Conquered by Istanbul

January 29, 2012
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Once the capital of the Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is filled with truly outstanding culture and history. At the cross roads of Europe and Asia it was the center of all trade on the Silk Road. It’s setting on the Marmara Sea and the Bosporus, a straight between Europe and Asia, add to the magnificence of this grand city. When overlooking the city from a tall building, you will see the Bosporus, the city below, and towering minarets of mosques. Alphonse de Lamartine of France in the mid 1890s said, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.” In Istanbul the past and the modern day world collide to create a special energy that makes you never want to leave.
The Blue Mosque built between 1609 and 1616 has a huge dome and is flanked by six slender minarets. Over 2,6000 Iznik tiles which include beautiful and rare colors of blue and red cover the walls of the inside of the Blue Mosque. A hidden gem of the city is the Rustempasa Mosque, a small mosque with magnificent tiles. Tokapi Palace is another amazing historical site built between the 15th and 19th century. This was the lavish household for the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Exquisite jewels, daggers, art, furniture and beautiful rooms have people of all ages in awe. After a busy morning find yourself a charming restraint and treat yourself to Turkish Cuisine. Kebabs, either chicken or lamb are tender and are always satisfying. Seeing that it is right on the water, seafood is also great. Any mezes, or appetizers are also delicious, but be careful because you might eat so much that you don’t want your main meal.
Istanbul has two of perhaps the most famous markets in the world. The Grand Bazaar was the main trade center during the Byzantine time, and now it has more than 4,000 shops. These shops include, jewelry, antiques, souvenirs and more. When looking up in Grand Bazaar one will see an over a thousand year old ceiling and architecture. The Spice Market is also fabulous and if you are tea or coffee drinker don’t forget to get some sort of Turkish blend. When stepping into the Spice Market taste buds overwhelmed with such a sweet and spicy fragrance that one can almost taste it.
The Hagia Sofia was a basilica built in the sixth century AD and is widely considered as the finest work of Byzantine architecture. After the Ottomans defeated the Byzantines it was made into a mosque. Here there are incredibly intricate mosaics because it has been both a church and a mosque. Another remarkable work by the Byzantines is the Basilica Cisterns, which provided an endless water supply to the Byzantine Empire. When walking around the cisterns it is as you have gone back in time, because mighty columns, water, and little light and sound surround you.
Last but not least, take a boat ride on the Bosporus, to see magnificent mansions, historical walls and forts, and the picturesque scenery. While you might not know a lot about Istanbul and the history surrounding it, you will have a newfound knowledge when you explore this incredible city. Sultan Mehmet, once said “either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me,” and Istanbul will certainly conquer you if you decide to visit.





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