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article imagePhoto Essay: Tour of Istanbul Special

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By Lonna Lisa Williams     Feb 6, 2013 in World
Istanbul - The third largest city in Europe spans the Asian and European continents at the famous Bosporus waterway and offers visitors many historic and modern destinations.
Istanbul has been in the news a lot lately since the disappearance and tragic demise of American tourist Sarai Sierra who was robbed and killed there. However, millions of tourists from all over the world visit Istanbul every year and find the streets safe and full of amazing architecture, historic castles, delicious food, museums, music, and exotic markets.
Istanbul was founded as Byzantium in the 7th Century B.C. Lying along the famous Silk Road, it connected Asia and European tradeways and saw the reign of four great empires: the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman. It was a center for the spread of Christianity since The Apostle Paul traveled through it on his way to Greece and Rome in the 1st Century A.D. The Ottoman turks conquered it in 1453, and it became a center of Islamic culture. Now it is an interesting mix of Christian churches and Islamic mosques. Saint Sophia (also known as Haggia Sophia or "Ayasofya" in Turkish) is the most famous example of this. Dedicated in the 4th Century as a church, it later became a mosque and is now a museum.
Directly opposite Saint Sophia, in a lovely garden courtyard near a park, lies the majestic Blue Mosque ("Sultanahmet") which was build during the reign of Sultan Ahmed 1 in the 17th Century. It has six minarets and many colored tile designs and circular strings of lights inside its impressive domes. Visitors can respectfully enter.
Not far away is Topkapi Palce ("Topkapı Sarayı") which was built by Sultan Mehmed II who conquered Istanbul in 1453 and set up the Ottoman reign which lasted until 1921. For over 400 years, sultans resided in Topkapi Palace. A huge complex set within majestically-gated castle walls, it holds many courtyards, gardens, and royal chambers. You can see collections of swords, armor, manuscripts, and clothing. The "Harem" section highlights an amazing collection of jewelry worn by sultanas. A cafe in the largest courtyard and garden area offers strong Turkish tea and coffee, and a nearby gift shop features duplicates of Hürrem Sultan's famous ring, books, veils, and other treasures.
Besides walking through grand, historical places and taking photos of old stone walls, tourists can ride a ferry across the Bosporus, shop at the traditional Grand Bazaar, and walk along the main street at Taksim with its Victorian architecture, art galleries, book stores, clothing boutiques, cafes, pubs, and discos.
These are just the beginning of things to see and do in Istanbul.
An overview of Istanbul from the European side  showing the Bosporus Bridge in the distance and the ...
An overview of Istanbul from the European side, showing the Bosporus Bridge in the distance and the Asian side beyond it
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Start your tour at the ferry dock at Kadikoy  on the Asian side of Istanbul
Start your tour at the ferry dock at Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul
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Ride the ferry past famous Hydarpasha Train Station
Ride the ferry past famous Hydarpasha Train Station
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Sail past Maiden Tower which tells the famous story of a king who locked his princess daughter there...
Sail past Maiden Tower which tells the famous story of a king who locked his princess daughter there for safety, but someone smuggled a snake in a basket that killed her
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A distant view of Topkapi Palace from the ferry
A distant view of Topkapi Palace from the ferry
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Across the famous Bosporus waterway  see the Blue Mosque on the left side of the ferry  on the Europ...
Across the famous Bosporus waterway, see the Blue Mosque on the left side of the ferry, on the European side of Istanbul
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See ancient Galata Tower on the right side of the ferry
See ancient Galata Tower on the right side of the ferry
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After docking  walk to the Grand Bazaar
After docking, walk to the Grand Bazaar
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The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul features shops like this one with traditional plates
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul features shops like this one with traditional plates
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Exotic teas like  Tourist Chai  from the Black Sea or Rose Tea from Isparta
Exotic teas like "Tourist Chai" from the Black Sea or Rose Tea from Isparta
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Walk up the hill to the left and enter Topkapi Palace
Walk up the hill to the left and enter Topkapi Palace
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Stroll through the gardens at Topkapi Palace
Stroll through the gardens at Topkapi Palace
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Details of the ceiling at Topkapi Palace
Details of the ceiling at Topkapi Palace
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A student walks through the gates of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
A student walks through the gates of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
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Not far from Topkapi Palace  the Blue Mosque rises above a park
Not far from Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque rises above a park
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Tourists at the Blue Mosque
Tourists at the Blue Mosque
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Across from the Blue Mosque is Aya Sofya  the famous Sixth Century church that was later converted t...
Across from the Blue Mosque is Aya Sofya, the famous Sixth Century church that was later converted to a mosque and is now a museum
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Near the walls of Saint Sophia
Near the walls of Saint Sophia
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You can ride the tram through Taksim  beside consulates  Victorian buildings  and modern shops
You can ride the tram through Taksim, beside consulates, Victorian buildings, and modern shops
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You can walk along the Taksim street
You can walk along the Taksim street
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Historic Saint Anthony Cathedral in Taksim  under a new dusting of snow.
Historic Saint Anthony Cathedral in Taksim, under a new dusting of snow.
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Finish your tour at a pub that serves local Efes beer
Finish your tour at a pub that serves local Efes beer
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or at a sidewalk cafe
or at a sidewalk cafe
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