Istanbul  
 

Istanbul street scene

 Spotting the difference in these two images could be difficult, as the picture is so ‘busy’. Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey – Ankara is – but it is the city with the largest population (14 million in 2015) and the centre of the country’s economic life. It is officially the most populous city in Europe. Istanbul probably owes its pre-eminence to its geographic position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia across the Bosphorous Strait. Important throughout history, the city has been called ‘Constantinople’ (after the Roman Emperor Constantine), and by its original name, ‘Byzantium’ (founded 660 BC). In the 15th century ‘Constantinople’ was captured by the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and it remained that empire’s capital right up till 1924.
In 2010 Istanbul was named a European Capital of Culture, and by 2015 it was receiving twelve and a half million tourists a year, the world’s fifth most popular destination. Apart from its vibrant economy and reputation as an entertainment centre, Istanbul is famous for its historic buildings, including the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya, built as a church but converted to a mosque in 1453.
     
 
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