IstanbulThursday, 26 June 2014
◄ My recent Turkey travels featured stops at assorted archaeological sites and museums – recently excavated Göbekli Tepe, Nemrut Dağı, Gaziantep where the museum features wonderful mosaics from the Roman city of Belkıs-Zeugma, Catalhöyük, the amazing ruins at Sagalassos, Termessos with its enormous stonework, Aspendos and finally Perge before concluding at the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya. My travels kicked off, however, in Istanbul, that age old city straddling the Bosphorus, one foot in Europe and one in Asia. There’s no better place to feel that age than in the magnificent Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) – church then mosque and now museum (although that is threatened). It’s still a building whose size and magnificence takes your breath away, even more so when you contemplate that its almost thousand year history as a church started with its consecration in 537 AD, nearly 1500 years ago.
▲ We went up the Galata Tower in the Beyoglu district from where you could look down on the old Galata Bridge, close to the mouth of the Golden Horn, where it joins the Bosphorus. In the background from left to right I could see the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Nuruosmaniye Mosque
▲ Of course there are brand new additions even to an ancient city like Istanbul and looking a little further up the Golden Horn I could see the new Golden Horn Metro Bridge and then the Ataturk Bridge. It’s an indicator of how you shouldn’t be too confident of internet information being completely up to date. The new bridge opened mid-February 2014 and over four months later on 26 June 2014 Google Maps and Apple Maps still didn’t show it. You could see it on Google Earth.
◄ The First Bosphorus Bridge has been around much longer, it opened in 1973. You can see the First Beylerbeyi Palace beneath the bridge. Further along the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea is the Second Bosphorus Bridge, or Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. A rail tunnel under the Bosphorus opened in 2013.
▲ When Maureen and I visited Istanbul for the first time, way back in 1972, you still had to cross the Bosphorus – leaving Europe and entering Asia – by ferry. In our elderly Minivan we kept on driving east, crossing Turkey, Iran and eventually ending up in Kabul in Afghanistan. Here’s our car with Mt Ararat, where Noah landed the Ark, in the background.