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Observing Istanbul, the Eternal Capital of the East


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Istanbul, Galata Bridge , May 2018

I had the incredible chance to visit Istanbul twice that year ,back in 2018 . Istanbul really is a place like no other. Spanning over two continents, the city’s exceptionally unique position is just one of the many ways Istanbul brims with juxtapositions. Although Turkey’s most-visited city exudes an eclectic modernity, the country’s deep-rooted history, culture and tradition still remains undeniably prevalent. For some who know very well the city, Istanbul still remains as the eternal capital of Turkey.

Life starts early in the morning at Galata Bridge in Istanbul. The unique spirit of the bridge is still preserved today—with fishermen, tourists, and tea and bagel salesmen.

The Galata Bridge is an Istanbul landmark that connects the newer parts of the city, including Karaköy and Beyoğlu, with the historic old parts of Eminönü and Sultanahmet. The bridge has been frequented by fishermen for over a decade, and boasts some of the city’s best fish vendors and views.

The bridge welcomes both professionals, those who have frequented it for years, amateurs, and enthusiastic beginners alike. Amateurs are eager to learn the right time and the right place to catch fish.

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Istiklal or Istiqlal CD, street Istanbul, May 2018

Built during the Ottoman Empire, the Istiklal street, literally the independance road, was originally known as Grande Rue de Pera, until it was renamed by the new Turkish Republic in the early 19th century. While today the street is pedestrian-dominated, it was once a dangerous high-speed automobile highway that fell into disrepair in the 1970s.

It wasn’t until the founding of the Republic of Turkey that this famous street received its third and present name.  Originally the street was simply called Grand Avenue (Cadde-i Kebir). With the arrival and settlement of non-Muslims and European foreigners in the 17th century, Istiklal Caddesi was referred to as ‘Grand Rue de Pera’.

Located in the historic Beyoğlu (Pera) district, it is an elegant pedestrian street, 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) long and Istanbul’s most elegant street , in my opinion, and home to the city’s smartest shops, various embassies and churches as well as fashionable residences and tea-houses. A street people wouldn’t dream of taking a stroll on wearing an ordinary pair of jeans.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.
The Blue Mosque, (Sultanahmet Camii), Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul is famous for its Mosques and Ottoman architecture. As the capital of the Ottoman Empire since 1453 and the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is home to over 3000 mosques.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii), also known as the Blue Mosque. It’s known as a functioning mosque which also attracts large numbers of tourist visitors. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.

 It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, the principal mosque of Istanbul until the Blue Mosque’s construction and another popular tourist site.

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In the pedestrian pavement of Ayia Sofia, Istanbul, May 2018
Hayia Sofia, Istanbul, front photo

Visitors are still welcome to Hagia Sophia, which remains the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Hagia Sophia, It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, the nation’s biggest tourist draw, and the contested religious center of both Christian and Muslim empires.

The architectural marvel—celebrated for its Byzantine architecture, elaborate mosaics, and religious importance to Christians and Muslims.

The Hagia Sophia that stands today was built in the sixth century as the cathedral for the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire), and it became a mosque in 1453 with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. It remained a Muslim house of worship until 1934, when the Turkish government turned it into a museum.

Taksim Square, May 2018

The word Taksim means “division” or “distribution”. Taksim Square was originally the point where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city (hence the name.) This use for the area was established by Sultan Mahmud I. The square takes its name from the Ottoman era stone reservoir which is located in this area.

Taksim is a main transportation hub and a popular destination for both tourists and residents of Istanbul. The Republic Monument (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Anıtı) , a notable monument located at Taksim was built to commemorate the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Istanbul, Taksim Square, credit New York Times
Istanbul, May 2018
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View from Hayia Sofia window, May 2018
Istanbul ferry, May 2018

It’s a well-known fact that the city of Istanbul is unique for spanning two continents. For very cheap, you’ll take a 10 minute ferry ride from Karakoy (Europe) to Kadikoy (Asia). If the weather is good then head out onto one of the outside decks for great views of Sultanahmet including Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Also keep your eyes on the water as you may see a few playful dolphins pop their heads up from time to time. Before you know it you will have docked at Kadikoy – welcome to Asia!

Thank you! Teşekkür ederim!