Istanbul: Travel Articles

It’s hard to speak of superlatives to describe this epic cradle of civilization. No other city in the world was besieged so often, so much was it desired by people outside its walls. No other city in the world is on two continents. Not only the old, but for centuries it is the most multicultural city in Europe, with more than a dozen spoken languages ​​on the streets, from Italian to Persian, from Greek to Arabic. It was first and foremost a city built for trade.

“Jews, Turks and Christians have many teachings, but GOD recognizes it, OR.”
Historical letters and reviews of a man from Constantinople to his friend in London, 1730

Founded on a triangular promontory (currently dominated by the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya), the original city was surrounded by water on three sides. It was not a small, shy colony, but a secured mall that was supposed to rule one of the world’s most important waterways, the Bosporus. The control of this narrow channel connecting the Mediterranean with the Black Sea has provided political weight, a steady stream of innovative ideas and, of course, money in the form of transport and taxes.

Today, sailing on the Bosphorus provides a perfect opportunity to see the city, as sailors have seen it centuries ago. The seven hills are adorned with the most beautiful mosques. Daily boat trips stop at several points along their length, like Anadolu Kavagi almost at the entrance to the Black Sea. Here you can leave the ferry, eat at one of the seafood restaurants by the sea and hike to the castle ruins to enjoy breathtaking views and imaginative tastes. from the time Jason searched for the golden fleece.

Today, tankers equipped with ferries reach the waters of the Bosphorus, but their numbers represent only a tiny fraction of the ships that flocked to Constantinople. In the Ottoman period fifteen thousand small boats worked in the harbor, darkening its own waters. It may have been hectic, but it certainly was not disorganized. In money matters, the city was a strict and disciplined governess. In the Golden Horn, the capital’s magnificent deep-water protected and sheltered harbor, the boats were drilled directly on the coast to be unloaded, and their cargoes were carefully inspected by an army of customs officials waiting to calculate their rights. pay.

When the Byzantine Empire and the ruined city of Constantinople finally fell into the hands of Mehmet the Conqueror and his Ottoman army in 1453, shockwaves echoed across Western Europe and the Christian world. But Mehmet was a visionary. Just as Constantine restored Byzantium as his new capital, a new Rome a millennium ago, Mehmet was determined to restore the fate of the city and put it on a higher footing.

He called on people of all races and religions to live and work in the city. It was an open-door policy based on tolerance and freedom to convey skills, creativity and energy. As a pasha of the fifteenth century, the sultan advised, trade would bring Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire on their way to success:

“Behold the merchants in the land, treat them always, do not disturb them, for the land becomes prosperous through their commerce, and there is an abundance of low prices in the world, thanks to which the excellent glory of the sultan becomes, and that becomes prosperity of the country. ”

In a few decades, many foreign companies have exceeded the welcome mat and settled down. Armenians flourished as jewelers, artisans and traders. The Jews became good perfumers, blacksmiths and bankers. The Italians imported silk, paper and glass. Even the English were invited to the party when, in 1579, Sultan Murad III. I wrote to Elizabeth to welcome the English merchants who were to work in their free trade empire.

Many of these companies operated the covered bazaar of Mehmet the Conqueror, which is still in the heart of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. You can still feel some of the sights, smells and sounds of ancient Constantinople when you take the time to explore this labyrinthine city in a city. On the way to the Spice Bazaar, the streets are full of small shops and workshops full of artisans trying their jobs. They give a small indication of the cornucopia of goods that once came to the imperial capital from all parts of the world.

For centuries, the Ottoman Empire was the mediator of the world, its famous merchants bringing three continents together: Europe, Africa and Asia, east of China. The fullness of the world has not just arrived by sea. All roads lead to Constantinople. Caravan of camels and mules of up to 2000 men came every month and came from all points of the horizon – from Poland to Arabia, from France to Persia.

Constantinople was a magnet for goods and people long before the arrival of the Turks. A regular stop for Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem, when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian built the Hagia Sophia in the 6th century, the capital itself became a place of pilgrimage and a popular tourist destination. The Hagia Sophia was not an old cult place, it was the largest church of Christendom for nearly a thousand years. Converted by Mehmet the Conqueror into a mosque, today it is a great museum for people of all faiths.

Around the Aya Sofya there are strong memories of the longevity of the city and its glorious past. A few hundred meters to the north is the Topkapi Palace, where Ottoman sultans lived and ruled in opulent splendor. A few hundred meters further south is the Blue Mosque, whose slender minarets dominate the skyline of the city. Next to it is the ancient Roman Hippodrome, adorned with an Egyptian obelisk. If you walk in Istanbul, you can not imagine another city that could compete with it as an open-air museum.

But it’s not a ghost town, not a colorful city that treats old memories. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, its name change in Istanbul and its demotion to the capital, the old city is on the rise again. Although Ankara is today the political capital of Turkey, it is at the heart of the country’s geography and Istanbul is sparsely populated and vibrant.

Decorated with some of the most beautiful architectural and artistic wonders of the world and with an extraordinary historical heritage on every street corner, Istanbul remains the true social, artistic and commercial center of Turkey, full of life and activity. With an exponential growth of 3 million in 1970 and a monster with 11 million inhabitants today, the city remains the ultimate cultural center. His bait and train are stronger than ever – for many people his streets are still paved with gold.

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