CROSSROADS OF CULTURES
Few cities represent as ravishing a meeting of substance and spectacle as Istanbul, a grand and sprawling capital that ranks among the world’s truly great cities. Here are grand mosques and churches, palaces and bazaars, museums and sites of unsurpassed natural beauty and of course the legendary Bosphorus, flowing from the Black Sea past the Golden Horn and the heart of the city to the Sea of Marmara. The European part of Turkey straddles the western banks of the narrow strait and Asia starts on the eastern shore, making Istanbul the world’s only city built on two continents: the very definition of exotic! In the sixth century BC, Byzantium was a colony of the ancient Greek city of Megara, and only much later did Constantine the Great move the seat of the Roman Empire here. For more than a millennium and a half this timeless metropolis was the capital of empires— with the advent of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 Constantinople became the seat of the Ottoman Empire, before taking the name of Istanbul with the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. Today as in the days of empires past, the convergence of cultures and multi-religious coexistence here is truly extraordinary. In Istanbul traditions from not only Islamic but also Christian and Jewish faiths rub shoulders easily with the vibrant mosaic that is contemporary Turkey.