Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) founded Turkey in 1923 with a single, welcoming idea in mind. “Anyone who wishes to live under these lands, to protect its borders and its people is Turkish.” No matter your past, your birth nationality, or your birth country, once you began living here, you are a Turk. This was an idea that has always been a part of Turkic people. The society has always been welcoming to other cultures, and lived side by side with them since the ancient times.
Istanbul, for its specifically important location, has always been a central destination from every part of the world. Be it trade merchants moving globally, or people who are looking for a new home, Istanbul is the city to visit. With a population of more than 16 million, and an annual 12 million tourist rate, the city is home to a constantly changing culture while protecting its past. Istanbul’s own culture has sparked countless businesses that affected global population.
As one of the largest cities in the world, Istanbul offers an intense diversity in food, travel, cultural activities, architecture, and many other subjects. Whether living on a budget or a substantial income, fulfilling needs and wants is easy in this city. There is a local shop in every neighbourhood for every need. Butchers, hardware stores owned by a single family, kebab stores in every shape or size, clam dolma sellers who work on a wheeled table are some of the things you can find in every street. While clams are sold in a take-out format, there are other food sellers such as “chicken over rice” or “chickpea over rice” that carry a small chair and table everywhere they go.
At night, Istanbul transforms into a different world altogether. People get off from work by evening, and they fill the entertainment districts, or the coastal lines if the weather allows. World’s biggest clubs serve the city’s millions of residents every night. Cultures of every country, and religion walk side by side in Taksim Square. The Grand Bazaar sells authentic remnants of the Turkish culture to thousands every day, from special carpets, coffee, to silk shawls.
To accommodate millions of people, Istanbul has integrated many different travel plans to ease the traffic. There is a singular railway system at 74 km long that connects Asia and Europe sides, more than 10 different subway systems. A special bus line operates separately from the regular traffic, called MetroBus. Seaports operate millions monthly between two continents, as well as taking desired customers on a Bosphorus tour around Istanbul.
A MiniBus system carries about twenty people at most between short distances. The bus passengers especially have created their own slang during their travels. Now, every driver is referred to as a “Captain,” and passengers usually have to yell, “Captain, open the back (or middle) door, please.” if they wish to step down on a busy interaction. Although modern busses have stop buttons, MiniBuses still operate a crowded Van with no other option to warn the driver expect calling them out.
Istanbul’s seaports are probably one of the oldest projects that operate since the foundation of the city itself. These ports are used by thousands every day to travel between the continents, or reach out to the Prince Islands located 14 km away from the land. It gives a chance to admire the landscape of the whole city through a new perspective, while not causing you to lose time during your daily plans.
In ports, subway stations, or on the street, music is a part of life in Istanbul. Talented artists all offer entertainment to those who wish to relax for a moment during their busy schedule. It is never difficult to find a saxophone player working under a bridge, or keyboard players singing in stations. Dancers with colorful and traditional dresses occupy the streets. Musical and theatrical venues operating since the old times offer a new performance every day.
The concept of assigning a professional rank to everyday roles have jumped on other aspects of life in Istanbul. The word “Chief” is excessively used during food orders. People refer to strangers with family titles like Brother, Uncle, Aunt (Abi, Amca, Teyze), etc. Usage of these titles instantly creates a bond between two strangers who otherwise do not know one another, and this language phenomenon has been a part of Turkish culture since Ottoman Era.
Every step you take in this town has a story to tell. In every corner, there is a building or a road piece that is leftover from a historical time. In the Beyoğlu district, Galata Tower still stands tall since the year 528. It was built by a Byzantine Emperor to be used as a lighthouse. In 1204, Galata Tower took damage from the Fourth Holy Crusade, and then its bricks were restored during the construction of a protective wall around the city against invaders in 1348. In the year 1632, less than two hundred years after the Ottoman Conquest of the city, perhaps the first Turkish pilot has used the tower to practice flying. A man named Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi jumped from the 67 m tall tower, with a wing system he himself designed, after studying Leonardo Da Vinci and other architects’ works. Nowadays, the tower is a tourist attraction, home to its own legends. One legend suggests that if you can climb to the top floor with someone you like, you will be married.