History of Istanbul
The most important reason why
Istanbul has developed as a
world metropolis is the geopolitic; location of the city. Istanbul, located where the 48.
north latitude and 28. east longitude intersect, is the only city in the world which is
established on two cointinents.
consists of three parts in general; On the European side, the Historic Peninsula to the
south of the Golden Horn and the Galata District to the north, and the New City on the
Asian side. The European side of the city is a trade and business center, whereas the
Asian side is more of residential area. Istanbul is established on the both sides of the
Bosphorus, that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and separates Asia and
Europe. The 7 km. long narrow inlet, named as the Golden Horn, divides the European side
of the city into two. Because of its location between Asia and Europe, the city always had
a great geopolitical importance, Today, Istanbul is still a political and commercial
center for the Balkan and Middle Eastern Countries and the Turkic Republics of Central
Asia. The settlement, known as Byzantium after its founder, took the name Constantinople,
the city of Emperor Constantine’, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the
Great. It was then known as Istanbul after the conquest of the Ottomans, and became one of
the biggest and the most crowded city of Europe. The city is spread over an area of 7.500
km2, 150 km. long and 50 km. wide.
its population is not accurately known, it is estimated to be 12 to 15 million. Because of
the continuous immigration from the rural areas, the city grows rapidly and the population
increases around half a million every year. Each year, 1.000 new streets are constructed
within the city, and brand new settlements rise on the east west axis. The population of
the city, with a %5 annual increase, doubles in every 12 years. One out of every five
citizens, is living in Istanhul. Around 2 million tourists visit Istanbul every year, and
admire the historical and natural beauties of the city. Istanbul, where East and West,
Asia and Europe meets, is a world city that different cultures and religions create the
most harmonious synthesis. With particular consideration of historical monuments and
cultural richness, Istanbul may only be compared to Rome, which carries so many similar
characteristics. In Rome and in Istanbul, which was the capital for both the Byzantine and
Ottoman Empires, administrators and governors constructed the greatest religious and civil
structures, and decorated their capital cities with the most beautiful works of the famous
The Bosphorus is unparalleled for its natural beauties
such as the Golden Horn and the Islands. Its moderate climate, active night life, lovely
people, and the excellent Turkish Cuisine are some of the other factors, which make
Istanbul an attractive destination for foreigners. A foreigner wishing to know Istanhul
closely should spend at least a week in this beautiful city.
Istanbul really is the place where
east meets west both physically and culturally.
Istanbul is the world's only city to be divided between continents. Just a
minutes in a boat or across the bridge finds you in Asia. Strangely though,
European side often feels more eastern.
Minarets pierce the sky whenever you look up. Muezzins call the devout to
prayer at dawn, just as the last revelers straggle back from the city's
Stunning buildings from its past are everywhere. Once it was known as
Byzantium, then Constantinople, now it has the trappings of a thriving
But if you forget where you are as you sit in the cool, cosmopolitan
your classy hotel, just set foot outside. You will be plunged back into a
where traders push teetering handcarts through narrow streets, men smoke
filled with black tobacco and argue as they sip glasses of sweet tea, and
traditionally dressed women slip demurely into the background.
All this is happening in what is, technically at least, part of Europe.
Elsewhere in the city this fact can be easier to remember. The legacy of a
financial boom in the 1990s is a collection of bars, restaurants and clubs
good as any further west.
And Istanbul has been a place to shop for millennia. Its traders haggle over
prices in the same way they probably did when Istanbul marked the start of
Silk Route. Carpets, kilims, brassware and other objects, often of exquisite
beauty, as well as tourist tat, await you in the centuries-old bazaars.
Istanbul is a city of more than just contrast. The eternal contradictions
between east and west give it a vibrancy and energy unmatched anywhere else.
When To Go
Spring and fall are the best times to go when the temperature varies from
low 60s to the high 70s and it is not too humid. Avoid July and August when
tourist attractions are hot and crowded. November through February
the highest rainfall. But many of the sites are indoors and these are the
months when you can sometimes just about have them to yourself.
Five Things to Try
Much of your time in Istanbul will undoubtedly be spent in the Old City or
Sultanahmet. This is where most of the best-known sites are concentrated,
within reasonably easy walking distance of each other. But do not miss the
opportunity to go further afield, there is much to be seen in this ancient
If you only see one thing in Istanbul make it Aya Sofia, for a thousand
the largest internal space in the world. Built as the Church of Divine
at the time of the Roman Empire it became a mosque at the fall of
Constantinople. It is filled with stunning mosaics and a dome which glows
the light of 30 million gold tiles. It is truly unforgettable.
Then look upwards as you visit the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Cammii. From
entrance a series of domes takes your eyes even higher, closer to heaven as
architect Mehmet Aga intended. The dazzling blue Iznik tiles that line the
give the mosque its name. When it was built, the Sultan wanted an edifice to
outshine Aya Sofia. He almost succeeded.
Imagine the life of a Sultan in the Topkapi Palace. For nearly 400 years
1453 this was the heart of the Ottoman Empire. The vast building with its
ornate gardens seems to have a place for everything, even a circumcision
Check out the enormous and sumptuously furnished harem quarters which were
once guarded by eunuchs.
Haggle for your souvenirs in the Kapali Carsi or Grand Bazaar which is both
architectural extravaganza and shopper's paradise. No less than 4000 shops
under the lofty dome with its colonnaded galleries and calligraphy-covered
walls. There are bargains to be had in traditional handcrafted carpets,
and leather. You will have to debate the price with the shopkeeper, but that
half the fun.
Clean up in a real Turkish bath. Nothing in the west matches these temples
ablution. One of the best is Cemberlitas Hamami, off Divan Yolu. Built in
for the wife of a Sultan, it has baths for both men and women. For $15 or so
you get a wash and massage from an attendant that, at the time, will make
feel as if your limbs are being pulled off. But afterwards, you will feel as
relaxed and supple as a baby.
Five Places to Eat
You are never far away from a snack, whether it is a fish sandwich, kebab or
selection of small dishes known as "mezes". It is quite easy to spend days
grazing between attractions without ever having a full meal. That would be a
shame because the city does possess some extremely good restaurants and most
extremely well priced in comparison to their more western counterparts.
As you would expect, most of the restaurants feature Turkish cuisine. That
not mean they are all the same. There are definite regional variations, as
will discover, particularly if you sample some of the fiery Anatolian fare.
befits a cosmopolitan city there are also strong culinary influences from
countries such as Russia, France and Italy.
For a taste from the past, try the Daruzziyafe which has opened in the
Suleymaniye Mosque complex in order to preserve Ottoman cuisine. Some
offer live traditional music to go with the soups and stews made to
More upscale is Le Select in Levent. Housed in a beautiful villa, it
Turkish, Russian and French influences with everything from delicate seafood
steak. This is one to book for a special night.
Not quite as pricey but still something special is the Develi, one of the
kebab restaurants in the city. The stunning views across the Sea of Marmara
great food make this a place to remember. Try the Fistikli kebab with
Haci Abdullah in Sakizaqaci Cad always seems to be packed with locals. You
see why. The food is good, especially the grilled meat and pickles and the
price is right. You would find it hard to spend $10 here.
And, just to show that Istanbul is not just for carnivores, vegetarian
restaurants are beginning to spring up. One of the best, Nature and Peace
offers meat-free versions of Turkish dishes and other healthy alternatives.
Istanbul is effectively divided into 3 parts, one in Asia and two in Europe.
The Bosphorous, which flows from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea,
Europe from Asia. Actually the Asian side is rather dull and suburban, but
is worth a trip over just to say you have been there and to see the views.
Another body of water, the Golden Horn, divides the western side. To the
is Beyoglu, which was once unpleasantly sleazy, but is now the place to go
fashionable restaurants, bars and clubs. To the south is the Old City where
will find most of the main sights such as Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Aya
Sofya, the Hippodrome and the old city walls.
A taxi from the airport to downtown should cost less than $15. Driving is
to be recommended except for the adventurous and well insured. In the city
are a number of alternatives. Buses and taxis are plentiful, but tend to get
snarled up in the ever-present traffic. Quicker and pleasanter are the
trains and trams, but they run on very limited routes. The best way to get
around by far is on tthe boats that zip around the waterways. Either that or
walk, you will see more that way.
Istanbul book by
Revak is not printed any more. We do not have any copies.