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Notes on the Geography of Turkey (Istanbul): Europe Comes Calling

Ever since the mid-19th century, when the sultans moved from Topkapi Palace to Dolmabahce, Istanbul has been becoming a more European city. Here, a few signs of that change.

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Might as well start again at the Sublime Porte. (The roofline really grows on you. Today it resembles a giant ray pulsating in tropic waters.)

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Let's walk north to the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosporus. The view here is to the west, up-channel. On the right side is what a century ago was called Pera, the European part of Constantinople. On the left is the historic city.

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Here's the main channel of the Bosphorus, with European Turkey on the left and Asiatic Turkey on the right. The view is from Topkapi palace. The ferry is heading toward the Golden Horn. Straight ahead but out of sight: the Black Sea. Behind the camera, the Bosphorus opens into the Sea Marmara, creating the stubby peninsula on which Constantinople was built.

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The ferry terminal at Eminonu, just inside the Golden Horn. Despite the new bridges, ferries are still very active.

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Eminonu itself is an intensely crowded district, despite the impression given in this picture. The porter is bent under a load of boxes. Their weight rests on a clever but sobering device, a frame resting on his pelvis, which bears the load he carries all day.

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A more typical moment: traffic to reckon with.

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Ah, that promised European influence! It's the Sirkeci railway station, opened in 1890, with a stylishly French roof.

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The inside is more traditional.

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A triumphal arch seems distinctly Roman--and perhaps a bit strange for a university.  This is a case of creative readaptation, however: the original occupant, arriving in 1864, was the Ministry of War.

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Inside. The roof seems a bit sheared. Could there have been more at one time?

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Enough of grandeur; let's go fishing. Here, the Galata Bridge, across the Golden Horn. This picture was taken from the north side, looking back to the old city. In the right distance, the Suleimaniye mosque.

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Keep walking into Pera. Back in the days of Mata Hari, this street (now called Istiklal Caddesi, or Independence Avenue) was the Grande Rue de Pera--the heart of European Constantinople. It's pretty up-market now, too.

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The tram, freshly restored as part of an effort to rejuvenate the neighborhood. Urban planners read the same magazines worldwide and adopt the same cute strategies to capture tourist dollars.

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This is the gate of the Galatasaray Lycee, built in 1868 so young members of the Ottoman nobility could be exposed to European ideas. Yes, the name is used by Istanbul's professional football team, which was founded here.

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Very much in use still: the archaic elevator in the Perapalas Oteli, or Pera Palace Hotel, built in the 1890s by Georges Nagelmackers, the Belgian who organized the Orient Express and realized he needed a place to accommodate his passengers once he got them here. (The hotel closed for renovations in 2006, after this picture was taken, and it reopened in 2010.)

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Milan? Nope: a covered arcade off Istaklal Caddesi.

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Not explicit enough?  How about this: Victoria Regina, on the gate of the British Embassy.


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