I’d write the title in the local language (which is Turkish in case you’re interested) but I couldn’t understand the phonetics. My impressions of this city has changed since I arrived. Earlier I had visions of ‘oldness’ and middle eastern grandeur of what Istanbul could be. In many ways that is still accurate but I am impressed with the modernity of the New City centre in contrast to the quaintness of its surrounding areas. This truly is a beautiful place.
From the air, there’s a combination of lush greenery with distinctive Turkish architecture and unique historical legacy. This is a very old city with a population of some 15 million people, 99% of which are Muslims. Having said that, Turkey is known as a secular country even though it has strong Islamic roots. The Ottomans were here. The Romans as well. And not forgetting the Crusaders as they made their way to Jerusalem. So much history in this vast city; so big that it’s the only city on this planet that has one side in Europe and the other in Asia (ironically divided by a waterway and connected with a modern suspension bridge).
I’ve been to a few sites of interest, namely the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Islamic museum and the venerable Grand Bazaar. What can I say about my exoerience? For someone who likes history it was nothing short of amazing. Honestly I’ve read about these places since art school so to be able to finally visit them is akin to realizing a life long ambition. The Hagia Sophia is a breathtaking piece of architecture, intricate and massive at the same time. The Blue Mosque is smaller than I expected but no less spectacular. Its signature turquoise blue tiles and beautiful stained glass fixtures have lasted hundreds of years. When you understand the magnitude of what has happened here over the last thousand years, it becomes quite humbling to stand inside these historical structures.
Will try to share more pictures with you before I leave.