“All roads lead to Rome” is the well-known phrase, but the ancient truth was that all roads led to Istanbul, the erstwhile Byzantium, renamed Constantinople. The city’s location is part of what makes it so fascinating: With its site on the Bosporus, the strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul bridges Europe and Asia and is a crossroads for cultures and languages. A case in point is the Hagia Sophia, which was built as a Greek Orthodox basilica in 537, was converted to a mosque in 1453, and then in 1935 became a museum—one of the most-visited museums in the world. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secular, modern policies brought the country into the community of nations after World War I ended the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul continued as a capital of culture and tolerance, a dazzling array of the Byzantine contrasting with the modern that makes the city ever more cosmopolitan.
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