Travel Travel Diaries

Travel Diaries #4: Istanbul, Turkey

Hello my dear friend and welcome back to a new chapter of “Travel Diaries”!

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic I finally got back into my travelling schedule with another fascinating trip.

This time I tagged along with a travel agency and some family members

Istanbul, formely known as Constantinople, is located in north-western Turkey and straddles the strait Bosporus, which provides the only passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Sea of Marmara. It’s the largest city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural and historic center.

Founded as Byzantion by Megarian colonists in 657 BCE, it was renamed by Constantine the Great firstly as Nova Roma during the official dedication of the city as the new Roman capital in 330 CE, which he soon afterwards changed to Constantinople. 

The city served as an imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330-1204), Latin (1204-1261), Byzantine (1261–1453) and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. 

It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before its transformation to an Islamic stronghold following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.

In 1930, the city’s name was officially changed to Istanbul, an appellation Greek speakers used since the eleventh century to colloquially refer to the city.

Now that we have covered some basic information about the geographical location and historical background of Istanbul let’s dive into the places my traveling companions and I visited while we were there…

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia was built in 537 and was designed by the Greek geometers Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. It served as the patriarchal cathedral of the imperial capital of Constantinople until 1453, when the city fell into the Ottoman Empire and the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Hagia Sophia is considered the epitome of the Byzantine architecture and is said to have ”changed the history of architecture”.

Places of notice near Hagia Sophia include:

  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), an imperial mosque built during the reign of Ahmed I (1603-1617).

  • Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Square), which was the sporting and social center of the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

Grand Bazaar

Gate 7, Kapalıçarşı

The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4000 shops. It was built shortly after

Things to do in the Great Bazaar:

  • Take a long stroll through the endless shops
  • Buy good-quality high brand items in reasonable prices
  • Practice your bargaining skills
  • Enjoy your lunch at Havuzlu Restaurant, which offers a wide selection of dishes for all tastes

İstiklal Avenue

Historically known as the Grand Avenue of Pera it is located in the Beyoğlu district and is one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul. An elegant pedestrian street which houses boutiques, bookstores, theatres, art galleries, libraries, cafes, pubs, night clubs, patisseries and restaurants.

İstiklal Avenue’s musts include:

  • A walk through Taksim Square

  • Wild partying at the rooftop nightclub 360 Istanbul

  • Buying traditional baclava, turkish delights and tea at one of the many Hafiz Mustafa‘s shops

Other places I visited

  • Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in the Karaköy quarter of Istanbul, just to the north of the Golden Horn’s junction with Bosphorus.

  • Kumkapi is a quarter in the Fatih district famous for it’s fish restaurants as well as being the center of Istanbul’s Armenian community.

  • Getting a glimpse of the Pera Palace Hotel, the oldest European hotel in Turkey and the place where Agatha Christie wrote ”Murder on ther Orient Express”.

  • Going for a dream cruise on Bosporus and admiring the dolphins (if you are lucky enough).

Istanbul is a magical city combining European and Middle Eastern elements that encourages you to slow down and experience life in a different perspective.

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