With a population of 14 million, Istanbul is the largest urban agglomeration in Europe, second largest in the Middle East, and fifth largest city in the world. Transcontinental, astraddle the shimmering yet hard-working Bosphorus – whilst the commercial and historical centre lies in Europe, a third of its population lives across the strait in Asia. 3 million place a foot on the main Beyoğlu artery – İstiklal (Independence) Avenue – on any given day: equivalent to more than a fifth of the population.
For a view looking back, into the history and conflicting dynamics of a nation with Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman roots, which is secular by State as well as diverse by religion and culture, try Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, Memories and the City. For the view ahead, try the Istanbul Modern, whose curation illustrates the nation’s multi-faceted influences through the lens of recent artistic movements, through to Contemporary interpretations of the challenges faced as Turkey evolves, pivotal between East and West.
The city’s also pretty handy if you’re experiencing Asia withdrawal symptoms, which can be rectified simply by hopping on a ferry. May 2014.