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Istanbul

A Weekend Trip

Story by Sandro Gämperle March 1st, 2014

Where two worlds meet

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world‘s busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Is represents a link between Europe and Asia and between a modern and a traditional world. With a population of 14.1 million, the city forms one of the largest urban agglomerations in Europe and is the third-largest city in the world by population within city limits.

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A hotspot of cultural heritage

Approximately 11.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2012, two years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world‘s fifth-most-popular tourist destination. Istanbul is primarily known for its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, but its buildings reflect the various peoples and empires that have previously ruled the city. Some of the most famous landmark sites include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, and Dolmabahçe Palace.

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Along the Silk road

For almost 3,000 years, the Silk Routes were important paths for commercial, cultural, and technological exchange between traders, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, rulers, nomads and urban dwellers from Ancient China, India, Persia, Asia Minor, and countries of the Mediterranean. Extending over 6,000 miles, the routes enabled people to transport goods, especially luxuries such as silk, slaves, satin and other fine fabrics, musk, perfumes, spices, medicines, jewels, glassware and porcelain. Istanbul‘s strategic position along the historic Silk Road have helped foster an eclectic populace.


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The Bosporus

Every morning central Istanbul wakes to rekindle its daily love affair with the waterway. The scene includes dozens of promenading tourists, dog walkers and dedicated fishermen lining the sides of the Galata Bridge. The Bosphorus not only defines borders of Turkey’s largest city, but the way its residents work and live. Without it, everything would simply grind to a halt. The Bosphorus Strait, which splits the European and Asian sides of Turkey, is one of the world’s busiest waterways, with around 50,000 vessels transiting between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea each year.

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Where history lives on

Istanbul is a true treasure trove of cultural heritage. Its most famous sites include the Aya Sofya, the Basiclica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace.

Commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 532 AD, the Aya Sofya was Christendom’s crowning jewel for a millennium. It became a mosque under the Ottomans and is now a museum. A vast, seemingly unsupported dome crowns golden mosaics and stained-glass windows that bathe the space in ethereal half-light. The Basilica Cistern, a magnificent underground reservoir, has 336 columns – each 9m high – arranged in 12 rows beneath a vast vaulted ceiling. The effect is striking: a symmetrical, softly lit forest of pillars reflected in a mirror of water below. Home to the ruling sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the 1460s to the 1850s, the Topkapi Palace encompasses richly decorated chambers, tile-lined pleasure pavilions overlooking the Bosphorus and the private world of the harem.

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A stroll THrough the streets of istanbul

A visitor to this history-laden city does not necessarily need to visit the tourist hotspots in order to delve into the incredible history of Istanbul. A stroll through the streets and back alleys will reveal much of the city’s unique charm and you will meet welcoming people all over beaming at you when you greet them with a friendly smile.

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I'll be back soon

I cannot point to one single thing that made my weekend trip to Istanbul such a memorable one. Was it for the beautiful weather, the nargiles (water pipes), the bustling streets and busy bazaars, the cultural sites and museums or simply the feeling to be in another world, I was feeling dizzy during almost the entire trip. I will certainly return in the not too distant future. And most of all, I can only recommend a visit to this marvelous city to anyone out there.

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Footnote: If you are interested in more of my Istanbul photos please head over to my personal page www.sandrogaemperle.com or my flickr page on www.flickr.com/sandrotto
Istanbul, Turkey