For millennia, Turkey’s Marmara has been a physical and figurative bridge between Eastern and Western cultures, religions, and histories. It was here, at this crossroad of civilization, where Persian King Xerxes built his famed bridge of boats over the Dardanelles for his conquest of Europe. Here, on the treacherous waters of the Bosphorus, Jason led the Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece. Up against the legendry Walls of Troy, an impossible beauty launched a thousand ships and a wooden horse destroyed an ancient people.
1. EAST MEETS WEST
Istanbul: As capital of three of the world’s greatest empires – The Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire - Istanbul is home to rich layers of ancient civilizations, masterful craftsmanship, artistic greatness and culinary inventiveness. Indeed Istanbul is a city of extremes: it preserves the most important art relics from the Byzantine era, hosts the largest collection of Islamic relics in the world, offers some of the best shopping experiences anywhere and even houses the largest aquarium in Europe.
2. LIVING HISTORY
Despite being conquered and reconquered by kings, sultans and emperors over thousands of years, Istanbul has developed its eclectic charisma by sustaining remnants of each culture that came before the last. The streets are lined with Greek and Roman palaces, opulent Byzantine cathedrals, and the domes and spires that mark the Ottoman skyline. The Church of St. Savior, in Chora, safeguards gold-tiled mosaics depicting the rarely seen life of Mary, mother of Jesus. Ancient ruins such as the Hippodrome, built by Septimus Severus and later enlarged by Constantine, stand proudly around the city.
3. ANCIENT WONDERS
UNESCO World Heritage: In the Historic Areas of Istanbul you’ll find the Hagia Sophia, Justinian’s ode to the Almighty, which stood as the largest church in Christendom for more than a thousand years. For the subsequent 500 years, Ottoman Sultans ruled an empire from within the mysterious walls of Topkapı Palace, all the while constructing magnificent monuments of their own such as the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye. Around the region, you’ll find The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, and the Archeological Site of Troy in Çanakkale.
4. KALEIDOSCOPE OF CULTURE
There is a mix of culture in the towns, villages and areas in the wider Marmara region. Edirne is home to greased oil wrestling contests, one of the oldest sporting activities in Turkey. In Bozcaada, the windy coves, pristine waters and old stone houses make Turkey’s third largest islands one of the world’s most beautiful island escapes. Palandöken Ski Center is just three miles from the city center. But for where it all started, visit Bursa, the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire between 1335 and 1413.
5. ARCHEOLOGICAL DISCOVERY
Yenikapi: While the Archeological Site of Troy has captivated the world’s scholars for centuries, the Marmara region is continually revealing newly discovered links to the past. The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is currently chronicling one of the world’s most active excavations at Yenikapi, a harbor built by Emperor Theodosius used between the 5th and 10th centuries. The Byzantine port, discovered in 2004, unearthed 8,000-year-old skeletons that have re-written Istanbul’s history back to the Stone Age – hundreds of years further than previously thought.
Beyond Bazaar: While Istanbul is famous for the thousands of shops, stalls and booths in its historic Grand Bazaar and Ortaköy Bazaar, a whole new world of chic and contemporary shopping exists beyond the bazaars of the city’s legend. Trendy, upscale shopping can be found on Istanbul’s Bağdat Avenue, Nisantasi, known as the Rodeo Drive of Istanbul, and among museums, art galleries and exclusive shops in Besiktas, and Akaretler row houses – an important form of Turkish architecture. For a change of pace, the little neighborhood Cukurcuma is a favorite among antique experts and artists, while the equally artistic Cihangir, with its hilly streets, smart boutiques, vintage shops and cafes, evokes a distinct San Franciscan flavor.
7. CONTEMPORARY ISTANBUL
Istanbul Modern and Cihangir: While known for the exotic and historic, Istanbul is just as sophisticated and modern as New York, Paris or London,
with inspired designers, experimental restaurants, international music, lively nightlife and bohemian boutiques. A highlight is lunch at Istanbul Modern, which features contemporary art within a converted warehouse on
the Bosphorus. For a taste of the bohemian, visit the neighborhood of Cihangir, where painters, caricaturists, actors, writers, and journalists live and exchange ideas among the lively bookstores, galleries, and boutiques.
8. FOOD & WINE
Lufer and Raki: The culinary center of Turkey lies in the Marmara region, with Istanbul contemporary restaurants serving the finest international cuisine and the region’s climate and agriculture defining its culinary influences. The signature tastes for the region are the Lüfer, or Bluefish, and the anise-flavored national drink, Raki. It is also a little-known fact that Turkey is the birthplace of vitis vinifera–otherwise known as the grape vine – and wine has been produced in the country for over 4000 years. More than 40 percent of the production of Turkish wine comes from Eastern Thrace (the European side of Turkey) along the Sea of Marmara.
9. HAMAMS, SPAS, AND THERMAL SPRINGS
The most opulent of the country’s 1,300 thermal springs and 190 spa resorts can be found in the Marmara region. Istanbul’s Suleymaniye Bath was built by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1550 and designed by Sinan, the famous architect of the Suleymaniye Mosque, while the Cagaloglu Turkish Bath, near Hagia Sophia, was built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1741. The Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Swissotel the Bosphorus, Les Ottomans Hotel and Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami are all renowned for their luxurious spas. Espa, in the chic new Istanbul Edition hotel, was designed by Inge Moore as a contemporary, state-of-the art spa with influences from Turkish tradition
and local customs. In Bursa, the Ottoman baths known as Eski Kaplica have been in use for over 2,000 years.
Most visitors to Turkey first visit the country through the Port of Istanbul, the second largest cruise port in Turkey and a mainstay for liners like The Yachts of Seabourn and Crystal Cruise Lines. The port is also in the heart of the city in vibrant neighborhood of Karaköy. For a more local cruise within the city, locals head to the Princes Islands, an archipelago of seven islands that was a place of exile for Byzantine and Ottoman princes and is today a living snapshot of the city’s 19th Century elite life - horse-drawn phaetons, clapboard mansions and stunning beaches.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07
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