This was my first time in a predominantly Muslim country and I must admit that I was concerned. However I see now that my concerns were unfounded as Turkey has a strong secular foundation and the people there are largely moderate Muslims or better yet atheists.
This city has a impressive history. I will try to write down a summary of it. It was founded by Greek colonists at around 660 B.C and named Byzantion. In 500 B.C it was captured by the Persians but the occupation did not last too long and it was liberated in the Greco-Persian Wars. In 73 A.D it was captured by the romans and renamed to Constantinople. Later on it was pillaged and weakened by the 4th crusade and became part of the Latin empire for a brief period of time. Constantinople returned to the Roman empire(the Byzantine empire as it was known at that time) but in its weakened state it was conquered by the Ottoman empire and got renamed to Istanbul. At around the time of the first world war the Young Turk unrest has begun, the people wanted to see an end to the Ottoman empire and this unrest grew stronger with Ottoman empires defeat in the first world war and the subsequent occupation of Istanbul by French and Italian forces. in 1922 the final Ottoman sultan was exiled and following year the Republic of Turkey was declared by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk is a not Mustafa’s real name but rather the Turkish term for “Father of the Turks”. Indeed Ataturk is arguably the father of modern day Turkey. He is the first president of the republic of Turkey and his vision embarked Turkey on a set of political, economic and cultural reforms which sought to transform it into a modern, western nation based on equality and secular values.
So culturally and historically Istanbul is very rich to say the least. Also I found the Mediterranean cuisine to be to my liking and ended up fatting up a bit in just a week!
I have been to several airports in my life but the view of Istanbul from the sky is perhaps one of the most beautiful. Istanbul is built on a small stretch of land thats squeezed from the top and bottom by two different seas, the Black sea and the sea or Marmara. Istanbul is also divided in two by a river that connects these two seas. A birds eye view of that is fantastic.
One outstanding feature of modern day Turkey is the youth of its population. At the time of this writing the average age is 27.7 years and the retirement age for men is 45 while for women its 41! This amazingly fast retirement age arises from the youth of the current population(of course this and the retirement rules may change over time).
I begun my trip by going to Sabancci university. Its a private university thats partially funded by the wealthy Sabancci family. The facilities were state of the art and towards the end of the tour we got to see what I really wanted to see, the mechatronics division.
One of the key tourist attractions in Istanbul are arguably the large Mosques. To the left is the blue Mosque, called so because the tiles have a blueish taint.
While Hagia Sophia served as a cathedral during the Constantinople era and then switched to being a mosque during the Ottoman Era, the Blue Mosque(aka Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was a mosque from its construction in 1616 to the present day.
In the days of Constantinople the Hippodrome was the place where you wanted to be. It was a circus which served as the center of sports and social gatherings. Some of the popular attractions included horse and chariot racing.
On the right is the “Obelisk of Thutmose III” Obviously Egyptian, it was brought over from Egypt by Theodosius the Great in 390 A.D although its actual date of construction was 1490 B.C. That makes this obelisk over 3500 years old! Although during the moving from Egypt to Turkey the Obelisk had to be cut in 3 pieces and only the top piece survived.
To the right is another popular sight seeing attraction called Galata tower. This was built by the republic of Genoa in 1348 and was the center of the their citadel.
At 66.9 meters tall it was the tallest structure in the old Constantinople
It is said that the first person to fly in human history, Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, flew from this tower with what was essentially a wooden glider attached to his arms “wings”.
I must admit that when I climbed this tower I couldn’t help wondering how this tall ancient structure would fare in a earthquake.
At the end though I could get a good view of the imperial Mosques.
Normally graffiti is considered vandalism but some types of graffiti could be considered modern art. Which do you think this would fall under ?
This old tram is a nostalgic artifact in a city filled with history. Of course its purpose is mostly tourism. Public transport in Istanbul was refreshingly modern. Subway and tram(both shown in the pictures below) is available in a fair part of the city and buses make up for the rest. One interesting point to mention is the special bus lanes on the high ways which are jammed with buses driving in close proximity. Its like a train made from connected buses.
Towards the end I got the opportunity to see the mini robot NAO in action
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Not bad! at a price tag of about $12,000.00 its within the reach of quite a few university labs. I certainly wouldn’t mind having one to play with.