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Istanbul Attractions and Things to See
Istanbul has been
historically called Byzantium and Constantinople, and is the
biggest city in Turkey, known as a megacity, as the financial,
cultural and economic hub of the country, that covers 39
districts of the Istanbul province, and located on the Bosphurus
Strait, that surrounds the natural harbor known as the Golden
Horn, that is situated in the northwest area of the country,
extending or actually straddling the Bosphurus, with part of the
city being in Europe and the other remaining part located in
Asia, thus making it the only city in the world that is sitting
on two continents; and it has been made a world alpha city.
It has a fabulous history, serving as the capital of the Roman Empire during the years of 330 to 395 AD, then the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire from 395 to 1204 AD, and 1261 to 1453, the Latin Empire from 1204 to 1261, and the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1922, when it would gain its independence as the Republic of Turkey and name Ankara, on the Asian side in the heart of the nation, and had been the headquarters of the Turkish national movement during the Turkish war of independence. It was picked as the Joint European Capital of Culture in 2010, and the European Capital of Sports for 2012. In 1985, its historical areas would be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Sitting at the only natural bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul has a fabulous history and heritage, that began about 7000 years BC, since a Neolithic settlement has been uncovered at a recent construction job on the Marmara tunnel, beneath Yenikapi on its peninsula, sometime before the Bosphurus was even formed, with Thracian tribes establishing two settlements on the Sarayburnu, called Lygos and Semistra, about the location of the Topkapi Palace today. It would see the like of Constantine I, numerous crusades, Roman emperors and more, where many churches would be constructed, especially the Hagia Sofia, that would be the world's biggest cathedral for a millennia, with its walls and seafront protecting Europe from the invaders that came from the East, and the advance of Islam. It is located in the northwestern area of Turkey, in the Marmara region, occupying over 2000 square miles, spanning the Bosphorus that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The historic peninsula is believed to have been constructed on seven hills, with each one of them topped by an imperial mosque, and surrounded by 14 miles of city walls, with the biggest hill located at the site of the Topkapi Palace. It is famous for its Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, with the majority of its structures influenced by the many diverse peoples and empires that ruled it, with outstanding examples of Greek, Roman and Genoese forms of architecture still seen, as well as many historic churches and synagogues.
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum was established in 1881, and is one of the biggest museums of its kind in the world, with over 1,000,000 artifacts from the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, Balkans, North Africa and Central Asia, and the Istanbul Mosaic Museum houses the late Roman and early Byzantine floor mosaics and wall ornaments of the Great Palace of Constantinople. Other magnificent museums include the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Yildiz Palace, the Mecidiyekoy Antiques Bazaar, the Grand Bazaar, antique shops that sell carpets, jewels and other beautiful works of art and artisanship, with a plethora of rare and historic books in the Sahalflar Carsisi by Beyazit Square, and is one of the oldest book markets in the world.
The food in Istanbul is fantastic, with various dishes that are sure to include the favorite shish-kabob, rice and salads, with excellent Turkish beer, wine and the most delicious desserts that you cannot imagine. It is believed to be one of the three richest and oldest cooking traditions of the world, along with Chinese and French, and includes kebap, lokum, raki and baklava that are soups, olive oil dishes, rice pilafs, stuffed vegetables, pastries, puddings and syrupy desserts that provide tastes in spicy and tart appetizers, pickles, fruit preserves, compote, coffee, sherbet and boza, a thick drink made of barley.