Istanbul

Even if the father of the modern Turkish state, Ataturk, moved the political capital from Istanbul to Ankara in 1923, Istanbul has remained the country's chief economic and cultural city. Even in the political sense, it still has got some weight: the latest NATO summit was organised there.

Istanbul has been the capital city of so many empires that it comes as no surprise that its history began as early as in the 7th Century BC, when the Greeks founded a small colony. Its obvious strategic location on the Bosphorus Straight quickly caused the city to grow in importance as well as set the scene for some of the history's most eminent rulers. Alexander the Great, Emperor Constantin (who gave the city its other name of Constantinople) are just a couple of names of people who had to do with Istanbul.

The name Constantinople is connected with the period of the Roman rule, especially after the capital of the Roman Empire moved to the city in the 4th Century. A thousand years later, in 1453, the fall of Constantinople marked the end of the Middle Ages. Since then, the city has been known as Istanbul, the name allegedly being a distant echo of the Greek expression eis ten polin meaning 'to the city'.

In the 20th Century, Istanbul ceased to be the capital city for the first time in its entire modern history, when the newly emerged Turkish republic moved its centre to Ankara. The move caused Istanbul to lose its previous importance, but the low point was short-lived indeed. The city's multi-cultural atmosphere and two thousand years of history just could not disappear only because the capital was moved somewhere else. Istanbul may not be the capital anymore, yet it still is Turkey's most recognizable city. It's the place to go in Turkey if one looks for cultural riches of Europe and Asia next to each other, with entertainment and great shopping opportunities being a nice surplus.