ISTANBUL – It is the city that connects the continents of Europe and Asia with a mere strip of water.
It is the city built on seven hills, just like Rome.
It is the city that has been fought over for centuries, desired by the greatest empires.
It is the city that holds a place in the hearts of billions as so much more than all that.
It is my city.
Istanbul, which was the capital of three great empires, is singularly special in many aspects. It was called Constantinople under Byzantine rule, as the famous “They Might Be Giants” song can tell you.
It has been a true cultural and commercial capital for centuries.
The first thing you need to know about Istanbul is that it is located in Turkey, a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian peninsula in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe.
In other words, Turkey is not an Arabian desert country as many might believe. In fact, Turkey’s geographic location has been the envy of many nations over the course of history.
So, after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, many Western states attempted to grab a piece of land.
Fortunately, the Turkish people fought the War of Independence, and the republic was established in 1923.
In this process, Istanbul was held in occupation for four years, finally taking its independence back on October 6th, 1923. This newly established dynamic of Istanbul further shaped it into what it is today.
But, let’s leave history to the historians and focus on what Istanbul represents for millions of people today.
There is a never ending flow of people from all over the country and the world in this city.
Many people move to Istanbul for work or education or they come to simply visit.
In fact, a running gag known by the residents of Istanbul is that no one is actually from Istanbul. Whether it was 50 or 550 years ago, everyone seems to have come from another place.
Istanbul is a truly interconnected metropolis. You can take the ferry, the train, or your car and switch continents on the daily.
Many people live on one side of the Bosphorus, the strip of water separating and connecting Europe and Asia,and go to work or study on the other. As residents, it feels mundane to us to experience this, but it is, in effect, a marvelous situation.
Istanbul also houses some ugly truths. It is a city which contains both the richest and the poorest.
You might visit a luxurious shopping center with all sorts of brands with outrageously priced products. When you go to the back of that building, however, you are faced with slums. Just 500 meters from where people are leisurely spending money and having fun, other people are trying to find a way to protect themselves from the cold and feed their families.
This is just another face of Istanbul, which contains all kinds of people.
Istanbul is a city with countless stories to tell and to still write. It is a city which has witnessed unbelievable historic feats and continues to do so, every day.
I believe that as long as I have the chance to live in this beautiful city, I will experience and learn something new every day.
I hope that more people are encouraged to come to Istanbul and breathe in its unique atmosphere.
Bilge Guven is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.