What can I say about Istanbul? As the song goes, it is indeed a Turkish delight on a moonlit night. The word I would more likely use to describe it, however, is…mental. In the best possible way.
Here are some facts about Istanbul, with help from turkeytravelcentre.com:
1. Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.
2. While being the ancient capital of many empires, from Rome to the Ottoman era, Istanbul is not the modern capital of Turkey – Ankara is.
3. Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.
4. Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets.
5. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with more than 13 million people. (Our tour guide thought the ‘unofficial’ figure was probably closer to 18 million.)
6. Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to the Netherlands.
7. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3000 shops.
8. Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.
9. Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.
11. Istanbul was once renowned as the most crowded city in the world – in 1502!
Regarding that last fact: I would say Istanbul is the second most crowded city I’ve ever visited. That honour still goes to Cairo.
Hubby and I visited Istanbul on a very long, but very worthwhile, day trip as part of our recent holiday to Turkey. Here comes a photo blog of our adventures.
We flew from our resort to Istanbul, and landed on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The Old Town is on the European side, so first we had to get there. Here are a couple of views from the coach. Oh my goodness, the traffic!
Our first visit was to the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, due to the unusual blue tiles found inside. Built between 1609-16, it was considered sacrilegious at the time, as its 6 minarets were seen to be trying to rival Mecca.
You don’t see it from the photos, but the inside of the mosque was so crowded you could barely move. That was the case with many places in this crazy city, including our next stop, right across Sultanahmet Square: Topkapi Palace. This grand complex of buildings was the home of the Ottoman Sultans and the women of the Harem for 400 years.
(I’ve tried with various photos to show how busy everywhere was, but pictures don’t really convey the madness!)
Oh yes, and we met the Palace Cat:
After some lunch – and ice cream – at a café in Sultanahmet Square (where we met another cat), it was off to the river for a cruise on the Bosphorus. This gave us a great opportunity to take some pictures of both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. There are some amazing buildings – and lots of bridges.
Our final stop before a restoring seafood dinner was the Grand Bazaar. Originally the spice market, now you can buy anything: spices and tea are still on sale, but also ceramics, clothes, shoes, pet supplies…you name it. So many people crammed under covered walkways, haggling, buying or just staring. It was awesome. We bought ceramics: 2 pot stands, 4 coasters and a bowl. Handmade and handpainted. The cost? A grand total of £7.
After dinner we caught the flight back to our resort, exhausted but happy. If you ever get a chance to visit this amazing city, do it. But be prepared for crowds. Oh, and the most annoying thing? Selfie sticks! I swear I’ve never seen so many. I won’t say what I’d have liked to do with them all… 😉
(All photos by Gordon and Karen Soutar)