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Istanbul is the largest city in the Republic of Turkey and straddles the Bosphorus strait, which connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and separates Europe and Asia. The city has a population of some 14 million in a metropolitan area of roughly 2000 square miles, with roughly one third living on the Asian side. The city is transcontinental and in addition to the European and Asian mainland sides, the urban area includes the islands of the Marmara known as the Princes Islands. Istanbul is a major port and trade centre; economically, it is the most important city in Turkey and has a number of important universities, libraries and cultural institutions. Istanbul has much to offer the visitor, with an abundance of monuments and artefacts dating from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. The photos on this page are from a visit during the late 90's and a brief outline of the city follows.

Above:  The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles linking the walls of its interior. It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I and still very much in use today.

The historic part of the city is situated on a peninsula which, like Rome, is said to be characterized by seven hills. Here, each is topped by imperial mosques; the easternmost hill forms the site of the famous Topkapı Palace on the Sarayburnu promontory. Istanbul  is dominated both by the Golden Horn (a major urban waterway and the primary inlet of the Bosphorus) and the Bosphorus itself. The city is flanked by a high range of hills to the east of the Bosphorus and, in several areas, surrounded by forests. In winter, Istanbul is warm and wet and in summer, hot and dry. Warm Mediterranean winds blow in, countering cold fronts coming in from the Black Sea. The temperatures here vary moderately. depending on the time of day and season. Snow does fall over the city in winter, although only on average on 7 days per annum.

The original name of Istanbul was Byzantion (in the Greek language) and known as Byzantium in the Latin language. It was originally settled as a colony by Greeks from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king, Byzas. On the European side, they built an acropolis adjacent to the Golden Horn. Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in the year 73 CE. However,  later on, Byzantium declared an allegiance to side with the Roman usurper Pescennius Niger against the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus which left the city under siege for two years and by the time it surrendered at the end of 195 CE, the city was left heavily damaged by the Romans. Five years later, Emperor Septimius Severus began to rebuild the city and once again it became prosperous. In September 324, Constantine the Great effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire and he laid out plans for a new Christian city to replace Byzantium. He moved the capital of the Empire here from Rome and named it Nova Roma (New Rome). The city was then renamed Constantinople, after himself. The Roman Empire was later divided into two and the East Roman Empire was known as the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital. The city was captured by Crusaders for a time, though continued as one of the political, cultural, religious and economical centres of Europe. In 1453, the Turkish conquest of Istanbul by Mehmet II took place and the city became the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. In 1923, the Ottoman Empire dissolved and the Turkish Republic was founded. At this time, the city was renamed İstanbul, which was historically it's common name in normal speech in Turkish. Turkish politicians, including Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (whom was the first President and founder of the Republic of Turkey), decided to move their seat of government to the town of Ankara, in the heart of Anatolia. And so, today, despite Istanbul being the country's, economic, cultural, and historic centre, Ankara is the capital city. The Historic Areas of Istanbul are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Brief description of some of the photos in the thumbnail gallery above follows:

[1 & 2] The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque
[3] Hagia Sophia from Blue Mosque gate
[4-7] Hagia Sophia (from the Greek for Holy Wisdom). Construction of the current building was completed in 537. It is a former Greek Orthodox Christian church, was used as a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Romans (1204-1261), later became an imperial mosque under the  Ottoman rulers (1453-1931), and has been a museum since 1935.
[8] The Obelisk of Theodosius, an Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III which was re-erected by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD. It is located at Sultanahmet Meydanı (square) in Istanbul, which at the time of installation in the city was the Hippodrome of Constantinople. In the background and on the southern side of the square can be seen The Walled Obelisk, or Constantine Obelisk (original construction date unknown). It is named after Constantine VII, who repaired it in the tenth century.  
[10] Çırağan Palace sits on the European shore of the Bosphorus. Formerly an Ottoman palace, it now serves as a luxury hotel.    
[12] Rumelihisarı. The name means “Fortress in the land of the Romans” and it was built in 1452 under orders by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, famous as Mehmed the Conqueror or simply Mehmed II. It sits on the European side by the narrowest point of the Bosphorus channel,  just opposite another Ottoman fortress which was built about 60 years earlier and served as an observation post and safe point for a small number of Ottoman troops [Reference 3].  
[25] Dolmabahçe Palace sits on the European side of the Bosphorus strait and was the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922 (except for 1887–1909 when Yıldız Palace was used)  
[29-32] The Bosphorus Bridge, also called the First Bosphorus Bridge or simply the First Bridge, is one of two suspension bridges spanning the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul. Completed in 1973, it famously connects Europe with Asia. The bridge has a total length of 1,560 metres, or just under a mile. With a maximum span of 1,074 metres, at the time of its completion,  it had the fourth-longest suspension bridge span in the world.

References and Further Reading

1. Wikipedia here
2. UNESCO here
3. Rumelihisarı described on PST Travel Website here (n.b. this link is intended for reference purposes only)
4. Lonely Planet here

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