Istanbul, a city where two continents meet

  • Published
  • By Commentary by Tanju Varlıklı
  • 425th Air Base Squadron

For the members of the Izmir community, there are great ancient sites and summer resorts to visit in the Aegean Region during the weekends. Another great place to visit and discover, beside the Aegean Region is the Marmara Region. If you take the time to discover the old city of Istanbul you will find that it is full of history in almost every corner, and it will be an experience you will never forget. Discover Istanbul, the only city of the world which meets two continents -- Europe and Asia.

Begin your tour in Istanbul with the Sultanahmet district, the heart of old Istanbul, at Saint Sophia. Its massive dome dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is world-famous for its mosaics, including fabulous portraits of emperors and empresses. The Saint Sophia is open for visit every day except for Mondays. Your next stop, the Grand Bazaar, which was once the commercial heart of the old city, is full of thousands of shops – including carpets and kilims, leather goods, ceramics, jewelry, and souvenirs. While wandering through the Grand Bazaar, you will discover a lot more about the city itself, the country and its people. While cruising to Sarıyer along the European shore of the strait, before cruising down the Bosporus, you will pass through the charming Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı. Do not forget to visit the 17th century legendary Spice Bazaar if you ever go on an afternoon Bosphorus Cruise. After cruising down the Bosphorus, you will have the chance to visit the legendary Spice Bazaar. While wandering in the Spice Bazaar, you will be amazed with the crowd you see just like you would in the Grand Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar is open every day except for Sundays.

At another important spot along İstiklal Street, there are many different shops. You will see pubs, cafeterias, restaurants and hotels on this famous street.

Don’t be surprised if you see popular American restaurants and coffee shops while walking.  In addition, there are cable cars running in the middle of the street taking you down to the end of İstiklal Street, which starts from the city center ‘Taksim Square’. 

Down at the end of the İstiklal Street, you will see the Galata Tower right in front of you just like a landmark.

Galata Tower, the oldest and most beautiful tower of Istanbul, which once was a fire tower and jail, is another interesting stop to visit. Three blocks away from the Galata Tower while climbing up the İstiklal Street from the narrow streets, on Meşrutiyet Caddesi, Tepebaşı, will you come across another fascinating stop: Pera Palas Hotel, a historic hotel, which was originally constructed as a guest-house for the passengers of Orient-Express in 1892. This hotel was one of the most luxurious hotels of its era. Many important personalities including Mustafa Kemal  Atatürk, novelist Agatha Christie, actresses Zza Zza Gabor, Jacquline Kennedy Onasis and Greta Garbo, Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, spy Mata Hari and other kings, queens, statesmen have stayed in this hotel. 

Agatha Christie, the best known of all the mystery writers, vanished for eleven days in 1926, when she stayed at this hotel in room 411, where she planned her novel, “Murder on the Orient Express”.

On March 7, 1979, with the cooperation of psychic Tamara Rand and the Warner Brothers Film Company, an old key was found beneath the doorsill of 411. Now kept in a safe deposit box, it is believed that this key shall one day unlock the mystery of the eleven days. 

Though it takes years to fully discover Istanbul, make the most of it by visiting a few of the historic sites mentioned which will be an experience that you’ll never forget. 

It is worthwhile to note that this famous hotel is within walking distance from Taksim Square (the city center), a quarter of an hour’s drive from the major historical sites (including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapı Palace and the Grand Bazar), and less than half an hour’s drive from the airport.