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ISTANBUL

Visited 4th December 2015

Survivor of the fall of the Roman Empire and capital of at least two of the biggest post-Dark Ages empires. 

My first real experience of Istanbul was standing in the subway station at the airport. Go down the steps and there is an old lady playing some kind of zither-like instrument. Twangy music echoing round the arch of the station. The chords and the rhythms just out of step enough to tell me I am somewhere I have never been. Black-haired, dark skinned people all around me. Not quite Arabic, not quite Latin. The people of a warm land, incongruously bundled up against the cold of winter.


These moments are as important to me as standing in the Hagia Sophia. Maybe more important. They are little fragments of memories that tell me "I was there". They tie you to a place and a time far better than anything else does. Eventually I stepped off the tram at Sultanahmet Square into a freezing, quiet night. My first view of anything meaningfully Istanbul is the Blue Mosque towering up like a mountain and seagulls wheeling round its peaks.


Haghia Sophia

The symbol of Constantinople and best spot for recreating scenes from From Russia With Love

Topkapi Palace

If Donald Trump did Ottoman palaces then it would be the Topkapi

Eyup

Go beyond the city walls, go as far up the Golden Horn as you can. There is the strange city of the dead.

The Greek Orthodox Quarter

Before it was an Ottoman city, Istanbul was the centre of the Greek Orthodox world

The Bazaar Quarter

The inventors of capitalism 1500 years ago are still going strong

Random Places

Places I went that don't really fit anywhere else.

For practical information on visiting Istanbul, click below. It's not the most exciting but you might find it useful. Which parts of the city to stay in, which parts to avoid. How to get round, how to get from the airport to the city centre. A few entertaining books and films that I like about the place.