【Istanbul】A First Look at the Crossroads of Europe and Asia

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By Joe Chiu
16 Feb 2024

A First Look at the Crossroads of Europe and Asia

From observation, every Hong Kong tour escort's career starts in Asia. After years of experience, the further away the destination is from Hong Kong, the more successful it is, so the moment of taking a group out of Asia is a moment to remember for the rest of one's life, and my milestone was a special destination - Istanbul, a Turkish city straddling Europe and Asia.


Is Istanbul the capital of Turkey? Like Sydney, Toronto, etc., even though it is the largest and most famous city in the country, it is not the capital. The capital of Turkey is Ankara, the second largest city in the country. However, the first stop for most travellers in Turkey is Istanbul, which is one of the world's major transport hubs due to its history and geographical location. Istanbul is about thirteen hours away from Hong Kong on Turkish Airlines (a five-star airline, one of the top three in the world in my opinion), and it's a great way to start your journey through a city that is over 2,000 years old and has held a strategic position since ancient times.


Colourful chandeliers are a famous and popular souvenir of Turkey


The majority of Middle Eastern countries practise Islam, and Turkey is no exception, with hundreds of mosques of all sizes in the city of Istanbul. There is an Islamic proverb that says: "The Koran was born in Mecca, read in Egypt and treasured in Istanbul". This reflects the high status of religion in Istanbul. Therefore, my first choice was the Sultan Ahmad Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. The minarets on the periphery of the mosque, reflecting its status and wealth, are usually one to three in number, with four being large and rare. The Blue Mosque, on the other hand, is equipped with six minarets, which reflects its status and magnificence.

The Blue Mosque is now bustling with traffic, but every time I revisit the site in recent years, I am reminded of an episode: in December 2015 I visited the Blue Mosque for the first time. Unfortunately, a month later there was a suicide bombing in the area. It made me reflect on the fact that I had been there to take photos and lead a group tour, but in the blink of an eye, the place had changed beyond recognition. Not only did it make me appreciate the people and things around me more, but it also strengthened my determination to complete my visit to all seven continents, because all civilisations and natural landscapes will not always be waiting for you to "come and visit", and you have to take the time to travel the world on your own.


First visit to Turkey in winter, with snow falling to add to the romantic atmosphere.


Another classic activity worth experiencing in Turkey is the Turkish bath. Since the Turks took over the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire), they have inherited the bathing habits of the ancient Romans, which have gradually evolved into the characteristic Turkish bath. Like Japanese hot springs, Korean steam baths and Finnish baths, Turkish baths are not to be missed. However, there's a big psychological hurdle to overcome beforehand - chances are the strangers massaging and rubbing your back will be of the opposite sex, but they'll tactfully cover their vital areas with towels and won't touch them during the whole experience. That said, it's advisable to get into a swimming costume and check out the surroundings before making your choice. All of these concerns aside, the Turkish bath is definitely a tiring experience that you will fall in love with.

Turkey has numerous tourist attractions, such as the Cotton Castle and the Cappadocia, and if you're interested in world history, it's an absolute treasure trove of history classrooms. Whether you want to see history, architecture, or natural beauty, Turkey has it all, making it a country that satisfies all your travelling desires at once.


English Translation: deepl.com

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