What are some Interesting facts about Istanbul and its history?
“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
● Istanbul is the only transcontinental city in the world located on both Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus Strait that divides the two continents passes through Istanbul and it is the link between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
● In 330 AD when the great Roman Emperor Constantine made the city the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, he decided to build it just like Rome, on seven hills, the city also took its name after the emperor — Constantinople (City of Constantine), it was then renamed Istanbul in 1930 but many still call it Constantinople, actually to ensure the usage of the new name back then, the Turkish post office didn’t deliver any mail addressed to Constantinople.
In its thousands of years of history, it has been the capital of three great empires — Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Nowadays it is Turkey’s largest city with over 18 million population, however it is not Turkey’s capital, Ankara has been the capital since Turkey was proclaimed a republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
● The Grand Bazaar is in operation since 1461, it is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops. It attracts over 300,000 visitors daily.
● Istanbul is known as city of Mosques as you can find a mosque in every corner of the city. There are about 3,113 total mosques in Istanbul, including the historical Sultanahmet Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.
● Blue Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets, which is the maximum number you can have in a mosque.
● The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was originally built as an Orthodox Cathedral in 537 CE and was converted into a mosque under the Ottoman rule after 1453. It was the largest church in the world for 900 years until the Seville Cathedral of Spain was completed in 1520.
● The Topkapi Palace is home to the relics of Muhammad, the prophet of Islarm. Stored in the section called the Chamber of the Holy Mantle, the Ottoman Sultan Selim first acquired them in 1512 and then Mehmed the 3rd bought them to the Topkapi Palace in 1595.
● Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets scattered around the city while the rest of Europe had none.
● Istanbul has one of the few Jewish communities in the Diaspora that can claim an uninterrupted existence from Byzantine times to the present, and that maintained its communal character for such a long period. In the cemeteries of Istanbul, Jews can find the tombstones of their ancestors from 400 years ago.
● People think tulips were originated in Netherlands, but that is not true! The first ever tulip bulbs were sent in 1554 to Vienna from Ottoman Empire in Istanbul and further distributed in Netherlands.
● There are three suspension bridges on the Bosphorus and two tunnels under the Bosphorus, one for rail and one for automobiles. The subway in Istanbul is the third oldest subway in the world, it was built in 1875 after London and the one in New York. In addition, Istanbul has two international airports; one on the Asian side one on the European side.
● Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.
● Agatha Christie’s famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was written at the famous Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul. Within the book, riding the historical train line from Istanbul to Paris, the character Hercule Poirot solves murder that happens on the train. The orient Express operated from 1883 to 1977.
● There are 237 hamams (a communal bathhouse) in Istanbul but only 60 of them are still in use. While decommissioned, the oldest and largest hamam in Istanbul is the Tahtakale Hamami, dating back to the 2nd half of the 15th century.