Istanbul, Turkey – I used to think of this place as a remote ancient city basically full of ruins and artifacts; much like the early Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Persia (Iran). But, out with the old and in with the new thinking, as they say; and with my interest boosted by Turkey-inspired television programs such as “The Romantic-Istanbul”, I venture to Istanbul expecting to see a bounty in its historical reserves, but not much on the technological frontier. How grossly mistaken I was.
Of course, Istanbul truly has a rich past and it is clearly evident in its collection of beautifully preserved old monuments and buildings, surviving centuries of time. However, when I arrived in the city, I discovered that it has so much more to offer than just its gorgeous history, it also boasts cutting edge modern designs in new buildings and infrastructures.
The Bosphorus Strait
The Bosphorus Strait is the world’s narrowest strait that forms part of the boundary of Europe and Asia. It is used for international navigation. I found out why it was called the narrowest strait. You can actually see Asia over the horizon that it felt like the two continents were just a couple of feet apart. Riding on a sea bus across the strait was an awesome but also somehow terrifying experience, as all kinds of ships cross the strait to and from any direction. The Bosphorus bridge, Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge, the Dolmabache palace, the Hagia Sophia, the entranceway lighthouses of Rumelii Feneri, and Anadolu Feneri are just some of the sights I saw when I crossed the strait.
The Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia has undergone quite a lot of changes over time. It was originally built as an Orthodox Catholic Cathedral during the Byzantine Empire. It was later used as a Roman Catholic Cathedral under the Latin Empire. Then, when the Ottoman Turks invaded Constantinople (now Istanbul), they converted the Hagia Sophia into a Muslim mosque. Nowadays, the Hagia Sophia is a museum for people to visit.
Setting foot inside this magnificent building was a sacred experience. Its beauty and majesty is undeniable. I could clearly see the traces of its many transformations, from a church to a mosque and then to a museum. The Hagia Sophia’s past is etched in its ceilings, walls and floors.
A number of magnificent structures line up the waterfront of Istanbul. These structures are called yali residences. A yali refers to houses and mansions built along the waterfront. They create a border along the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus Strait. The designs of these buildings were very inspiring to look at. Living in a coastal area myself, I appreciated how the people there incorporated the waterway into the design of their houses.
Istanbul offers not only its history, but also its modern lifestyle. Magnificent shopping malls like the Kanyon Shopping Mall showcase innovative design concepts, incorporating the contour of Istanbul in the building’s structure. The future of the Bosphorus Strait is manifested in the Eurasia Tunnel, a road tunnel under the Bosphorus strait. It is said to be finished in 2017, and would be connecting Asia and Europe.
There was this place near Istanbul that really caught my attention. It’s called Cappadocia. The geography of this area is a wonder on its own. It consists of many high plateaus reaching 1000m in height. Cappadocia has been featured in many Hollywood movies such as, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Its attractions include the hot air balloon ride which takes a person to the sky and gives a bird’s eye view of the scenic beauty of Cappadocia. It takes one hour and 15-20 minutes by plane, and 4-5 hours by shuttle vans to reach Cappadocia from Istanbul.
Istanbul is an existing contrast between the old and the new; and between the past, present, and the future. I did not expect it to be so, but I was pleasantly blown away by its beautiful diversities.
Photo by erous on Flickr