On November 23rd 2003, the British Consulate in Istanbul was bombed along with the HSBC bank. 27 people were killed. It was against this background that I arrived in Istanbul in the Summer of 2004. Even after this amount of time, the place seemed tense and nervy. I was staying at an American hotel that felt it necessary enough to check all vehicles undercarriages with a mirror for explosives as they approached the main entrance. Despite these small setbacks, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the city. It’s noisy, beautiful, chaotic, ancient, modern and dynamic all at the same time.
The Bosphorus is the main body of water that splits Istanbul in two. East is very much different to West. On the Eastern side, tourists are noticeably absent. Here along the coast is the great station of Haydarpasa. At this station, one can catch a train to all manner of exotic and forbidden locations. I was struck by the fact that Baghdad was only a train journey away.
On the boat journey back from Haydarpasa, you pass the great Topkapi Palace as it juts out into the Bosphorus. The great Ottoman Kings used this palace right up until liberation in 1923 by the legendary General Mustafa ‘Attaturk’ Kemal. Further round from the Topkapi and slighly up the hill is the Galata Tower. This tower is not far from the scene of the earlier bombings and has stood in some form for the last 600- 700 years. The skyline of the Golden Horn – the area that juts out into the Bosphorus – is dominated by this landmark.