I set my eyes on the meeting point of two continents, Asia and Europe. As the plane began to descend to our destination, Istanbul we landed upon the Asiatic coast as the sun began to set. What better way to began a short stay in Istanbul.
The Sultanhamet district of the city was where we were staying. This is the old heart of the city and was once the capital of two great empires, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The great buildings such as the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque dominate the skyline. Even seagulls are drawn to the magnificent structures as they can be seen flying around the minarets.
Above: The Boshporus with the Theodosian walls on the Europian side, showing the Asian side.
The city straddles two continents, the Old City and Galata districts are located on the European side these districts are connected to the Asian side by several bridges. Most people live on the Asian side, as it is cheaper and they tend to commute to the old city to work. There are dozens of street venders selling corn and chestnut relatively cheaply. Being situated close to the sea has its benefits, fish is the main staple of diet here. Fisherman can be seen making a catch, over the Galata bridge and various restaurants are situated below the bridge. The old Galata district used to contain the Geneose quarter and a sizable Italian population in the 14th century. The Genease constructed a watch tower which still towers above the city.
The food itself is varied from kebabs and salads to fish. The seafood here is fresh and relatively cheap in comparison with other mediterranean countries, a favorite is Sea Bass. However there is a lack of vegetables in most menu’s however this seems to be the case for most mediterranean countries.
Above: The Haghia Sophia
There are several hidden gems in the city, there seems to be a lack of regard for some older monuments in the city, that being said the Haghia Sophia and Chora museum, give a taste of the old Constantinople. The latter is well worth seeing with its gold mosaics built under the direction of the statesmen, philosopher and theologian Theodore Metochites in the early 14th century.
Istanbul thrived as the capital of the Ottoman Empire, with trade and commerce bringing large amounts of wealth to the city. The grand bazaar is a testament to the Importance of trade in the city with over 4000 shops, from gold and silverware to antiques, cloth and spices. Just try and not to get lost! Istanbul, overlooking the sea and the Asian coast, where else in the world is this possible. This city is mysterious as it is alluring.
Author: Jeremy Hallatt