Today we travel to a unique city, where East and West blend with a surprising harmony: Istanbul. This is the only city where you can be in Europe and Asia during the same day, and wandering through its streets is both a feast to our senses and a dive in the history of civilization.
Given its strategic location, it was the stage of successive invasions throughout centuries, and has absorbed influences from very distinct cultures: it was founded by the Greeks in century IV BC, then came the Persians, the Romans – who named it Constantinople after their great Emperor Constantine, and finally the Ottomans, who conquered it in 1453… All left their marks, which can be easily found in gastronomy, architecture and also in its welcoming habitants.
Let’s start our visit on the European side, in Beyoglu district. Our first impression is of a modern and cosmopolite city, with “eastern” restaurants, trendy bars and nightclubs by the sea, malls and stores with all the brands we are used to find in any European city, side by side with street merchants where you can buy all sorts of souvenirs and the famous “Turkish Delights”. As we walk towards the Bosphorus, we explore the Golden Horn and everything gradually changes: shops become smaller and more traditional, and we move from east to west without realizing we did… as we cross the Galata Bridge to Eminönü, we dive into the Islamic world, with its Mosques and markets, streets filled with people, shops, boats where we can buy food (Turkish fast food :-))… Strolling through these streets is an unforgettable experience, as is visiting the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar, entering all sorts of shops and talk to the locals – they are very nice. Of course they’ll try to sell you lots of things, and bargaining the price is a must. They are not pushy though, just say no nice and firmly if you’re not interested, and they will not insist. All of this makes us lose track of time, we can walk for hours and get lost in these labyrinths, but these will surely be great hours.
Let’s now go on, towards the more important and well known monuments, and we finally arrive to the Topkapi Palace, home of generations of Sultans. Here we can imagine how they lived, the opulence and luxury, the rules and protocols of the past… In this area we can also visit the magnificent Blue Mosque (Sultanhamet), the impressive Basilica Cistern (built in 532 as a water repository for the Palace and surrounding areas, pumped through more than 20 km of aqueducts, it is a very cool and wonderful place). Last (but definitely not least), let’s visit the remarkable Aya Sofya, where as we go in we feel we are travelling through history. It was first built by Emperor Justinian, completed in 537, as the biggest Catholic Church of the Roman Empire, then converted into a Mosque after the city was conquered by Sultan Mehmet in 1453, and finally turned into a museum in 1935 by Atatürk – one of Turkey’s most important leaders, considered the father of the nation and still a very important reference to these days. All these monuments are classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Of course, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without crossing the Sea of Marmara to Asia, where once again, we feel as we were entering a new reality. This is the perfect place for a nice Kebab, with tea or Ayran (salty yogurt, national drink greatly appreciated around here…).
We hope you enjoyed this small trip to this beautiful and extraordinary city. There is much more to see and do, why don’t you plan to go there and find out everything about it?
You’ll find more photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1437537379792004.1073741840.1432372943641781&type=3
You can check Istanbul’s Official Site for more information, or you can ask us, obsiously 🙂