Some places are worthy of merit as touristic or residential areas, but some others are mesmerisingly special. Istanbul boosts hundreds of years of history, touching millions of people’s lives daily. Why do oceans of people decide to live here, you may ask.
For starters, it is the only city in the world that spreads across the Asian and European continents. These two continents are separated by the Bosphorus which links the Black sea and the Marmara sea. Istanbul was one of the most important trading port cities of the medieval world. In brief, the city was considered the region’s sole ruler owing to its geopolitical location.
If we travel back in the time, we can see that Istanbul has been the capital of four empires for more than sixteen centuries. Archaeological findings demonstrate the city’s past endurance of prehistoric ages as one of the oldest places in the world. It was first inaugurated in 324 AD as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great with a population of about forty thousand at that time. Following the division of the Roman empire into two, the Eastern side of the Empire turned into Byzantine while the Western side collapsed. The city’s population had now grown ten times higher to about four hundred thousand people. The city was later on plundered by the Crusaders who established the Latin Empire. This led to a decline in population to about one hundred fifty thousand people. The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 was a turning point in the city’s rise.
Despite the fact that Istanbul is no longer a capital, it remains the centre of Turkey in terms of industry, tourism, trade, transportation, education, culture and art. Because of its level of development, Istanbul is always the first choice for Turkish people when it comes to settling. this dates back to the early 1960s when mass migrations were notable from rural Anatolia to Istanbul thus causing a major contrast in the city’s population. A city that had housed about one million people in the 1950s was now home to around two million people at the end of the 1970s. The city’s population kept on gradually increasing over the years, for example in 1990, a population of about 6.5 million increased to 12.5 million in 2009 and later on 14 million in 2014. Today Istanbul is said to be home to more than 16 million people.
When one first arrives in Istanbul, he/she wonders how crowded and noisy the city is. This is however not of utmost importance. Just like during new encounters, prejudgement is not advisable and this goes for new places and cities too. Always strive to know both sides of the coin before making any major decisions because Istanbul is quite captivating through its many wonders. Take a deep breathe of the sea, walk along the Galata bridge while gazing at the fishermen and sunny clear sky. At that moment, you would rather not be anywhere else in the world. A delicious savoury taste of fish in bread awaits at the end of the Eminönü bridge. Experience a taste of paradise by taking a tour of the Bosphorus and don’t forget to take some bagels for the seagulls. The next step should be a visit to the Kanlıca quarter which is famous for its yoghurt. Here, the yoghurt is generally eaten with caster sugar while enjoying the Bosphorus view. By looking at the sea, you may crave some sea food. The Beyoğlu fish bazaar offers a range of them including tasty stuffed mussels. In the case that one is not fully content, he/she can supplement these with the famous meatballs at Sirkeci. A visit to Ortaköy will give you the taste of one of the most famous street foods in Istanbul, Kumpir (a baked potato filled with various side dishes). As an escape from the hectic city, Sarıyer is where blue meets green. One can enjoy some of the most delicious börek in Istanbul over the cool breeze from the Bosphorus. The well-known Boza of Vefa in the Fatih district is a worthy experience too especially on a cold winter night.
However, food is not the only attraction of this city. Nonetheless, while trying to find these delicious foods and drinks, one will definitely be surprised by the many beauties of Istanbul detailed in books by Nazim Hikmet, Bedri Rahmi or Orhan Pamuk. If you read them, you will understand, but the feeling only comes after a visit of these places. The trip starts with travelling through history in Çukurcuma in Beyoğlu where Orhan Pamuk’s museum of Innocence stands. The haunted mansion on the Bosphorus will take you through to Yusuf Ziya’s time during the weekdays and to a contemporary art scene in Istanbul during the weekends. A bit weird right? Board a ferry to the Prince’s Islands to see the short story master Sait Faik’s home, this is very exciting for those who have read his stories about Istanbul. The story is quite vivid and completes one’s views of Istanbul just like a puzzle.
Satisfied with the history and art fascination, time to look at modern Istanbul. A daily part of life is trying to have fun for example through music to relieve from life’s tensions. Istanbul is a sleepless city that offers a hub of both fun and entertaining places, especially in the Beyoğlu district which is the centre of nightlife in Istanbul. The city is also notable for hosting the most prestigious concerts and festivals in Turkey. Not only is it famous for music festivals like the Istanbul Jazz Festival or the Istanbul music Festival, it also hosts international festivals such as Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul Film Festival, Istanbul Theatre Festival and the Istanbul Coffee Festival among others.
All in all, Istanbul is a fascinating city to live in. Not only because the ticket price for travelling from Europe to Asia is less than two Euros, but the city’s energy and dynamism coupled with the colourful daily life makes one fall in love with Istanbul. Upon living in Istanbul, its becomes extremely hard to live in another city. A case in point, you may find the other city to be either too small or boring as compared to Istanbul. You will definitely find so many reasons to come back to Istanbul like life in that other city is too slow, tiring or even too empty. Which is why you may wonder why Istanbul is so crowded upon coming to this beautiful haven. Napoleon summed it up in the following words “If earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”
Photo Credits: Pi István Tóth