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İstanbul

Istanbul is truly a world city, a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It is an enchanting blend of Eastern and Western culture, a vibrant, modern city, with a unique identity. Its rich past coexists alongside its youthful exuberance. Although no longer the capital of Turkey, Istanbul still remains the country's cultural and business centre. It is a city of contrasts, bustling with the cacophony of 21st century life, and is yet achingly beautiful. It is set in a stunning location, surrounded by water, which is the narrow strait of the Bosphorus and the serene sea of Marmara separating Europe from Asia. İstanbul has a foot in each, celebrating the best of both heritages. As Byzantium, Constantinople and finally, İstanbul, it has been the capital of three Empires, each leaving their mark in the form of stunning palaces, castles, mosques, churches and monuments. The legacy of its chequered past can be seen on every turn of the modern city.

The layout of İstanbul can seem confusing at first. The Bosphorus divides the city into the European and Asian sides, linked by two magnificient bridges, spanning the continents, the first of which was opened in 1973 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Republic. Most visitors to the city, staying for a few days, will have little reason to visit the Asian side, except for as part of a Bosphorus tour, on a boat which zigzags from side to side, to take in the best of each.

The European side, however, is also divided in two by the Golden Horn or Haliç, which roughly divides the historic part of old İstanbul, encompassing the areas of, Sultanahmet and Laleli, from the modern city. It is crossed by a number of bridges, the most famous of which is the pontoon, the Galata Bridge. Most visitors on short city breaks stay in the old town as the vast majority of the sites which they will be visiting are in this area. İstanbul's most famous sites - The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Cami, Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), Topkapı Sarayı (Palace) and the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) - are all within a 30 minute walk of each other. It is easy to get around on foot or by making use of the tram, which provides a regular service on the pedestrianised main street. In terms of accommodation, there are now a number of characterful boutique hotels in the area of Sultanahmet, many of which are restored Ottoman wooden mansions. These are ideal for those who really want to savour the authentic atmosphere of the Old Town. Those on a budget, may want to consider the more modern, and competitively priced hotels of the Laleli district, although this area is much busier. Although it is convenient, the disadvantage of staying in the Old Town, is that, since it is not a residential area, you don't really benefit from the ambience of the modern city of İstanbul, with its excellent restaurants, lively bars, and cosmopolitan feel. Some of İstanbul's finest, most luxurious hotels are located on the Bosphorus with stunning views over the straits, or in the modern business districts. There are also some historic establishments in the area known as Pera, which blossomed at the turn of the last century. The heart of modern İstanbul, is Taksim Square and the streets around. The advantage of staying here is that in the evenings you have a wealth of restaurants and relaxed bars within an easy walk of your hotel.

Wherever you choose to stay, it doesn't take much to make the most of the city, and even three days will give you the opportunity to see the highlights. It is such a large city, however, that even if you visit time and time again, you can still discover something new each time. It is easy to get around. There are a couple of handy trams - one in the old town, and the other in the main shopping street in Pera, İstiklal Caddesi. Taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap and there are also dolmush and bus services for those who really want to explore. Most tour operators can arrange tours to see the main sights.

HAGIA SOPHIA

This is absolutely the most important building not only in Turkey but also in the world. The size and the architecture of the building, when compared with its coevals, shows the importance. Building in 5 years at that size of building is still like a utopian dream but they did and nearly with the same size of Duomo Cathedral that was built after nearly 1000 years later. However, Hagia Sophia is still the fourth biggest Cathedral in the world. It is the first rectangular building with dome. Hagia Sophia has too many important stories. From Guardian Angel to the Islamic figure of Hizir, this huge old temple hosts many legends. It has seen two Great Empires’ rise and fall, has been a witness to many special moments of great happiness or bitter grieves. Moreover, it must be one of the biggest temples to build as a compensation of a crime. Justinian killed his own citizens as a result of Nika revolt. Right after this bloody shame, Justinian ordered Hagia Sophia to gain power and support from his citizens instead of their hatred.

Hagia Sophia served as the Imperial Cathedral during Byzantine Times and at the same day Constantinople fell , it started to serve Ottoman Empire as their first Imperial Mosque. In 1935, Ataturk converted this place into a Museum as it is a gift to all people. Today, Hagia Sophia stands in old city of Istanbul with all its magnificence. Its famous dome, gold gilded mosaics, divine hugeness and energy attracts many people all over the world.

SULEYMANİYE MOSQUE ISTANBUL

İt is absolutely the best Ottoman Mosque in the city representing the classic Ottoman Art built in 16th century. Dance of the domes, delicate figures of the minarets and the calm in the decoration represent us the owner of mosque, Suleiman the Magnificent (Kanuni Sultan Suleyman in Turkish). Noble, brave, righteous and full with love of a very dangerous lady, Hurrem Sultan. Suleiman the Magnificent has a great mysterious similarity to Justinian of Hagia Sophia. First, both of them had great temples dominating Istanbul silhouette. Both men loved one lady even they had the right to choose many more and both ladies were femme fatal and eager. Both men expand their kingdom’s border but at the same time they started the end.

Mosque dominates the old city’s sky with Hagia Sophia. The architecture, Mimar Sinan, the genius of Ottoman Architecture, used his great skill to build such a fascinating building on the side of the hill. Mosque is located in the center and surrounded with some public buildings such as, Hospital, Soup kitchen, Dormitory, Turkish Bath, Library and school. Today, all parts are still functioning.

TOPKAPİ PALACE

Biggest Ottoman building complex, Topkapi Palace stands on the first hill of the Constantinople, had been a home for Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years and the remnants of old glory are waiting to be seen. 86 carat diamond, dark green emeralds, solid gold thrown, golden cradle and many more treasure are exhibited in the palace as well as Sultan’s dresses including special design inner clothes as talisman, Sultan portraits & Miniatures, Kitchen materials, weapons, porcelain collection and gifts.

Topkapi Palace consists of many different buildings that were built in different periods and the oldest section is the Cinili Kosk (tiled pavilion) which is a part Archeological Museum now.

Harem moved to main palace in 16th century with Hurrem Sultan’s special request. Before then, Harem was apart from Ottoman Palaces. Today you can visit this enigmatic corridors and pavilions. Since we have very limited information about Harem life, you can only imagine how was the life in this Golden Cage ruled by Big Mother, so called Valide Sultan who is the mother of Ottoman Sultan.

DOLMABAHCE PALACE ISTANBUL

Ottoman Empire lost its vision after 17th century and this was the begging of their end. By the end of the 18th century, Ottoman Sultan and Statesmen tried to catch the century and import foreigner teacher for their children’s education. As a result, a new generation Ottoman’s grown up with new ideas about social life as well as architecture. Art Nouveau, Baroque, Neo – Classic are some of the new art-concept for the Istanbul’s new building.

At the same period, Ottoman Imperial Architect was Armenian “Balyan” dynasty who have been the Imperial architects for five generations and after Mimar Sinan from 16th century, they shaped the Ottoman Art with their European-style palaces, mosques and houses.

Two members of this family, Garabet and Nikogos Balyan built Dolmabahce Palace and even today, it is a special art concept which is mesmerizing with the details as well as the items they used. Baccarat and Bohemian Crystal chandeliers or candleholders, Limoges porcelain fireplaces, Hereke carpets… Especially Crystal staircases are one of the most attractive parts of the Palace, as well as Ball room and great Chandelier. Sultan’s alabaster Turkish Bath is another favorite place with its delicate decorations.

BASILICA (UNDERGROUND) CISTERN (YEREBATAN)

Water was the main problem in Istanbul and they needed water to use in unfortunate days. Cisterns was born with this idea and Underground Cistern is the biggest and the most adorned one.

GRAND BAZAAR AND SPICE MARKET

Bazaars are the living parts of the Ottoman tradition and outside life. These two samples are the bests in Turkey with their way and locations.

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