Istanbul, The Best of Both Worlds

“Oh, crap!”

That was probably the last words of Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI on the final assault of Constantinople, Istanbul’s former name. I can’t imagine the look on Emperor’s face when he was finally defeated by the 21-year-old Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, a boy more than half of his age. Thus on 29 May 1453, the age of Byzantine was over,  the golden age of Ottoman Caliphate had just begun.

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, which means it’s strategically located between Europe and Asia, making it an ideal melting pot for various cultures, religions, and races. A city which has the most genetic diversity because of the result of centuries of interracial marriage certainly produces lots of gorgeus women. Well, it’s a fact. The women are the jewels of Istanbul, turning the streets into a series of giant catwalks.

In this city, hundreds of mosque’s minarets from the age of Ottoman Empire stand side-by-side with the remnants of Constantinople, once the main instrument in the advancement of Christianity. There’s also an obelisk, one of the surviving relics in the Hippodrome of Constantine, and The Valens Aqueduct from the Roman period. The buildings of Istanbul reflect various cultures from the people that have previously ruled this city. It’s the true embodiment of east meets west.

Here are some famous and interesting places in Istanbul:

Topkapi Palace is the central of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years until it was replaced by Dolmabahçe Palace at the middle of 19th century. It was transformed into the first museum in Turkey after the abolition of Ottoman Sultanate in 1922. Many holy Islamic relics such as Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword, also the weapons of the first four Caliphs are stored safely in its chambers.

Hagia Sophia was once the biggest cathedral in the world for a thousand years. After the fall of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II was very impressed with Hagia Sophia that he ordered a conversion of the church into the first imperial mosque of Istanbul. Its architecture, especially the massive dome, was an inspiration for many Ottoman imperial mosques such as Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque. It’s probably the only place in the world where mosaic of Jesus appears peacefully beside the calligraphy of Prophet Muhammad and Allah, despite its bloody takeover.

Blue Mosque is the icon of Istanbul , also known as Sultan Ahmed mosque, located near Hagia Sophia and famous for its blue tiles on the walls of its interior, hence the name Blue Mosque. After its completion, the Blue Mosque became the main imperial mosque, replacing Hagia Sophia.

IMG_1791-2
The mosque’s exterior view from the Courtyard
Inside
Inside

Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque in the city and highly visible from the Bosphorus strait because of its strategic location on the third hill of Istanbul. Like many other imperial mosques, it’s located inside a vast religious complex with a huge courtyard.

The Bosphorus Strait forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It’s been the key of commerce and strategic importance since the ancient times: From Greece, Persia, Rome, the Byzantines, the Ottoman Empire, until now, the modern times. Bosphorus cruise is a historical sightseeing where you can see almost every imperial-era palaces and landmarks in Istanbul from the ferry such as Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Hagia Sophia, and Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The cruise has become mandatory on any traveler’s list that it’s now the most overlooked Istanbul tourist attraction.

Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar. These are the right places for a shopping spree. Spice Bazaar –or known as its other name: Egyptian Bazaar– specializes mostly in spices (of course, Captain Obvious!), Turkish delight, sweets, dried fruits and nuts, while in Grand Bazaar, which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, you can find jewellery, furniture, leather goods, and…….almost anything.

Taksim square is best known as the location of Monument of the Republic, built as a commemoration for the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. It was the place of the famous movement “Occupy Taksim” in 2013 when demonstrators protested the government’s plan to build shopping center and demolition of Gezi park. It’s the most favourite place in Istanbul –some say it’s the heart of the city– with many shops and restaurants that in the afternon, people from every corner of Istanbul swarming this place like there’s no tomorrow.

 

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