Istanbul; the world’s one of the most ancient metropolis with its rich history and wonderful nature.
With its 8.500 years of history, Istanbul is the former capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Separeted to two continents, Asian and European, the city is an ideal example of the natural beauty.
The Past, the Present and the Future
Byzantium, Agusta Antonina, Dersaadet, Asitane, Constantinople, Konstantiniye… Istanbul had many different names and hosted many different cultures during its history. The name was officially changed to Istanbul in 1930. Istanbul is famous as one of the most frequently besieged cities in the world. Before being conquered by the Turks, its assailants included the Persian Darius (513 BC) the Athenian Alcibiades (408 BC) the Macedonian Philip II, the Arabs, the Bulgarians and the armies of the Fourth Crusade.
Istanbul has been home to various cultures since at least the Neolithic Period. According to records, the city have been founded in the 7 BC by colonists from Megara, led by the legendary Byzas. Once settled by Byzantines and took the name of Byzantium, the city became the supreme trade and commerce center. In 330 AD, Constantine I allowed the public practice of the Christianity and consequently the city became the symbol of Christian triump.
Until 1453, Turks had already tried to conquer Constantinople four times but it was Mehmet II –who took the title of “Fatih” which means conqueror after the victory- who realized this Ottoman dream. After two years of preparations, the siege started on April 6 and continued during 53 days. Mehmet II took his ships to the Golden Horn by pulling them on oily wood pieces and surprised the Byzantine army.
Once taken by Turks in 1453; Constantinople became the Ottoman Empire’s capital until 1923, when the founder of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk moved the capital from Istanbul to Ankara.
In the early years of the republic Ankara took precedence over Istanbul but between 1940 and 1950 the city regained its importance via a great structural change. New public squares such as Taksim Square, boulevards and avenues are constructed all around the city. Starting from the 1970s, with the undeniable effect of migrations from Anatolia, the city’s population began to rapidly increase. The fact that the city hosted different civilizations and life styles throughout its history transformed Istanbul a one big metropolis embracing multiculturalism and appreciating the beauty of different praxis.
Today, 20 percent of Turkey’s industrial labor and 38 percent of industrial workspace are provided by Istanbul which places the city in a central position for Turkey’s economic life. The city is also the country’s art center with international fairs, film, music and theater festival, museums, art galleries, exhibitions and sports organizations like Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture and Istanbul 2012 European Capital of Sport. Easy accessibility with two international airports, numerous meeting and convention facilities, superior accommodation choices… 21st century’s Istanbul is the world’s one of the most important metropolises.
Istanbul is a culinary delight no matter what your budget. From simple workers' eateries and sidewalk cafes to posh culinary palaces with liveried waiters, Turkish cuisine is good and the value-for-money unbeatable. A typical Turkish dish generally consists of lamb, mutton, and veal with a variety of vegetables. Pilaf, all kinds of pastry, bulgur, haricot beans, rich olive oil, and vegetables are also common side dishes. Meatballs, shish kebab, and doner kebab are also classic dishes. Because of its coastal location, fish is also popular although it is usually cooked simply, such as grilled, or fried with olive oil and lemon juice. Istanbul is the commercial and cultural centre of Turkey; and there are restaurants of many nationalities such as Korean, Russian, Italian, and Chinese. American-style fast-food outlets are becoming more popular, but for a quick snack it is more appropriate to fill up at the plethora of tiny takeaways offering kebabs and snacks. It is easy to sample good quality regional cuisine in typical small restaurants, usually at low cost, especially in the commercial and business areas.
Shopping in Istanbul
Famed as the City of a Thousand Colours and Fragrances, Istanbul is a paradise for shoppers. A large variety of traditional carpets, jewels, gold, and leather goods can be purchased on the street in the tourist areas, or one can visit the city’s modern shopping malls where Turkish brand goods can be found. The shops are open from 8:00 to 21:00 from Monday to Saturday. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar open their gates at 8:00 and close at 19:00. The large shopping malls open from 10:00 to 22:00 seven days a week. Shops do not close for lunch.
Service charges are included in the cost of all goods and services. Although it is not mandatory, a small tip is customary for good service. As a guideline, add about 10% to the total bill. When paying by credit card, a cash tip is preferred.
The easiest way to get to Istanbul is by plane .Turkish Airlines and many other international airlines have regular daily flights to Istanbul. Istanbul has two international airports; one on the European side (Ataturk Airport) and the other one on the Asian side (Sabiha Gokcen Airport) and the closest one to ICC and the city center is Atatürk Airport.
Istanbul is well connected to many European cities by highways. Some private Turkish bus companies run scheduled buses to Istanbul from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Greece, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Russia, Georgia, and Romania. You can also easily drive to Istanbul from any European country with your own car or motorbike.
Turkish Railways Authority (TCDD) has regular train schedules from Istanbul to Budapest - Hungary, Bucharest - Romania, Kishinev - Moldova, Salonica - Greece and Sofia - Bulgaria in Europe. International trains arrive at Sirkeci station on the European side.
There are several maritime companies that run car and passenger ferries from Greece or from Italy to Turkey. Most of these arrive at Cesme near Izmir, but some to Istanbul as well, especially during the summer. There is also a regular ferry line between Odessa (Ukraine) and Istanbul which takes about 35 hours. Many cruise ships dock at Istanbul too for daily excursions.