When we talk about Turkey as a country, things that generally strike us are “Turkish Bath”, “Turkish Towel” and “Turkish Delight”, which is a candy made of starch and sugar. All are available in Istanbul, but the nation’s principal city has much more to offer.
With more than 2500 years of history behind it, this ancient settlement uniquely stands astride two continents – Asia and Europe. It was founded by the Greeks in the 5th century BC as Byzantium, renamed Constantinople 800 years later by The Roman Emperor Constantine and finally titled Istanbul by the 15th century Ottoman Sultans.
Edging on the shores of turquoise blue Bosphorus with its majestic skyline dominated by palace domes, mosque minarets, church spires and regal monuments, Istanbul is reputed to charm anyone who lands on its soil. It is an ensemble of marvels, all of which can’t be captured in one visit. We can, however, get a feel of the place by visiting the “10” listed below.
1. Blue Mosque
Like Taj Mahal is to India and Great Wall to China, the 1650 built Blue Mosque in Istanbul holds similar status in Turkey. The exterior of this 400-year-old shrine has no pinch of blue at all; the name comes from its 20,000 odd hand-made ceramic blue tiles that gracefully decorate the inside. With 6 minarets and 8 domes, it stands within a spacious courtyard as a great sample of Islamic architecture from the classical period.
2. Süleymaniye Mosque
Istanbul can be easily termed as “City of Mosques”. You can see one almost in every corner. All of them are architecturally impressive and demand notice, however apart from Blue Mosque the other that comes up in most visitors itinerary is the Süleymaniye Mosque. It’s the city’s largest and considered as the greatest achievement of famous 16th century Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
3. Topkapi Palace
Residence of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years, Topkapi Palace is not a single edifice but a band of many, like the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, all dotted on an expansive garden-courtyard. Many ancient buildings have been restored and converted to museums that display Ottoman memorabilia from their precious jewels and royal clothing to sturdy swords that have beheaded the challengers. However most interesting in the precinct is the harem quarter where Sultan’s numerous wives and mistresses used to live.
4. Dolmabahce Palace
When Topkapi Palace was abandoned in the mid 19th century, Dolmabahce Palace became the royal quarter. Edged on the Bosphorus with a 600m waterside frontage, this grand-white edifice impresses visitors with its excessive display of ostentatious wealth. One good example of that continued…