I think Istanbul has a decent claim to be the world’s greatest city. Millennia of history, a spectacular skyline, bi-continental location, opulent palaces and majestic mosques, thriving culture, great nightlife… it certainly has a lot going for it.
It’s difficult to do Istanbul justice with words, so here are a few pictures of the city that hopefully give a sense of what it is like.
There are 14 million living in Istanbul, and the population continues to grow apace. Dealing with the constant crowds could get a bit stressful at times.
Istanbul is full of stray animals. But while the cats live like kings, well cared for and fed by the locals, dogs are less fortunate. People seem to fear them, and I saw on a couple of occasions people hassling them or throwing things at them to shoo them away.
Istanbul’s mosques are impressive enough on the outside, but it’s only on the inside that their real beauty is revealed. This one was almost empty, and it was a great place to sit on the comfy carpet and enjoy the ambience.
Hagia Sophia was created as a church, converted into a mosque, and is now a museum. Photos cannot do it justice- it’s an absolutely monumental structure, and a very atmospheric place. It’s hard to believe that it’s been standing for nearly 1,500 years.
Just one of the countless men stood fishing along Istanbul’s long shoreline.
The Karakoy district in the city centre is full of graffiti, and I was pleased to see the artists are Simpsons fans.
Two continents in one photo: Europe in the foreground, Asia beyond. It’s incredible to think that, if the two bridges weren’t there, walking from one side of the city to the other would require a 3,000km detour around the Black Sea.
Topkapi Palace: one of the luxury residences of the Ottoman sultans.
The view across the Goldern Horn to Galata on a foggy day.
Travelling along one of the city’s waterways at night was always a special experience.
Meet Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The bloke who founded Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks still idolise him, and his portraits are visible throughout the city. I found it a bit weird- somewhat North Korea-esque…
Dolmabahce Palace. Even more grandiose on the inside- but no photos were allowed, so you’ll have to trust me on that.
The view of the city from the roof of its tallest building, with a few skyscrapers rising from the layer of smog that forever shrouds it…
…But once the sun had set and the lights came on, the views of the nightscape were much better.
And finally: en route to my next destination, I flew into Marseille. And while I never went beyond the airport in my time there, the view as we came in to land was better than any I could have gotten on the ground!