Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Istanbul

Fri Apr 10, 2009 2:22pm EDT
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ISTANBUL (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to discover Istanbul, a city that bridges Europe and Asia, boasting a rich cultural mix with influences ranging from Roman to Arab?

From the Muslim heritage of the Ottoman Empire to the secular republic founded in 1923, Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you sample the contrasts of a city that straddles east and west.


9 a.m. Sultanahmet district, the hub of historic Old Istanbul dotted with centuries-old mosques, is the ideal place to start a short visit to this city. Start your walk around this historic area at the Basilica of St. Sophia, now called the Ayasofya Museum. Turn full circle, then look up to absorb the grandeur of its dome.

Arabic calligraphy has coexisted with Christian mosaics here since the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror converted the church into a mosque. It was declared a museum in 1935.

9:30 a.m. Cross the street to the six-minaret Blue Mosque, famed for its gleaming interior white-and-blue tiles originating from the city of Iznik.

10 a.m. Wander up to Topkapi Palace and marvel at the many halls, courts and chambers that house the treasures of the Ottoman Empire, including a jewel-encrusted 18th century golden throne and a sword said to belong to the biblical King David.

1 p.m. Take a break for lunch at one of the streetside kebab restaurants. Follow your meal with a tiny cup of Turkish coffee as the call to prayer blares from mosques all around.

2:30 p.m. Head to the western Edirnkapi district's Chora Church, an imposing Byzantine monument. Gaze at the mosaics and frescoes that cover its ceilings and walls, depicting scenes from the bible.   Continued...

<p>People walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul April 5, 2009. REUTERS/Osman Orsal</p>