The dusty city is situated on the confluence of important trade routes and came in to prominence when Kamal Ataturk in 1923 appointed it the capital of Turkey because of its position deep in the interior of Turkey’s hinterland. The advantage of its location deep within Anatolia deterred invaders who for centuries had attacked Istanbul. The city is located on a precipitous hill on the banks of the Enguri Su which is a tributary of the Sangarius River.
All the clichés used for modern world cities that are born out of a lavish history are true for Istanbul – and then some. The city is secular and spiritual, fabulously wealthy with pockets of mind numbing poverty, dizzyingly modern and quaintly traditional, all in the blink of an eye. Young girls on the streets dressed in mini skirts and stilettos, gather disapproving looks from veiled women and old men with prayer beads. Conquered by three of the mightiest civilizations in history and coveted at different periods by many others, Istanbul has left much of its fossilized city status behind and is fast gaining a reputation as a nightlife hotspot in the region. Europe and Asia are almost fused together in this city, separated only by a 29 kilometer stretch of the Bosporus. Istanbul’s Asian half is home to sprawling suburbs while the European side is a cultural sojourners dream – magnificent palaces and mosques and bustling Turkish bazaars. Sip a cup of Turkish coffee at a roadside café, or inhale aromatic fumes from a hookah. Haggle at the many street shops and gawk at the city’s architectural wonders. Once in Istanbul, it really doesn’t matter what you choose to do – the city will get under your skin in a way few travel destinations can.