Anyone who has walked around the upper platform of Istanbul’s Galata Tower will notice history in the city’s skyline. Instead of the boxy skyscrapers and glass buildings we’re used to in America’s big cities, Istanbul’s pointed mosque minarets and jagged palace walls give the city a creatively pure look. Every day, the Bosphorus shines a bright blue, shaping a stunning scene against the red tile roofs and typically clear sky of this bi-continental city.
The Bosphorus divides the city between Europe and Asia, and anyone can take a ferry or bus trip between the two sides for about $1 or $2 each way. As an American, I would normally find this type of travel unthinkable. Travel leisurely between two continents? It seems it should be more difficult than just a 15-minute leisurely ride. As my friend Jessica stated quite simply on our ferry ride to Asia, “we’re sailing down the middle of two continents right now.”
What a wonderful, unique experience to have ventured in a lifetime.
The Turkish food is both delicious and cheap, even for the traveling vegetarian. Servers bring a side of bread with every restaurant meal, including breakfast, and no one – locals and tourists alike – can seem to drink enough tea. I have been part of this crowd, sipping local tea (pronounced “chai” in Turkish) out of the petite glasses every chance I get. And they are glasses too – typically a curvy glass cup with a handle. I found my favorite dining place to be anywhere along the Bosphorus, shoveling bread into my mouth while sipping tea and staring across the water at another continent.
Everything I see seems unfathomably old. We have walked through mosques built in the early 1100s and looked at jewelry and other prized possessions from the mid-500s. We have ruins of old Pueblo settlements in the Western United States that date back to 750. What is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited site in the U.S. was built between 1000-1200. Besides this…unless one makes a special trip to these very specific, somewhat secluded areas…our earliest buildings date only to the early 1600s (mid-1500s if you count Puerto Rico).
Istanbul radiates the under-appreciated history we learned about in eighth grade social studies classes – Constantinople, ancient Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, sultans, palaces…If only I could remember all that knowledge as I walk amongst these old, beautifully designed, hand-crafted walls.
Of course, Istanbul beams beauty in all sorts of ways. These are just a few things I found to be especially spectacular.