It is often pointed out that Turkey has one foot in Europe and one in Asia as it bridges two continents across the Bosphorus Strait. The country’s also got one eye on the future and one still firmly looking at the past. The country of Turkey is a complex mixture of so many different influences, cultures and beliefs. While Ankara might be the country’s capital, it is Istanbul, the country’s largest city, that attracts. As a Westerner, it is difficult to not be charmed and enticed by both the exotic and familiar sides of the city. That is what puts Istanbul on my Must See list.
It goes without saying that Istanbul has a long, long history. The city, then known as Byzantium, was founded in 660 BC. It wasn’t until 1930 that the city officially become known as Istanbul although, as someone once said, it was once Constantinople. The city is bordered by the Black Sea on the northern side and the Marmara Sea on the southern side.
Along the strait is a lively, busy city. The Bosphorus Bridge bridges the strait. Elsewhere one of the city’s bridges, the Galata Bridge or Galata Köprüsü in Turkish, spans the Golden Horn. The two-level bridge dates back to the 19th century although the current version of the bridge is a replacement from the 1990s. The Galata Bridge, just like the city, is a busy place. Fishermen line the edges of the bridge, passenger ferries come and go with commuters, at one end is a spice market. But what is most impressive, from my perspective is the view. From the bridge you can take in the Yeni Cami (the New Mosque), which was completed in the 1600s, as well as the waterfront. It isn’t a surprise that the Galata Bridge has been a popular subject for paintings, literature and art of all kinds. With cafes and seafood restaurants on the lower level of the bridge, it’s a perfect place to sit and observe your surroundings.
As Istanbul is such an old and establish city, there are no shortage of awe-inspiring historic buildings and museums. The city is full of important mosques, churches and palaces that are as beautiful inside as they are outside. Colorful tiles, vaulted ceilings, Also not to be missed is the Istanbul Archaeological Museums which includes a Tiled Kiosk Museum with the Fountain of Youth.
Maybe it was watching too many Fatih Akin movies (Gegen die Wand is not to be missed), but Istanbul has a certain special attraction, a unique boisterous beauty. It isn’t any surprise that the city that connects so many disparate ideas, styles and tastes is a Must See.
Photo from GoTurkey.com.