21/12/2013

TURKEY HOLIDAYS : ISTANBUL

Istanbul,one of the world's most magical and evocative cities,viewed by the West as the gateway to the East with all itstantalizing promise, Istanbul is the only city to stand astride two continents. Europe is separated from Asia by the hilly straits of the Bogazici (Bosporus), and parts of theEuropean city are separated by the inlet of the Halic (Golden Horn), one of the world's most sheltered harbours.This abundance of water is Istanbul s other special charm.It has been the capital of three world empires - the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman - and has borne three names: Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul. For nearly 1,000 years, it was the most important city in the Western and near-Eastern worlds.

Political power moved to Ankara in 1923, along with all the government ministries and embassies, leaving Istanbul for the first time in 16 centuries without the status of capital of an empire. But for all that,Istanbul remains Turkey’s cultural and commercial capital, generating some 40 per cent of its gross national product.
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The city has doubled its population every 15 years since 1950 because of immigration from the countryside. The 2005 census revealed a population in excess of 12 million people. Its infrastructure, not surprisingly, has been unable to keep pace, and there is terrific pressure on roads and services. There are many sprawling dormitory suburbs, unplanned and unsightly, though the average visitor will remain blissfully unaware of them. Landmarks Some parts of the city have excellent landmarks and so help orient the visitor. Ayasofya Camii and Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) Ayasofya has four minarets and the Blue Mosque has six, the obvious difference when viewed from a distance. The whole precinct from Ayasofya to the Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) and from Ayasofya to the Blue Mosque is pedestrianized, and makes pleasant strolling, especially since the addition of carefully landscaped gardens. Apart from these three great m o n um en ts, this hub of the city has many smaller places of interest. In front of the Blue Mosque is the Hippodromie’ which was the ancient sports and civil  centre of Byzantium. Chariot races a | circuses were held here, and the capacity has been estimated at 1000 spectators.

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