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Oriental Discoveries – Istanbul in 2015 Pt. II

Situated both on the European and on the Asian continent, Istanbul is the entry gate to the Orient, yet at the same time it is also the last major European city in the southeast. Istanbul, or Konstantinopel, how it was called before the Ottoman conquest, has always been a metropole. Today roughly 15 Million people call it their home. The vast sea of houses is divided by the Bosporus, a water way connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Not far away – on the European site – grand mosques arise, built over the centuries by Ottoman rulers to show of their power.  They are majestic indeed, rich decorated with Islamic ornaments and beautiful interiors. Between the mosques you will find the Grand Bazar, a covered bazar consisting of 61 streets and many thousand shops. In Istanbul everything seems grander than usual.

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A Sea of Minarets – Istanbul in 2015 Pt I.

From historical to contemporary times the city of Istanbul has always been a meeting point of cultures, marking the border between Europe and the Islamic world. In geographical terms the border is clearly defined, it is the Bosporus strait. But not just since the opening of the first Metro line beneath the Bosporus – the Marmaray in 2013 – the cultural borders are not so clear anymore. While some districts like Galata are defined by modern shops, night clubs and skating kids with headphones, other are way more traditional and religious. Despite the stark contrasts, there are no obvious tensions. Also Istanbul is a very welcoming place for travelers, receiving guests with open arms. Just beware of the merchants in the Grand Basar and do not believe every fairy story they tell, regardless of the oriental charm of the bargainer.

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Istanbul April 2013

Less then a week ago I returned from a short trip to the magnificent Istanbul. It was the first time I visited an Islamic country and the first time I experienced a megalopolis with staggering 16 million people! So it was a very insightful and interesting trip. We enjoyed the beginning of spring in the Gardens of the Saray, drunk tea served in the traditional way above the city skyline and paved our way through the busy streets of the Old Bazar. We saw the last station of the Orient Express (sadly not existing anymore), found a feline friend on the Prince Islands (should be rather called cat islands) and explored the nightlife of Galata. In short the city on the Bospurus was beautiful and amazing!

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View of the Bospurus from the Galata TowerPrince IslandsBetween the MosquesHagia SophiaCat in Mosque