ISTANBUL FROM A BIRD'S EYE VIEW
The seas and the lands created, with a great harmony, the geography of Istanbul like a work in lace, which divides naturally into four regions: the old town and Galata on the opposite shores of the Golden Horn, and the two sides of the Bosphorus. What used to be small individual villages on the Bosphorus are now united to form a whole. The inhabited areas stretching along the shores of the Marmara, the smallest sea on earth, indicate the vast dimensions the city has now attained.
The Old Town is spread on the seven hills of a triangular promontory encircled by 22 km of city walls. This is the historical settlement that at different times has been called Byzantium, New or Second Rome, Constantinopolis or simply "Polis" (The City). The walls along the Marmara and the Golden Horn were mostly destroyed over the ages, but the main walls on the landward side are still standing in relatively good condition.
The Old Town is spread on the seven hills of a triangular promontory encircled by 22 km of city walls. This is the historical settlement that at different times has been called Byzantium, New or Second Rome, Constantinopolis or simply "Polis" (The City). The walls along the Marmara and the Golden Horn were mostly destroyed over the ages, but the main walls on the landward side are still standing in relatively good condition. The wide western side of the triangular peninsula is bound by the land walls, the other 2 sides by the sea walls. The walls and embankments of the Topkapi Palace form the apex to the east. The latter is situated on the first of the seven hills, which is the widest and longest. The Topkapı Palace is an imposing complex surrounded by walls, like a city within a city, and it is now a museum in which extremely valuable and important works are displayed. Hagia Eirene, the incomparable venue of festival events, and the Istanbul Archeological Museum, unique among its peers, are located in the first courtyard of the palace. One of the eighth wonders of the world, Hagia Sophia Museum, Sultan Ahmet (the Blue) Mosque whose beauties merit its fame, the Roman Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern are also to be found on the plateau of the first hill.
The second hill houses the oldest and largest covered bazaar, Nuruosmaniye Mosque, and Çemberlitaş (the Column of C ons tan tine), a gift to the city when it became the capital of the Roman Empire.
The Suleymaniye Mosque and the Fatih Mosque rise, respectively, on the third and fourth hills, and a Roman aqueduct stretch between the two hills. Şehzade Mosque and the Municipality Building are also here. The gigantic open Roman cisterns that used to supply water to the city are located on the other higher hills. Sultan Selim Mosque is situated on the fifth hill and the Kariye Museum on the slope of the sixth hill. The present-day roads start from Hagia Sophia square, pass over the ridges of these hills, and fork to reach the different city gates, all following the former Roman routes.
The land walls with three-course battlements that form the western boundary are splendid examples of Roman military architecture. The walls run down to the Golden Horn in Eyüp in the north. Eyüp Sultan Mosque, which gives the district its name, is identified as the first mosque constructed in the city.
The Golden Horn is a narrow inlet, 8 km long and shaped like a horn. The best point to watch the incomparable silhouette of Istanbul is from the sea, aboard the ships that sail from the Asian side or from the entrance to the Golden Horn.
The polluted waters of the Golden Horn have been treated, and some of its original fish population has now returned, Surrounded by the parks and gardens around the Golden Horn, they await the day when the dockyards will be removed from these waters. The Orthodox Patriarchate and the small, charming Bulgarian Church are now connected to the opposite shore with the old Galata Bridge which was relocated to this area. The new museum of the Koç family in this district exhibits various interesting objects.
The Galata region and the adjoining Pera present a view that is quite different from the old town. This district, symbolized by the Galata tower and ascending slowly up the hill toward Beyoğlu, retains its original appearance, the legacy of its 19th century European-influenced architecture.
Here is the second oldest underground railway in Europe, the Tunnel, which is still the shortest in the world. The upper end of the Tunnel marks the beginning of Istiklal Avenue. This is a pedestrian street, except for the old-fashioned tramways that have again been put into service, and it is surrounded by the buildings of foreign missions - former embassies that were converted into consulates in the Republican era.
The Museum of Divan Literature at the Tunnel end of the avenue is housed in a beautiful building that was a Mevlevi Tekke (Dervish monastery) (18th cent.). Halfway on the avenue there is the well-known Galatasaray High School, and across the street the Flower Market with its colorful and charming restaurants and fish and vegetable stands. Cinemas, theaters, cafes, restaurants and bars line the avenue up to Taksim square. The avenue has recovered today its former dazzling, lively, crowded days and nights. A striking monument depicting the national liberation war of the Turks, Ataturk and his friends adorns Taksim square. Beneath the square is the main terminal of the new metro system, and the northern side is occupied by the Atatürk Cultural Center.
The 5-star Hyatt and Intercontinental hotels are located in Taksim Park, and the Istanbul Hilton is nearby. Hilton was the first hotel of this class built in Turkey (1955), and it is still the most famous and the best.
The Radio House, Istanbul Military Museum which is one of the wealthiest museums of this type, Lütfü Kırdar Congress Palace and the Amphitheater are also in this area. To the north, there are the lively Nışantası and Şişli districts with their small boutiques and numerous painting and art galleries. Further to the north, in Etiler, Akmerkez presents new and varied shopping opportunities. The tall buildings constructed in this area have changed the skyline of the city.
It is an unequaled pleasure to stand on the new Galata Bridge and to watch the majestic and impressive view of Süleymaniye Mosque, one of the most beautiful monumental works in the history of architecture. Across the bridge are the Valide Mosque and Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Market). The market, which was originally reserved for spice merchants, is the second largest and liveliest locality in the city with 100 shops.
Alongside the traditional spices and herbs shops, there are now others dealing in various commodities and dried fruits, and outside the building there are fish, fruit and flower vendors. Regular boat trips run to the Asian shores, Üsküdar and Kadıköy, the Bosphorus and the Princes' Islands from the piers next to the bridge. Passers-by always have the chance to enjoy the fish, bread and onion sandwiches sold on the waterfront.
The Sirkeci train station, still remembering the former glorious times of the Orient Express, adorns the Sirkeci Square with its interesting architecture, and the Sepetciler Kasri on the shore serves international reporters as a press center. The office of the Governor of Istanbul is situated on the historical Bab-i Ali Street which climbs uphill from Sirkeci Square.
The quay stretching between Tophane and the Galata Bridge is reserved for tourist ships. Millions of tourists visit the city by boat during the season between April and October. The Top-hane building was reorganized into a gallery to serve the cultural life of the town.
A few kilometers further, the Dolmabahçe Palace and Mosque resemble jewelry boxes embellishing the shores of the Bosphorus. On the hill behind the palace rises the 5-star Swiss Hotel. From here, one can Europe. see Üsküdar and the Camhca hills on the opposite shore and the beauties of the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia to the west.
The full (30 km) length of the Bosphorus as it winds like a river toward the Black Sea can only be seen from the air. As one travels up the Bosphorus a series of lake-like views unfolds around each bend. The shores are decked with palaces, mosques and waterside residences, and the greenery of the slopes and hills is reflected in the waters. The old fortresses and two modern suspension bridges stand watching these beauties of nature.
White gulls follow white ships. While yachts and ships glide along the dark blue waters, giant oil tankers filled with oil from the Black Sea lands appear like dark ghosts around the promontories, posing serious threats to this incomparable waterway. While the rest of the waters of the Bosphorus glitter at night with reflected lights, the green northern sections are closed to development.
Üsküdar is a historical district that has developed as the last stop of the roads from Asia. Beautiful mosques decorate the district that is the shortest passageway to Europe.
The slopes of the £amlica hills are covered with cypresses and new and old cemeteries. Great Camhca Hill is a picnic place and from the park here one can see a vista of the whole city.
A road along the seashore leads to Kadikoy, offering a panorama of Leander's Tower and the majestic works on the peninsula opposite. Some of the characteristic buildings of this area are the Selimiye Barracks (or Florence Nightingale Hospital, as it is better known in the west), which is largest old building in the city, Haydarpaşa High School which is now part of a university campus, and the Haydarpasa train station built in a Prussian architectural style.The commercial port facilities of the city line the shore.
According to the myths, Kadiköy was the first settlement in this region. It is a peaceful district known for its typical market, the beautiful Bay of Moda, the park and marinas of Fenerbahçe, and the modern Bagdat Avenue. Unfortunately, most of the beautiful old mansions and villas with large gardens that characterized the region have been the victims of excessive development activities. The Princes' Islands still maintain the distinction of being among the principal resorts of the city.
Traveling time to the islands has been shortened by the new catamarans. Horse drawn carriages are the only vehicles allowed there. Summerhouses and well-cared gardens are located near the piers. It is fashionable to take tours on these pine-covered islands in spring and summer, but they are deserted in the winter, although each season has its own beauties. The Princes' Islands are particularly popular for picnics, bathing and yachting at weekends.