40 Vacations - Travel Guides - Destination Istanbul
Any visit to Turkey is never complete without experiencing the burgeoning, frenzied, confused, muddled and glorious wonder that is Istanbul. Istanbul is a blend of the Greek, Ottoman and Byzantine empires. The city straddles with both Europe and Asia and is a distinct symbol of greatness. Today, Istanbul houses almost 14 million of the 65 million people living in Turkey, many of who are poor village folk who have journeyed to the city out of economic need. The city's elite (about 25%) live in the newly built suburbs and enjoy the sophistication of Istanbul's café society, designer shops, booming nightlife and vibrant contemporary cultural life.
The ethnicity inherited from 2,500 years of history is most evident in the Old City, known as Old Stamboul or Sultanahmet. A stroll through this historic area will reveal ancient Roman hippodromes, peristyles, and aqueducts. The splendor of the Byzantine Empire, the charisma and power of the Ottomans, and the dubious sales tactics used by the city's self-made entrepreneurs are clearly visible at every corner of the city. As a religious hub, Istanbul is the heart of the Greek Orthodox Church and has been the center of the Islamic faith for centuries. Istanbul is the guardian of one of the world's most significant cultural heritages and home to some of the world's most lavish displays of art and wealth. Early Greek civilizations left behind the building blocks for Rome and Byzantium, which swathed these earlier foundations in rich mosaics and left their impression on monuments such as the Hippodrome and Ayasofya. Even Fatih Mehmet II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, was amazed by the beauty of the city he had finally conquered. The Ottoman dynasty utilized the city's fortunes for the construction of undulating domes and commanding minarets, and the magnificence of the Topkapi Palace.
Across the Golden Horn lies the modern heart of the city, a clear display of the future of the country, pulsating with all the electricity of a cutting-edge international metropolis. This part of Istanbul portrays itself to the world as Turkey's ambassador of art, entertainment, music, and education.