Bridging Cultures in Istanbul

After a long day of sightseeing, we rest our aching feet at a little cafe in the shadow of the Yeni Camii, the not so new ‘new mosque‘. This 16th century edifice drives home the point that ‘new’ is relative here!

Sipping Çay from little glass tumblers, set over saucers rimmed with gold, and watching resident Stamboulis going about their daily lives, we contemplate the tangled skein of cultures that is Istanbul. The journey, spanning over two millennia, from Byzantium, founded in 657 AD by Greek immigrants, to Constantinople, to Istanbul.

Constantinople in the middle ages was one of the world’s most powerful cities, dictating Christian religious doctrine, and presiding over the vast Eastern Roman empire that stretched across three continents. At its peak it is said, all roads led to Constantinople and not to Rome. Rather hard to imagine looking at the tourist crammed remnant of Divan Yolu, the thoroughfare that once connected the two cities!

The layers of history are still evident, everywhere, above and below ground and in its architectural masterpieces conceived by the genius of brilliant, artistic minds!

The old blends with the new. East, effortlessly with the West. One instant we are savouring the beauty of the multitude of minarets and the music of the muezzins call, and the next we are walking through cobbled streets between neoclassical mansions, reminiscent of Paris!

The Hijab and cutting edge fashion rub shoulders with ease, thanks in great part to a secular constitution (set up by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk and guaranteed by the army!) and the younger skewing demographics!

Where else can you hop from one continent to another for dinner, in under 20 minutes (by ferry boat) and for under 2 dollars? And on a waterway that is such an intrinsic part of the city, and yet, an international shipping lane?

The contrasts are striking and the layers manifold. And therein lies its charm, its mystique, despite decades of massive economic upheavals and an explosion of urban growth.

You have sampled the culinary delights of Istanbul with me. This gallery walks you through the iconic sights of this city that I have had the good fortune of visiting twice, and to which I would return in a heartbeat.

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”
~Alphonse de Lamartine

I is for Istanbul and this is my interpretation of Fizztext’s A -Z challenge.

Related articles:
The Culinary delights of Istanbul
A concert under a medieval tower
Weekly Photo Challenge – Blue

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