Istanbul - Istanbul guide, attractions and pictures
is a city of superb Byzantine architecture and works of art, labyrinth streets, grand mosques, palaces, hamams, and a Grand Bazaar
. Visitors can stroll around the myriad of taverns, try the narghileh, enjoy a Sunday picnic, or visit a breath-taking number of historical and cultural landmarks. Istanbul offers mystique, charm, and a wealth of historic treasures. Istanbul is situated on the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean. Istanbul has been a valuable centre of trade since the Byzantine era because of its strategic position.
The first settlements of the Istanbul area occurred during the Copper Age. The city of Byzantion was founded at the site of an ancient Thracian settlement in 667 BC. In 196 AD, the city suffered serious damages inflicted by the Romans. Severus rebuilt the city and restored its previous wellbeing. Upon the partition of the Roman Empire, Istanbul, under the name Constantinople, became the capitol of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade of 1204, Istanbul became the seat of the Latin Empire. Between 1451 and 1453, sultan Mehmet II marshaled to the city and destroyed its defense walls. Mehmet the Conqueror proceeded to rebuild and rejuvenate the city. Until 1566, the city experienced a boom in the construction of buildings and mosques as well as in the fields of calligraphy, ceramics, and miniature. Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey
in 1923 and moved the capital to the city of Ankara
. The 1940s and 1950s witnessed a real improvement of the cityscape in view of the large scale construction of avenues, boulevards, and public squares.
Istanbul enchants the visitors with an extensive array of cultural and historic landmarks. Hagia Sophia
(Aya Sophia), formerly a patriarchal basilica and a mosque, is now a functioning museum. The building was known as the largest cathedral of the world for nearly one millennium. Built by Sultan Ahmet I, the Blue Mosque
boosts six minarets and the largest courtyard of all mosques from the Ottoman period. The interior has Iznik tiles and stained glass windows, originally imported from Venice
. The Great Palace Mosaics Museum displays a Byzantine mosaic pavement that portrays Emperors` hunts and mythological scenes. This pavement had been a part of the triumphal road from the Great Palace to the South. The former hippodrome is presently called the Sultan Ahmet Square. Accidental excavations of 1993 uncovered several columns and rows of seats, belonging to the former hippodrome. They are currently displayed around the museums of the city. Finally, Istanbul is famous for its busy Grand Bazaar. The covered market is among the largest and oldest covered bazaars around the world.
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