"If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would
be its capital." Thus declared Napoleon Bonaparte-and his words
ring as true today as they did in 1800. The Turks themselves say
that in Istanbul one can hear the nation's heartbeat. There is so
much to see and do that any definitive overview would fill volumes,
but following are some travel highlights in Turkey.
Begin with its historic sights, which have been designated a
World Heritage by UNESCO.
The Roman Hippodrome was the
center of Byzantine life for 1,000 years, and the center of Ottoman
culture for another 400 years. The Hippodrome was the scene of
countless political and military dramas, including rival chariot
races. During your Turkey tour, see impressive granite obelisk,
carved in Egypt around 1,500 BC and brought to Constantinople in
390 AD. The Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque is a
masterpiece of 17th century Ottoman architecture, famous for its
unique hand-made original Iznik tiles. The Hagia
Sophia is absolutely spectacular-some say is the most
beautiful church ever built. Other famous Turkey travel
destinations include the Basilica Cistern, and the
Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman government
and its resident sultans for 500 years; see its Imperial Ottoman
Treasury, which includes the famous Spoonmaker Diamond.
The Suleyman Mosque is a
monumental building, a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. The
Dolmabahce Palace, built around 1843, was an
administrative center during the Ottoman Empire and later residence
of the sultans. This ornate and vast palace overlooks the
Bosphorus, and is well worth a visit as you travel Turkey.
The Grand Covered Bazaar is a
marketplace of staggering proportion-with over 4,000 shops it is a
world within itself. This is the very heart of Turkish culture, a
sensory overload of sights, sounds and color.
The Kariye Museum is housed in a
charming small church with beautiful mosaics and frescoes, and is a
wonderful example of Byzantine architecture. The Jewish
Museum of Turkey catalogs and celebrates the history and
contribution of Jewish Turks. Located in the former Zulfaris
Synagogue, its exhibits depict the daily lives of the local Jewish
community throughout different periods of history. Other splendid
sights well worth a visit during your tour of Turkey include the
Church of Cora, Archeological Museum, Tile Museum and the
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
We recommend a cruise on the Bosphorus
Strait at sunset, where one literally crosses from Europe
into Asia. And for those who don't mind a few steps, the top of the
Galata Tower is the best place to take in the
complicated geography and gorgeous views of Istanbul.