A figurehead of cultural prowess, I bring you to the heart stopping city of Istanbul, likened to London and Paris in the league of great forward thinking cities making strides in the modern world. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, located on the far West of the country near the border with Greece and Bulgaria. For those planning on visiting the area you may be pleased to know that the city is almost as far from Syria as you can go without leaving Turkey, with the landscape likened to that of the nearby island of Cyprus and the attitude to match, with little involvement in the turbulent happenings to the East.
Istanbul has a superb location, is it in Europe or is it in Asia? The answer is both, unlike any other city worldwide Istanbul has spilled over the Blue Ribbon of the Bosphorus Strait that separates the two continents.
With a population of over 15 million, this vast city has a little bit of everything; founded by the neighboring Greeks in the seventh century BC the old quarter still holds the original architectural designs sporting a skyline of domes and towers, where you can walk the cobble stone streets between old wooden houses. Mere minutes away you can enter the more modern districts said to resemble the modern life of Manhattan, with high street stores and illuminated cocktail bars a great slice of the international stock exchange can be traced through Istanbul.
The historical value of Istanbul is fascinating, in the fourth century AD it became known as Constantinople, which was the capital of the Christian World serving as gateway blocking the Islamic warriors from entering the Western World, holding this position for several centuries the walls finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The old quarter of the city is still littered with relics and monuments to this time, ranging from street corner plaques to the towering Byzantine Church of Holy Wisdom and the Topkapi Palace.
The climate can be a little humid to the point that the locals make a mass pilgrimage to the cooler quieter areas surrounding the city and Mediterranean resorts through the months of July and August, with rising heat many would avoid the area but if you would like to experience a quieter city this is the perfect window. So if you were hoping to spend your holiday browsing spectacular palaces, stunning museums and drinking cold cocktails on rooftop bars, Istanbul is the place but pick your months carefully.
Jack Van Toorn