Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires – Christian and Islamic. Once capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural pulse of Turkey, and its beauty lies in its ability to embrace its contradictions. Ancient and modern, religious and secular, Asia and Europe, mystical and earthly all co-exist here.

Its variety is one of Istanbul’s greatest attractions: The ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars reflect its diverse history. The thriving shopping area of Taksim buzzes with life and entertainment. And the serene beauty of the Bosphorus, Princes Islands and parks bring a touch of peace to the otherwise chaotic metropolis.

A stay in İstanbul is not complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to yalı (shore-front wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages.

The best way to see the Bosphorus is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark at Eminönü and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait.

The round-trip excursion, very reasonably priced, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, there are agencies that specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruise. During the journey you pass the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace; further along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of the Yıldız Palace. On the coastal edge of the parks stands the Çırağan Palace, refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz, and now restored as a grand hotel. For 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore its ornate marble facades reflect the swiftly moving water. At Ortaköy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery.

The variety of people creates a lively scene. Sample a tasty morsel from one of the street vendors. In Ortaköy, there is a church, a mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years – a tribute to Turkish tolerance at the grass roots level. Overshadowing İstanbul’s traditional architecture is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.

The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Çamlıca Hill, the highest point in İstanbul. You can also drive here to admire a magnificent panorama of İstanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutköy create a contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther along stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city. The Göksu Palace, sometimes known as Kücüksü Palace graces the Asian shore next to the Anadolu Hisarı. The second link between the two continents, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past these two fortresses.

According to the old legends, Ephesus was founded by the female warriors known as the Amazons. The name of the city is thought to have been derived from “APASAS”, the name of a city in the “KINGDOM OF ARZAWA” meaning the “city of the Mother Goddess”. Ephesus was inhabited from the end of the Bronze Age onwards, but changed its location several times in the course of its long history in accordance with habits and requirements.

Carians and Lelegians are to be have been among the city’s first inhabitants. Ionian migrations are said to have begun in around 1200 B.C. According to legend, the city was founded for the second time by Androclus, the son of Codrus, king of Athens, on the shore at the point where the CAYSTER (Küçük Menderes) empties into the sea, a location to which they had been guided by a fish and a wild boar on the advice of the soothsayers. The Ionian cities that grew up in the wake of the Ionian migrations joined in a confederacy under the leadership of Ephesus. The region was devastated during the Cimmerian invasion at the beginning of the 7th century B.C. Under the rule of the Lydian kings, Ephesus became one of the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the Lydian King Croesus by Cyrus, the King of Persia, prepared the way for the extension of Persian hegemony over the whole of the Aegean coastal region. At the beginning of the 5th century, when the Ionian cities rebelled against Persia, Ephesus quickly dissociated itself from the others, thus escaping destruction.

The ruins of a monastery can be seen on the slopes of the Zigana Mountains to the south of Trabzon and at the foot of the mountain at the bottom of a wooded valley flows one of the tributaries of Değirmen Creek, which terminates at Trabzon. This place is known as “Meryem Ana”, or “the Virgin Mary” by the local people. Its old name is “Sumela Monastery”. Many people consider its origins to be extremely old, and this opinion is widely held among the Byzantine Greek community of the Black Sea coast. According to legends about the foundation of the monastery in books about Trabzon printed in Greek, the monastery was originally founded in the reign of Theodosius and rebuilt in the sixth century in the reign of Justinian by Belisarios, one of his commanders. However, foreign experts who have conducted on-site investigations consider that there is not ing to substantiate this hypothesis.

The Monastery’s main source of income is an icon of the Virgin Mary, which is reputed to be of great age and believed by many to possess miraculous properties. According to the legend, the icon is the work of Saint Luke, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ and it was sent to Athens after the death of Luke. However, in the reign of Theodosius (4 th century) the icon declared its desire to leave Athens and was borne to this hollow in the mountains around Trabzon by angels and placed upon a stone. It was at that time that two hermits by the name of Barnabus and Sophronius, who were then travelling from Athens to Trabzon, happened to find the icon in this deserted spot. Thus, buildings which are the subject of such legends are automatically regarded as being exceptionally old. Sumela is not the only example of this type, it is only one of a number.

It is said that “Sumela” (the Greek name of this monastery, founded in the name the Virgin Mary), comes from the word “melas”, which means “dark” or “black”. Many consider that this stems from the dark hues of the mountain valley in which the Monastery is situated. However, in the opinion of the author the word “sumela” could be an adjective used to refer to the icon of the Virgin Mary. The colour of the icon, which is so dark that it could be described as black, was one of the things that struck the eminent  historian J.P  Fallmerayer  (1790-1861) when he visited the Monastery in 1840 and could well be the origin of the name. It is known that l2th century Georgian art produced a number of icons of the Virgin Mary known as Black Madonnas, and these icons found their way into a number of monasteries. Black was used in order to emphasise the mysterious expression on the Virgin’s face. It is also considered that the origins of this Georgian style could be traced to ancient Indian art. If the close proximity of the Sumela Monastery to the Caucasus is considered, then it would be reasonable to assume that this icon is a Black Madonna from which the Sumela  Monastery gained its name. Thus, the mountain also became known as Oros Mela (Kara Dağ) because of the Monastery.

The Fact and Fiction Surrounding the 4000 Year Old Ancient City

Troy existed more than 4000 years as the center of ancient civilization. For many years, it was commonly believed that Troy was a myth, the product of fertile imaginations such as Homer’s, who made Hector, Helen, Achilles, Paris, Agamemnon and Priam so famous. That changed in 1822, when the city’s remains were discovered by Charles Mclaren. Still many wondered if the Trojan War really happened. Did Helen of Troy exist? Was there a real wooden horse?

Once known as Ilium or New Ilium, Troy (Truva) is located in Hisarlik at Canakkale, in the west of Turkey on the Dardanelles, the strait that divides Europe and Asia as it connects the Agean and Marmara Seas. Here at a place that changed the history of the world during World War I with the Gelibolu Campaign, the remains of Troy can be visited today.

The legend of Troy began with Greek and Latin literature. Homer first mentioned it in the Iliad and Odyssey. Later it became a most popular subject in Greek drama, the city’s tale told to generation after generation.

During the Bronze Age, Troy has a great power because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. In the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC, it was a major cultural center. However, after the fabled Trojan War, Troy was apparently abandoned from 1100 to 700 BC, when Greek settlers began to occupy the region. Troy was resettled and renamed Ilion. Alexander the Great ruled over the area around the 4th century BC. After the Roman capture of Troy in 85 BC, the city was partially restored by General Sulla. However, once the Romans occupied Constantinople (Istanbul), Troy lost its importance.

Troy was destroyed many times and rebuilt. So far, archaeologists have found nine levels; perhaps others are still hidden. However, efforts to uncover more of Troy’s secrets were severely hampered by the destruction wreaked on the site by German archaeologist Heinrich Schlieman, who excavated the city from 1870 to 1890. His theft of treasure from Troy and his damage to its remains will always be remembered in Turkish archaeological history.

Did you know that Troy is located in Turkey?

In 2004, with the release of “Troy” in the movie which theaters, people begin to recall the legendary history of this mysterious city. However, many people do not know that this city is located in Turkish territory. Troy was identified at the end of the XIX century by Heinrich Schliemann in the hill of Hissarlik, in Dardanelos, northwest coast of Turkey. This area contains a succession of several cities that were built over each other during centuries, one of these cities is Troy. The legend of Troy is still a mystery with few possibilities of being solved by archeologists, so do not fear … the romantic enigma of Troy will not be destroyed. Today you can not see much at the glory time of Troy, just some ruins of the city can be visited

An epic chronicle of the triumphs and tragedy of the legendary Trojan War, Troy begins as the passion of two of history’s most legendary lovers, Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) and Queen Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger), ignites a war between the Trojans and the united tribes of Greece.

When the two civilizations clash, legendary warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) emerges as the key to the Greeks’ victory or defeat over the seemingly invincible walls of Troy.