ISTANBUL. The only metropolis in the world situated on two continents – Europe and Asia.
Recently we as a family spent seven days in this old historical city. It is believed that the first inhabitants of this city were here as early as 3000BC. The city was first known as Byzantium named after the Greek King Byzas before it became part of the Roman Empire in the 300’s. The great Roman Emperor Constantine the Great decided to rebuild the entire city. His goal was to make it prominent and give it monuments similar to those found in Rome. In 330 he declared the city the capital of the entire Roman Empire and named it Constantinople.
The city was ruled by different Empires and had been destroyed and rebuilt a few times. Eventually in 1453 it was conquered by the Ottomans, led by Sultan Mehmed II.
So Constantinople was named as the capital of the Ottoman Empire and its name was changed again, this time to Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire ruled Istanbul until it was defeated and occupied by the Allies in World War One. During the Turkish War of Independence Istanbul became a part of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
We arrived bleary-eyed in a very hot Istanbul after we flew from Johannesburg (South Africa) through the night. After some hours of rest in our apartment – amidst many mosques and close to Taksim square, recently in the hot seat with protests happening – we decided to go to the most touristic part of Istanbul – the Sultanamet.
Here you find the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, different museums and historical attractions as well as the Grand Bazaar, one of the biggest covered marketplaces in the world. The Grand Bazaar is seriously an onslaught on the senses, in such a way that you have to keep focussed on whatever it was you wanted to get, but more about that later.
Istanbul is located on the Bosphorus channel and covers the entire area of the Golden Horn, a natural harbour. We went on a boat tour between the two continents, Europe and Asia, along the Bosphorus, which was amazing as you could see monuments and palaces dating from eras gone by from a total different perspective and on both continents. Different palaces where the sultans went during summer or spring or winter, palaces built for their offspring, and even the Maiden Tower in the middle of it all.
On this tour you can also see the two bridges linking Istanbul in Europe with the Istanbul in Asia – the Bosphorus Bridge as well as the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. When the boat turns you are just in time to see the sun sinking on the horizon and the bridges light up. Magical!
It was almost midnight when we started going back to our apartment and it felt like a real party with so many people still outside, wandering, eating, enjoying….
Tomorrow day 2 of our adventure in the old Constantinople…..