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Turkey at a glance

Istanbul

Turkey is a rapidly modernising country with one foot in Europe and one in the Middle East. It's not all oriental splendour, mystery, intrigue and whirling dervishes but it is a spicy maelstrom of history knocking up against a pacy present.

The Turkish people have an unrivalled reputation for hospitality, the cuisine is to die for, the coastline is a dream, and many Turkish cities are dotted with spectacular mosques and castles. And while costs are rising, Turkey remains one of the Mediterranean's bargain-basement destinations.

Straddling the Bosphorus, its skyline studded with domes and minarets, İstanbul is one of the truly great romantic cities. Its history tracks back from Byzantium to Constantinople to its place at the head of the Ottoman Empire. Today it hums as Turkey's cultural heart and good-time capital.

In this sprawling, continent-spanning city you can tramp the streets where crusaders and janissaries once marched; admire mosques that are the most sublime architectural expressions of Islamic piety; peer into the sultan's harem; and hunt for bargains in the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar).

Turkey Fast Facts

Turkey Fast Facts
1. Population

Turkey     75, 000, 000.00 
Istanbul   15, 000, 000.00

2. Currency

Name: New Turkish Lira
Code: TRY
Symbol
: YTL

For up to date currency conversion rates please go to http://www.xe.com/

3. Electrical Plugs

British-style plug with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade 220V 50Hz

4. Time Zones

GMT/UTC +2 (Standard Time)

5. Visa Requirements

If you are not sure as to whether or not you will require a visa to travel to Turkey http://www.offshorewave.com/embassies_show.php?country_id=216 has a list of countries requirements as well as detailed information about the Turkish consulate in each country around the world.

6. Weather forecasts

For up-to-date weather forecasts for your trip to Turkey the following link provides both °C and °F for your preference
http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/17060.html as well as extended forecast.

7. Maps

To make Turkey easier for you to navigate, the following link has a facility for you to print region maps & street maps with accuracy http://www.sanalistanbul.com/virtualistanbul/Maps.htm

Getting Around

getting around

İstanbul has a decent public transport network, which you'll appreciate once you get the hang of pre-buying tickets (try an Akbil pass instead, if you're in town for a few weeks), jumping on half-moving vehicles and avoiding armpits in tram jams. And if it all gets too much, a mad taxi driver is always ready to race you to your destination - and you won't pay too much for the thrill, either. But all public transport slows to a crawl around peak hours; this is the time to take to your feet. Walking is the best way to see İstanbul - though the ferries rate a close second.

The main bus station, the International İstanbul Bus Station, or more simply, the otogar , is 10km (6mi) west of Sultanahmet at Esenler. Both city and private buses run services in İstanbul. The suburban trains are a bit decrepit but reliable and inexpensive, running from Sirkeci station. İstanbul's metro is under construction, though some lines are already in service; it's inexpensive, with frequent services. There are several tramlines to choose from if you want a ride with a view. Istanbul has a large fleet of yellow taxis. It's an easy matter to rent a car; it's navigating the thing through the insane traffic that might prove to be difficult. Save it for leaving town. Ferries and catamarans can take you along the Golden Horn or up the Bosphorus - an hour-long ferry ride is cheap and fun.

Attractions

attractions
Aqueduct Of Valens

Rising majestically over the traffic on busy Atatürk Bulvarı, this limestone structure is one of the city's most distinctive landmarks. Visitors often gasp in amazement on seeing it for the first time (amazement often turns into consternation when they notice excited fans from the nearby Vefa football stadium doing perilous victory dances waving their team's colours from its dizzy heights).

We don't know for sure that that the aqueduct was constructed by the Emperor Valens (r 364-78), but we do know that it has been repaired a number of times, the first in 1019 and the last in the late 1980s. It's thought that the aqueduct carried water over this valley to a cistern at Beyazıt Square before finally ending up at the Great Byzantine Palace. After the Conquest it supplied the Eski (Old) and Topkapı Palaces with water.

Basilica Cistern

Like most of the sites in İstanbul, the cistern has an unusual history. Known in Byzantium as the Basilica Cistern because it lay underneath the Stoa Basilica, one of the great squares on the first hill, it was used to store water for the Great Palace and surrounding buildings. Eventually closed, the cistern seems to have been forgotten by the city authorities some time before the Conquest. Enter scholar Petrus Gyllius, who in 1545 was researching Byzantine antiquities in the city and was told by locals that they were able to miraculously obtain water by lowering buckets in their basement floors. Some were even catching fish this way. Intrigued, Gyllius explored the neighbourhood and finally discovered a house through whose basement he accessed the cistern. Even after his discovery, the Ottomans (who referred to the cistern as Yerebatan Saray) didn't treat the underground palace with the respect it deserved - it became a dumping ground for all sorts of junk, as well as corpses. Fortunately, later restorations, most notably in the 18th century and between 1955 and 1960, saw it properly maintained. It was cleaned and renovated in 1985 by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and opened to the public in 1987.

Çemberlitaş

This is one of city's most ancient and revered monuments: a derelict column known as Çemberlitaş (also known as the Hooped, Banded Stone or Burnt Column). Erected by Constantine the Great (r 324-37) to celebrate the dedication of Constantinople as capital of the Roman Empire in 330, the column was placed in what was the grand Forum of Constantine and was topped by a statue of the great emperor himself.

The column lost its crowning statue of Constantine in 1106 and was damaged in the 1779 fire that ravaged the nearby Grand Bazaar. At the time of research it in the process of being restored and so was covered in hoardings. Also in this vicinity is the historic Çemberlitaş Hamam.

Bosphorus Night Cruise

One of the most enjoyable, and certainly most romantic, night-time activities in İstanbul is to take a Bosphorus ferry. Enjoy the view back to the Old City, the twinkling lights, the fishing boats bobbing on the waves and the powerful searchlights of the ferries sweeping the sea lanes.

The best ferry to catch for this purpose is the one from Karaköy (just over the Galata Bridge from Eminönü) to Kadıköy. Just go to Karaköy, buy two tokens (for the voyages out and back) and walk on board. When you reach Kadıköy you could head into the backstreets and grab a bite to eat.

A shorter ride is the one from Eminönü to Üsküdar. When you alight in Üsküdar, you could have a delicious feed at Kanaat Lokantası, or turn right and walk around the coast to the çay bahçesis (tea gardens) near the Şemsi Paşa Camii (Şemsi Paşa Mosque). After a tea or two, continue on the popular waterside promenade past the famous Kız Kulesı (Maiden's Tower) - a gorgeous walk on a summer's evening.

Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate

The Ecumenical patriarchis a ceremonial head of the Orthodox Church, though most of the churches in Greece, Cyprus, Russia and other countries have their own patriarchs or archbishops who are independent of İstanbul. Nevertheless, the symbolic importance of the patriarchate, here in the city that saw the great era of Byzantine and Orthodox influence, is considerable. The patriarchate has been located in this district since 1601.

To the Turkish government, the patriarch is a Turkish citizen of Greek descent nominated by the church and appointed by the government as an official in the Directorate of Religious Affairs. In this capacity he is the religious leader of the country's Orthodox citizens and is known officially as the Greek Patriarch of Fener (Fener Rum Patriği). The relationship of the patriarchate and the wider Turkish community has been strained in the past, no more so than when Patriarch Gregory V was hanged for treason after inciting Greeks to overthrow Ottoman rule at the start of the Greek War of Independence (1821-32). The lingering antagonism over this and the Greek occupation of parts of Turkey in the 1920s no doubt explains the elaborate security around the patriarchate, including a security checkpoint at the main entrance.

The Church of St George within the patriarchate compound is a modest structure built in 1720. Its main glory is the ornate patriarchal throne that is thought to date from the last years of Byzantium. In 1941 a disastrous fire destroyed many of the buildings but spared the church.

This information was sourced from the following website:

http://www.lonelyplanet.com

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