On the way to Pakistan in January 2003, I stopped in Istanbul, Turkey for 3 days. I had always been fascinated by Istanbul because of its history and architecture. So, when I got the chance for a free stop-over while flying Turkish Airlines, I jumped on the opportunity.

On the way back from Pakistan, I stopped again in Istanbul in March 2003. This time it was for 5 days. The photos from this stay are of better quality than my first stay as I had better weather. However, I haven't had time to document the various places. Please see a slide-show of all the photos from this stay by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires - Christian and Islamic. 

Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. Its fate has been determined by its vital strategic location and enchanted natural beauty. It has long been coveted by powerful empires, and served as capital first to Byzantium and then to the Ottoman Empire. 
Istanbul stretches along the two shores of the Bosphorus that links the Sea of Marmara in the South with the Black Sea in the North. It is Turkey's largest city with a population of approximately 12 million.

Prompted by the oracle at Delphi, a man named Byzas established a town on the site of present-day Istanbul around 657 BC. Although conquered by Alexander the Great and eventually subsumed by the Roman Empire, Byzantium fared pretty well until it annoyed a Roman emperor by backing his rival in a civil war, and it was subsequently destroyed. A new city was erected in 330 AD, at first called New Rome but quickly re-christened Constantinople in deference to a new Roman emperor.

Constantinople was regarded as the capital of the Eurasian world, thanks in large part to its magnificent architecture - many of the Christian churches and palaces, as well as the impressive Hippodrome, are still visible today. Embellishments to the city continued as the Eastern Roman Empire grew in strength, reaching its peak in the time of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Over the next few centuries the city weathered attacks by the armies of the Islamic and Bulgarian empires, but the crusaders finally sacked it in 1204. The city was reclaimed by a rejuvenated Byzantine Empire 50 years later.

The fall of Constantinople occurred in 1453 when the Ottoman army of Sultan Mehmet II took the city. It was under the Ottomans that a classic mosque design was established and many other great buildings constructed in the city, which was soon renamed Istanbul.

 

I visited a dinner and folk dance show called "1001 Nights" at Sultana's restaurant, which included belly dancers.
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Pierre Loti, a well known French writer had a life-long love for Turkey, specially Istanbul. There is a cafe in Istanbul, where Loti used to enjoy the view of the Golden Horn. This cafe is now called Cafe Loti. Below are photos of Pierre Loti and views from Cafe Loti.

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I ran into a group of young italians while taking a tour of Istanbul
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A demonstration of Turkish double-knot, hand-woven carpets
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Some photos of the monuments on the Hippodrome
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I just liked the look of how this old, little structure was nestled in between the modern buildings
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Some scenes around Istanbul
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An old woman selling seeds to feed the pigeons outside the New Mosque
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Blue Mosque

Beylerbeyi Palace

Hagia Sophia

Bosphorus

Rumeli Fortress

Spice Market

Turkish Bath

Gifts and Crafts

Slide Show Istanbul March 2003

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