before you go … ISTANBUL

The World Re-booted®
Istanbul, Turkey

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This fascinating city spans both Europe and Asia and sits astride one of the most crucial waterways in the world – the Bosporus.

Istanbul (is-TAN-bul) is, like many places, exploding in population. From 3-million a few years ago the city now is at least 13-million and some believe may be approaching 17-million.

The area is vital militarily. The Bosporus Strait links the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and the importance of that has never been lost on anyone. When the Russians have moved to strengthen their military position in this area, as they regularly have done at intervals for nearly 200 years, European powers scramble and war often results as it did in the 1850s on the Crimean peninsula. Without an egress through the Bosporus the southern Russian fleet is bottled up in the Black Sea, a fact that seems fine with everyone except the Russians.

Gallipoli is also nearby to the west, site of the bloody and unsuccessful British venture during World War I that nearly ended Winston Churchill’s career.

There’s plenty to see here.

The Blue Mosque, which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation. Hagia Sophia, the ancient mosque from the 6th century, is an easy walk. A vanished Roman hippodrome is worth a look, if only to imagine how it must have been to watch chariots race in Roman times.

Moreover, Istanbul is a shopper’s paradise.

These guys know carpet and regularly sell carpets with an astounding 1,200 ties per inch with prices to match ($13,000 for a 4’ x 6’ throw map anyone?). The Istanbul bazaar, arguably the oldest in the world, is filled with tiny shops and merchants ready to haggle. Do not expect smoke-free air; Turkish tobaccos are smoked everywhere.

If time permits, make sure ride a ferry across the Bosporus. The ferry trip from Europe to Asia is cheap and quick (15 minutes), and the ride itself is a keystone cops adventure between flotillas going every which way. Cross to Asia late in the afternoon so that, once on the Asian side, you can catch the stunning afternoon view of the Golden Horn, Topkapi and European Istanbul. And once in Asia, don’t be in a hurry to leave. Stroll for a while. In Asian Istanbul you will be far from the tourists and experience a pulsing vibrant city, different from European Istanbul, but no less fascinating.

See and learn more about Istanbul at:
http://theblacksea.wordpress.com
http://queenvictoria.wordpress.com

Photograph: The Bosporus from Topkapi Palace

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