East meets West across two continents

Istanbul Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
East meets West across the Bosphorus

Rudyard Kipling once wrote: 

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the Twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

Istanbul is a city of two continents where East meets West across the blue waters of the Bosphorus River. It may not be what Kipling had in mind when he wrote those words, but Istanbul comes close to those words for me. I did not venture to the Asian side, but the European side seemed very European with Muslim religious traditions, with some signs of Christianity still remaining. The society and culture is remarkably progressive and liberal on the surface, but I had a sense that there were deep religious underpinnings that set the tone and rhythm.

Blue Mosque
From the many Mosques that sounded the call to prayer 5 times a day, it was a reminder that despite the liberal western appearance, there was a holy aspect to the movement of the people of Istanbul. I was but a tourist, a stranger in a strange land, and could not hope to penetrate such a culture in the span of a week. In some ways the excesses of the Sultans of centuries past seemed to surpass even European royalty in some ways. Yet there is commonality in that symbiosis of religion and rule that remains. There is an amazing richness of history to be explored in Istanbul. I know of only two other cities in my experience to strike me with such vast size and grand scope; Rome and Delhi. These places, I maintain, you could spend a lifetime discovering and still not experience everything - this rings true for Istanbul also I think.
Istikal Avenue
It is quite an amazing city. There is a new adventure waiting around every corner.

I must admit, that despite my praises here in history, religion and culture, Istanbul does have it's annoying aspects. The solicitous nature of people on the streets is annoying. Many times I was asked, "Hey, where you from?" and "What you look for, man?" It was endearing to start, but one quickly finds that if you take the bait and engage in the conversation, there is some design to separate you from your money. It was the slick lead-in with a trick follow-up that got on my nerves. You could hardly ask for directions without playing this game. Even if you learned to ignore  the repartee directly, there was always another trick somewhere. My favorite is the shoe polish guy who 'accidentally' drops his brush.

Catching a view of the Bosphorus
The good samaritan picks it up and hands it back. The shoe guy is so grateful he offers to shine your shoes. I didn't fall for it as I was sufficiently suspicious anyway, but later heard stories of people who had. I also ran into one fellow whose conversation was well practiced. After a time he offered to buy me a drink 'just across the way'. Fortunately I had read about that trick before I went to Istanbul. All kinds of scenarios (all bad) can result from that. I experimented anyway with my guard up. Take my word for it - these people seem benign, but can be dangerous. This is the underbelly of Istanbul. Be careful!

I have a different approach to try out in this Journal. I have offered a personal perspective here that may be interesting or useful to some. Regarding the history and culture I have tried to tell the tale in pictures with, what I hope are interesting and informative captions.

Hagia Sophia
My suggestion, if you have read this far, is to go through the slide show from the beginning and see for yourself an aspect of Istanbul through my lens. I realize there are a lot of photos. I have endeavored to make these pictures of high quality so they are aestheticly pleasing to view and have invested some time in the captions to tell a story. Give it a try, I think you will like it. As I said, this is experimental, so feedback is welcome. Any ideas for improving any of the captions are invited. Write your own if you like and I may include it here. Really!

---

"If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital" ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

I think I tend to agree!

spocklogic says:
Thank You and glad to hear you found some valuable information here for your trip to Turkey.
Posted on: Jul 30, 2015
The-Jellyfish says:
heading to Istanbul... thank you for your valuable information :)
Posted on: Jul 29, 2015
spocklogic says:
Thank you, Chef! I think Istanbul is one of those cities like Paris or Rome that are worthy of multiple visits. I suppose some of the pitchmen are just trying to make a living, but being continually pestered got on my nerves.
Posted on: Jan 08, 2014
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
East meets West across the Bosphor…
East meets West across the Bospho…
Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Istikal Avenue
Istikal Avenue
Catching a view of the Bosphorus
Catching a view of the Bosphorus
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Welcome to Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul
Istanbul airport reflections
Istanbul airport reflections
Istanbul - First View
Istanbul - First View
Zooming Istanbul - First View
Zooming Istanbul - First View
Passing Aqueduct of Valens by taxi
Passing Aqueduct of Valens by taxi
Nice room I have - Oh joy!
Nice room I have - Oh joy!
Good views too...
Good views too...
I stay at Ceylan Intercontinental
I stay at Ceylan Intercontinental
Istanbul Hotels & Accommodations review
Live like a Sultan, while visiting the Sultans
I have to say this is a really nice hotel if you can afford it. I stayed here during a conference and was very pleased. Lots of amenities - Free Inter… read entire review
Istanbul
photo by: Memo