Friday, January 14, 2011

Istanbul II

Istanbul was amazing. Julia already said it, but I know you wanted to hear it from me. It was so nice to finally be in the hustle and bustle of a large city. And large might be an understatement, the Istanbul city boundary lines cover 707 square miles. We did our fair share of walking but were very thankful for the metro. 

One of the coolest things about visiting Istanbul, is learning the history behind this massive city. Istanbul used to be called Constantinople (maybe you've heard of it)-- one of the most important cities of European history. And later, Byzantium. This city has a pretty impressive resume as the former capital of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Latin Empire, and Ottoman Empire. During the middle ages, it was Europe's largest and wealthiest city. The name Constantinople was dropped in 1930 in favor of the Turkish name Istanbul. 

To be able to visit historic sites in this city is a treat. One of our very helpful readers, Janis, recommended checking out The Rumeli Fortress which is located on the European side right on the Bosphorus (the strait that creates the border between Europe and Asia). Rumeli Fortress is a brick, castle-like structure built in 1452 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II to control the waterway at the narrowest point in the Bosphorus strait, before he conquered Constantinople. We had a great time exploring the fortress and climbing up the walls on steep, narrow stairs with no rails. The top was the perfect place to take in the awesome views across the Bosphorus.

After the fortress we took a nice stroll along the Bosphorus and arrived in Bebek, which was a small but posh little part of Istanbul with lots of seafood restaurants, waffle houses, multiple Starbucks, and charming up-scale houses. We continued on into Arnavutköy, another historic neighborhood of Istanbul  where we found a great little seafood place called Takanik and had a great dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving without family. Instead of the traditional American Turkey, we had fish for dinner, and for dessert they luckily had pumpkin cake.


The following are photos of Rumeli Fortress, the Bosphorus, and nearby little towns we explored on foot (Bebek & Arnavutköy) .