Rome is called the Eternal City, but when it began to decline and lost its functions as the capital of the Roman Empire, his successor is Istanbul. In a number of historical sources from the time of its construction it is called New Rome, and then Constantinople, in the name of its founder Constantine the Great. But the New Rome is far more than a copy of the old. It became not only Roman, but also a Christian city. There are palaces in it, amphitheaters and aqueducts, but also Christian temples. And it seems to embody the transition from the Roman pagan to the Christian era. But even that is far from ending Istanbul's history. In the following centuries, it will become the most populous city in the world, will be the capital of several different empires and religions, including the Ottoman Empire. It will preserve a legacy from all of them and will continue to develop in its own way. We, which we have the opportunity to visit today, we are incredibly lucky to see so much history, gathered in one place. Istanbul is multifaceted, rich, surprising. It is not just a Turkish city. It is not only European, nor just Asian. Istanbul has held the history of almost half the world for thousands of years. And this unique place, which annually attracts millions of tourists from around the world, is only a stone's throw from Bulgaria.
If you have already been to Istanbul, you have probably visited at least some of the sights, which we will list in this article and it is almost certain, that you will want to come back one day, to see the rest. If you are not, it is certain that the first meeting with this city will not leave you indifferent. And so, what to see and do in Istanbul?
According to legend, when Emperor Justinian first entered the completed church in 536 g., he exclaims: "Thank goodness, that I was worthy of such work. ABOUT, Solomon, I surpassed you!“, bearing in mind the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem. 1500 years later Hagia Sophia, played the role of a church, mosque and museum, is still one of the most impressive historical monuments in Istanbul and around the world.
As soon as you see St. Sophia, you will remember it forever for how large and majestic it is. And yet it was built just for 6 years. Only the dome is in diameter 43 meters, and its height is 65 meters. During construction, once placed, the walls began to bend outwards under its weight and retaining walls had to be built. In the first centuries of the temple's existence, the interior decoration was modest and mostly of simple crosses. There was a law at that time, which forbade decorating the interior, so as not to distract the worshipers from the colorful paintings on the walls, and to listen carefully to the prayers. In the 9th century. this was discontinued and the church was discharged, as each succeeding emperor added his own face.
St. Sophia is a Christian church until the end of 15 in., when the city fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmed II was so impressed with the building, that he decided to turn it into a mosque and minarets were added to it. It is an Islamic temple next door 1931 g., when it was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Since July 2020 r. the temple is again a functioning mosque.
Regardless of your religion, no one can remain indifferent to the imposing mosques of Istanbul, which are numerous. One of the most famous of them is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of the colors of its interior - blue, green and white. It was built in between 1609 and 1616 r. and at that time caused a furor in the Islamic world, as there are goals 6 minarets - as much as the Great Mosque in Mecca (which later received the seventh minaret, to keep his championship). A walk through the gardens between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is a separate remarkable experience, which you will especially enjoy at sunset.
Another very interesting place is the Suleymaniye Mosque, which, although it is not so impressive with its scale and decoration, keep a lot of curious stories. It was built during the period 1550 – 1557 by the Ottoman architect Sinan in honor of Sultan Suleiman I, also known as Suleiman the Magnificent. The mosque is not just a religious temple, and the whole complex, including hospital, school, etc.. You can also visit the tombs of Suleiman the Magnificent and Roxalana nearby, as well as the tomb of the architect Sinan.
In Istanbul you can see another very curious temple - the Little Hagia Sophia. Before Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of St. Sophia, he decided to test whether the structure would last, therefore, a mini version of the great church was first built. Its original name is the Church "St.. st. Sergius and Bacchus ", today it is a functioning mosque.
In the great foreign guides to Istanbul you will rarely come across the Iron Church "St.. Stefan ", but it is a truly remarkable place, especially for Bulgarians. This is the only Orthodox Iron Church and was completed at the end 19 in. as a temple of the Bulgarian Exarchate. The skeleton of the church is made of steel and wrought iron, as the individual elements are assembled with millions of rivets and nuts. The reason for choosing such a structure is the unstable soil in the area of the church.
The home of generations of Ottoman sultans is a place, which you can't miss in Istanbul. It is home to the rulers of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1853 year. It is located on an area of 700 000 sq.m. and stands out with a remarkable interior. The biggest attractions in Topkapi Palace are the harem, sheltered the sultan's wives for centuries, the treasury with monarchical jewelry and the armory, in which you can see the exquisite work of the then masters of weapons. From the palace you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the Marmara Sea, Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
This is one of the most unusual, but also the most popular sights in Istanbul. The ancient reservoir, built in 6 in. by Emperor Justinian I., was intended to provide drinking water to the people of Constantinople in the event of a drought or siege and has acted for 1000 years. The existence of such a facility has allowed the city to remain impregnable for so many centuries. The storage is long 140 m, wide 70 m, high 8 m and has 336 columns. It is also called the "Submerged Palace".
The new palace of the Ottoman sultans - Dolmabahce, is enchanting on all sides. It was built in 1856 r. by order of Sultan Abdul Majid I, as the motives for its construction are several. On the one hand, the sultan wanted a European-style residence, to respond to the intensified ties with the West at the time. From another, to dispel doubts about Ottoman power, which began to decline in this period of history. The palace is remarkable for its scale - length 600 m, 285 rooms and 43 large lounges. Its interior is richly decorated with gold, crystal and marble. One of the most famous and breathtaking elements is the crystal staircase, the main bathroom and the ceremonial hall with a 4.5-ton chandelier. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the palace became the home of Kemal Ataturk, who dies in it on 10 November 1938 r. in 9:05 h. In honor, all the clocks in the palace are frozen at this hour.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, Istanbul has been a city for many eras, of many cultures, of many religions and rulers. Its numerous museums preserve fragments of this rich history and are a real gold mine for historians, scientists and all lovers of history. In the Archaeological Museum you can see one of the richest collections of objects from antiquity, including the sarcophagus of Alexander, which depicts scenes from hunting and battles. Supposed, that this is the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, although this theory has not been confirmed. The museum also has a children's section, where the little ones can have fun with a Trojan horse model.
The Carrie Museum, located in a church with the original name The Temple of Christ the Savior is another landmark, which impresses with its interior decoration, mosaics and murals by 14 century.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is housed in the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent. In it you can find an amazing collection of carpets, ceramics, calligraphy, wood carving, created between 9 and 19 century.
There is no way to immerse yourself in the life of Istanbul, without going to market. In the first place - on Kapalacharshi. And why not in one of the other local markets. Shopping for everything may not be in your style, but it is an important part of the culture in this part of the world and deserves its respect and attention. For shopping in a more modern style, you can walk down the street. "Independence" in the city center (Istiklal Street).
Visitors to Istanbul are unanimous, that it's worth going at any time. In summer you can enjoy long walks in the palaces and gardens, but New Year's celebrations in the winter are not to be missed. Definitely, if you visit Istanbul once, you will want to come back, to keep more sights to see, so it's best to leave as soon as possible.
This article was written with the assistance of BulTravel and Agent Express EOOD.
Author : Ivan Rashkov