Istanbul Historic Peninsula (Old City) History and Map
Istanbul is the city I was born and raised in. A part of my childhood years was spent in Fatih district. The name of Fatih is derived from the word “Fetheden”, which means “The Conqueror”. It is a title commonly attributed to Sultan Mehmed II, who conquered Istanbul in the name of Ottomans.
My earliest memories are of narrow streets of Fatih and old wooden Ottoman houses. I was raised in an era when the local neighborhood culture still prevailed and I lived at the center of a traditional neighborhood until the age of seven. Since it is one of the oldest districts of Ottoman Istanbul, Fatih has a large conservative Muslim population.
Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul
As I was not equipped with a knowledge of history at the time of my childhood, the fact that this old district was actually a Greek colony Byzantium and later a Roman city Constantinople never crossed my mind. Born and raised in these ancient lands must have bound my fate somehow to Fatih district and its most special area, Sultanahmet.
This little peninsula surrounded by city walls left its mark on the lives of so many Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. This rich historical heritage is now elevating the human beings of modern times.
Old Wooden Houses Of Istanbul
Istanbul Historic Peninsula
I remember the first time I went to Sultanahmet area as a student as if it was yesterday. Famous landmarks like Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet Mosque (commonly known as the Blue Mosque) and Topkapi Palace seemed much bigger to my eyes than they already are. Now as a tourist guide, I watch the spark in the eyes of people who see these landmarks for the first time with great enthusiasm.
When they are in the Sultanahmet Park and see 400 years old Blue Mosque on one side and 1500 years old Hagia Sophia on the other, they are struck with adoration and reverence. I see the exact same feeling when we step in Hagia Sophia, which I have a great admiration for.
The time stops the moment people pass through the Imperial Gate in the inner hall and enter the main site. I step back and watch the amazement on their faces and spark on their eyes. Because even though I have visited it hundred times, I have the same feelings as they do.
Sultanahmet Park and Hagia Sophia
Wisdom of Hagia Sophia
There is an essential point I keep saying to the guests in my tour: This building was completed in the year of 537. Even today we are having hard time believing its size when we lift our heads and look at the magnificent dome.
Can you imagine the feelings of people in the 6th century and the following ones? Imagine those people coming from their towns and villages to just to see this building and pray in it. And imagine what they experience when they look up and see the canopy of heaven.
This is the reason why Hagia Sophia became the center of legends during the Middle Ages. Because they could not believe this dome was the work of a man. As far as I am concerned, they did not want to believe it anyway. They wanted to take shelter in this building in which victories were celebrated and emperors were crowned.
Believing it was created by the god and protected by his angels would give the city folk an incredible spiritual power and healing source. Hagia Sophia remained as the biggest temple in the world for 1000 years following its construction.
Imperial Gate of Hagia Sophia
From Constantinople to Istanbul
I am going through all the important leaders who shaped Istanbul. Greek Leader Byzas who came from Ancient Greek Site Megara and found the first known city here with its people. Roman Emperor Constantine who transformed these lands into the capital of Rome.
Byzantine Emperor Justinian who ordered the masterpiece Hagia Sophia to be built at the heart of the city. Mehmed II who captured the city which was losing its charm at the time and turned it into a capital of a rising empire again. And finally Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who saved the city from the occupation after the World War I and revived it as the pearl of Turkish Republic.
Whatever we say about Istanbul will never be enough. But we will try to look at Istanbul’s history from all the aspects in this blog. We will speak about its culture, lifestyle, traditions and food.
Istanbul Historic Peninsula Map
From Asia to Europe Everyday
I left Fatih district at the age of seven and moved to Kadikoy, located on the Asian side of the city. Kadikoy was called as Chalcedon in ancient times. It was described as the “Country of the Blind” in the Greek myth that depicts the foundation of Istanbul.
I have been travelling to the European side of Istanbul every day to go to work; therefore, I change continents twice a day. You see, Istanbul is such a city.
Istanbul Old City Sightseeing Map
Istanbul Historic Peninsula Map by Serhat Engul