Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

Short City Breaks - Istanbul, Turkey
By:Sylvia Arad

Spanning Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a tale of two cities: A vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis that meshes European modernity with the ambience, flavors and smells of the nearby Middle East.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Istanbul's Pera district, which for centuries was the abode of foreign embassies. Its main attraction for visitors and Istanbullus alike is the great pedestrianized shopping boulevard of Istiklal Caddesi, with its lovely shops, cafes and bars lining the streets. Intermingled with European flair, there is an authentic feel here, with old men selling chestnuts from braziers, people sipping coffee in cafes and Turkish music echoing from windows above. The neighboring streets are redolent of "Old Stamboul" with their steep, cobbled streets, hidden workshops and the call of the muezzin to prayer.

The north end of Istiklal is anchored by the massive Taksim square, from where an antique tram covers part of the route. Alternatively, coming up from the more popular Sultanhammet district, the Tunel, an underground train dating back to Victorian times, will take you up the hilly area. The Tunel stations at both ends are works of Turkish art, with blue tiles covering the walls. Walking down the hilly slope from Istiklal Cadessi, the Galata Tower, a tall cylindrical tower built by the Genoese in the 14th century, is the most eye-catching structure on the Istanbul skyline, with the best views of the city observed from the walkway just below its conical roof.

Sultanahmmet houses Istanbul's greatest monuments - the Blue Mosque, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in the world; the remains of the ancient hippodrome, were charioteers raced to the cheers of the crowds; the Aya Sophia, originally built by the Emperor Justinian as a great church, later turned mosque and today a secular museum; the Topkapi Palace, home to the infamous sultans of the Ottoman Empire; and the Grand Bazaar, the oldest " shopping mall" in the world and a not-to-be-missed experience.

Istanbul's most important attribute, the sea, cuts the city into 3 sections, the most important of these being the peninsula housing Topkapi Palace and the Sultanhammet (Blue) Mosque. Further north, is the "Golden Horn", a section of water flowing into the Bosphorus and crossed by the Galata Bridge. Still on the European side across the bridge is hilly Beyoglu, where Turkish mansions line its hills. The sea divides the European and Asian section, reachable by ferries, where nearly half the city is located.

Istanbul draws its strength from the sea and a trip here is incomplete without a cruise on the Bosphorus. From the water views, you get a different sense of the city - the domed mosques and minarets of Sultanhammet, with glimpses of the Topkapi Palace peeking between the trees; The Istanbul skyline with the Galata and Taksim towers soaring above, and the very conspicuous, Versailles-on-the-Sea-like Dolmahbace Palace, where Turkey's sultans "modernized" in the 19th century by moving here and where the great modernizer, Ataturk died in 1938. Cruising the Bosphorus is truly one of Istanbul's highlights.

Istanbul is a city rich in history, ambience, architecture and culture, a city with an exotic, imperial air where the ghosts of yesteryear inhabit every corner, yet the 21st century stands proudly. It is a city for adventurers and full of adventure.

I'm a trip consultant, planner and manager who loves creating unique intercultural adventures for families. I want to impart information,tips and personal experiences especially related to family adventure travel.
http://www.familyadventuretravelworks.com
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