Wonders of Istanbul, a city divided by two continents
NAPOLEON Bonaparte (1769-1821), a French military general, who became the first emperor of France, in his drive for military expansion to change the world, once described Istanbul, Turkey this way: “If the world were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”
There is no better way to describe this magnificent city which has become a rallying point of global citizens and a significant symbol of both ancient and modern civilization, cut between two seas, Black and Marmara Seas, two Continents, Europe and Asia; two religions: Christianity and Islam and at the crossroad of several cultures and traditions.
A visit to this great city that is now a destination for tourism for people from all walks of life across the globe will indeed confirm that statement by Bonaparte as the world capital with a wide range of historical monuments and relics dotting round it, thereby making Istanbul the envy of the world.
This international city with about 17 million inhabitants of the country’s 75 million people, is a major crossing point on the route allowing trade between the east (Europe) and the west bordered by Asia.
The country, even though it is dominantly an Islam state with 95 per cent Moslems and five per cent Christians, is said to be very tolerant with all religions and all people irrespective of their social, religious and economic status and the people live in harmony with themselves, neighbours, visitors and migrants who enter the country to look for opportunities.
Here are some of the beautiful sights and monuments that tourists besiege daily to see, and the history behind them.
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
The most famous wonders of Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia. It was one of the most important cathedrals of the Byzantine Empire. It was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537AD, and was dedicated to the second person of the Holy Trinity”. During this period, the Hagia Sophia`s great church and dome was the biggest in the world, a significant achievement. The church symbolizes the infinity of the cosmos, signified by the Holy Soul to which the church was dedicated. It is known for its magnificence in spirituality. Moreover, the church was the centre of Orthodox Christianity.
When Istanbul was conquered by Sultan Fatih Mehmed of the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the Church was converted to a mosque. But because of Islam’s respect for other religions, the Ottomans did not entirely destroy the Christian paintings and mosaics. They covered them with only stucco.
It has four minarets at its corners; two of them were added by Fatih Sultan Mehmed and the other two by the famous Turkish architect Mimar Sinan.
It was known as Ayasofya Mosque until it was converted to a museum in 1931. Since that time it has served as a museum to its guests.
When you visit the Hagia Sophia you will see the history of the Byzantine Empire, feel the wonders of significant architecture and the magnificent and beautiful surreal site.
In addition, in this building you will see the meeting of two religions and tolerance of two religions in a city which is located in two continents. The Hagia Sophia stands as a combination of both Christian and Muslim worship.
Most importantly, Hagia Sophia, has been ranked the second in the list of “Top 20 World Buildings” that tourists visit.
Topkapi palace is the oldest and widest palace in the world. It was built in 1465 during Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s reign. It was used as a Governmental centre until 1853. It is located within the administrative and control centre called Sarayburnu, which is also near the Hagia Sophia. This magnificent palace was used as a government centre and resident for 400 years by Ottoman Sultans and their dynasty.
The First Courtyard is called Bab-ı Hümayun which is the entrance of Topkapi Palace.
The Second Courtyard is the centre of the Topkapi Palace and Ottoman Government which is also called Divan. During Ottoman times in this courtyard, only Ottoman Padishahs could ride a horse
The Harem is the room of Sultan`s mother and his family.
When you are walking in that palace you can see the everyday life of Ottoman Sultans, their clothes, jewelers, and weapons they used. Also you will find lots of Ottoman and Islamic art treasures. One can also see the biggest diamond in the world called “Kasikci Elmasi” (Kasikci Diamond)
In Topkapi Palace you can watch the scenery and feel the historic glory and magical atmosphere of the Ottoman times. Nearby, there is a wonderful hill that you can see all over the places, Bosporus, Marmara Sea and Golden Horn.
The last word, Topkapı Palace was listed as part of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1985.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which is also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the significant landmarks of Istanbul. It was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmed in 1616, near the Hagia Sophia. You can easily walk from Hagia Sophia to Blue Mosque.
It`s known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles decorating its interior walls. The mosque has 21,000 handmade ceramic tiles inside. It has six minarets and it was the first mosque in the world to have this. When you enter the mosque you can see wonderful blue tiles and a magnificent dome that connect you to Ottoman historic times, which was greatly influenced by its Byzantine predecessor. You won’t be able to resist gazing at this beautiful dome.
It is a wonderful combination of Islamic art and Ottoman architecture.
There is a very popular square near the Blue Mosque called Sultan Ahmed Square. Here, you can see lots of historical monuments from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and feel very majestic.
At the same time when you stay in the middle of the Sultan Ahmed Square, you can see combinations of Byzantine and Ottoman influences. On one side, you will see Hagia Sophia, and on the other side is Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque). It shows you that Istanbul is the crossroads of cultures.
In the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, you can feel a wonderful sense of peace even though it is crowded with people.
Galata Tower and Grand Bazar
The Galata tower is located north of the Golden Horn and opposite the historical District of Istanbul. It was built in 1348 by Genoese colonists and used to control the Bosphorus and Golden horn. It looks like a stone cylinder. At that tower you can see 360o panoramic view of Istanbul. You can admire Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus, and the entertainment district of Taksim. You will feel that you are looking toward the city like bird.
The Grand Bazaar was opened in 1461, during the reign of Sultan Fatih Mehmed. It was the first shopping mall ever built in the world.
In the Grand Bazaar there are 59 covered streets, 800 exits and over 4,000 shops.
With these shops the Grand Bazaar everyday looks merry and noisy. It has unique architecture in unusual bright streets. There is magical atmosphere that takes you to the Orient’s shiny and wealthy world.
Moreover in the Grand Bazaar, you can see different unique sales techniques. For example, they can ask you about your country and they can tell you a story about your country and befriend you before you buy something.
It is also known as Maiden`s Tower. You can see in the middle of the Bosphorus (the sea divided by two continents), a little tower called Maiden tower, which is located on a small island of the Bosphorus. It was known during the Byzantine period as Leander`s Tower. It was built by Byzantine General Alcibiades in 408AD, to control the Persian ships entering the Bosphorus.
It is a symbol of the Istanbul city that everybody wants to take a picture in front of the tower behind Topkapi scenic.
It is the exclusive Ottoman imperial Palace. This palace is located on the European side, the Bosphorus coastline, and one of the most important palaces in the world
It was built during Ottoman Padishah Sultan Abldulmecid’s reign in 1856. The palace served the main administration and government of the Ottoman Empire from that time to 1922. The construction of Dolmabahce Palace cost 35 tons of gold to the Ottoman Empire.
It is the largest Ottoman Imperial Palace.
In this palace you can see the world`s largest bohemian crystal chandelier in the ceremony hall. You can also see the deluxe treasures of the Ottomans: different kinds of art in gold, paintings and carpets.
After building that palace the Ottoman administrative staff moved to Dolmabahce Palace.
Ortakoy Mosque and Rumelia Castle
Ortakoy Mosque is the most popular and well-known landmarks in the Bosphorus.
It is also called the Grand Imperial Mosque. It was built during the reign of Padishah Abdulmecid in 1856.
It is located at the edge of Bosphorus, first baroque designed mosque in the world
The image of Ortakoy Mosque is popular, with the background of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Ortakoy`s Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge show that Istanbul is connected between two continents, Asia and Europe.
The last wonders of Istanbul, is Rumeli Hisari(Rumelian Castle), located on the European side of Bosphorus, and built in Ottoman Padishah Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s reign in 1452.
The Rumelian Castle was built in order to control the Bosphorus; it is located on the European hillside at the narrowest district of the Bosphorus. In addition it was built in 1452 only through the spring and summer.
There are three major towers.
You can enjoy the Bosporus’s wonderful view, especially in the springtime; you can walk through the inside of the castle and take a picture with beautiful pink colored flowers, called redbuds.
The castle is located in the waterfront of the Bosporus, therefore you can take fantastic, scenic pictures.
With some of these sights visited it made the journey a wonderful trip, and indeed Turkey is a beautiful country, with so much to offer, that it leaves one with enough opportunities to return.