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For centuries this city was the focus of a conflict between eastern and western civilization. It is now a shining example to the world of how to run a successful secular society in a country with a Muslim majority.

You will not be woken by church bells here, but rather the dulcet sounds of the call to prayer. Being an atheist I can only judge these musical enticements by their aesthetic qualities. On these terms they beat the sounds of Christian church bells hands down. It is a sweet and evocative sound that somehow suits the majesty of the Islamic architecture. Hearing this call across the city as you wander around taking in the sights just adds to the mystery of this city.

We stayed very close to the centre in an area called Galata. There are numerous little restaurants, thriving between the bridges and stone staircases that lead between roads at different levels.

We would make our way to the open street market in the mornings and from there walk into the city. On our way we would pass the Medieval Galata Tower. This is one of my favorite places in Istanbul. From the top you get a fantastic view across the rest of the city. It was originally built in 1348 by the Genoese when Istanbul was still Constantinople. The Genoese were an Italian minor empire that colonized various regions across the Mediterranean. They built the Galata tower to replace the original that was destroyed in the fourth crusade.

Further down the hill from Galata tower you arrive at Galata bridge and cross over into the center of the city. This is where the majority of the tourist attractions lay. You can visit the palace museum, the Basilica Cistern and the many beautiful mosques. There is the Grand Bazar and the spice markets, and enormous numbers of beautiful buildings and examples of intricate stone masonry making up the historical center of Istanbul.

There are many tourist guides and companies that offer boat trips around the city to see a variety of other sites. I would make sure you shop around before choosing, some of them engage in very deceptive tactics to extract money from tourists.

Enjoy your stay.

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