Mosque is itself a meeting of East and West, where Christian and Moslem Architecture meet. Sultan Ahmet Square is surrounded by many important historical architectural buildings such as the Hippodrome, the Kapalı Carşı (Covered Market), the Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Roman cistern) and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Prince’s Islands: Prince’s Islands, also known as Istanbul Islands, is a group of eight islands, and are located south of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. In the Ottoman period these islands were used for summer vacation by palace officials. Many monasteries going back to the Byzantine period are located on these islands and are visited by many tourists during summer. Some of the islands especially Buyukada and Heybeliada still have many unique wooden houses.
Compiled from “www.kultur.gov.tr” (official webpage of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism); “www.goturkey.com”, “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul” and “Cities, Architecture and Society” (10th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Bienalle, Rizzoli international, 2006)
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