A UNIQUE GEOGRAPHY


When I think of İstanbul, I think of a seagull

Half silver, half foam

Half fish, half bird

A seagull lands on a lamp post

Jumps to the food thrown at him

He doesn't wait for another, he leaves

The fisherman smiles, kindly

Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu

The Land of İstanbul

There are two things that make İstanbul what it is: geography and history.

İstanbul is located on the Bosphorus, which divides the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and, along with the Dardanelle Straits, separates Asia and Europe. An element of this geography is the Golden Horn, one of the world's most wonderful natural ports. The formation of the Golden Horn helped protect İstanbul with an impenetrable defensive moat, surrounding the historical peninsula with seas on each side. The legendary beauty of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn provide an aesthetic backdrop for İstanbul's strategic superiority. This aesthetic location and visual convenience complement each other.

Many rivers, such as the Danube and the Don, the Dnieper and the Kuban, the Dneister and the Bug; all flow into the Black Sea; and the Bosphorus is the only sea route through which all the rich flavors of the region can reach the outside world. It is the only water route that combines Mediterranean and Black Sea cultures, the only water-way linking the products of the Black Sea's hinterlands with the Mediterranean.

İstanbul is a natural bridge between North and South, East and West. This geography not only provides İstanbul with a strategic advantage, but lends the city an amazing multicultural base. That is why İstanbul holds such a unique position in the world.

İstanbul's foundation rests on the strata of ancient rock formations from the 1st geological era. Later on these were covered by a more recent geological layer. The upheavals of the 2nd and 3rd eras were followed by the rising of the seas in the 4th era. Finally, ten thousand years ago, İstanbul achieved its present geo­-topographical state, complete with the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The city is very close to the Northern Anatolian fault-line. Since its foundation, there have been over 150 earthquakes, both minor and major.

Here's what Nedim, a renowned poet of the Tulip Era, had to say about the city in the 18th century; "İstanbul, a beauty unlike any other, for the sake of only one stone, all the property of the world can be sacrificed.' One can conclude that indeed the land of İstanbul is very precious. Others who yearn for İstanbul from a distance have a saying: 'the rocks and earth of İstanbul are made of gold.' Actually İstanbul's soil is rather poor as far as valuable minerals and other underground riches are concerned.

İstanbul is a city that is mainly surrounded by grassy plains. The mountains do not take up much space and the yare not high. The highest hill is Aydos, 537 meters, and the most famous hill, Greater Çamlıca is 262 meters high. The areas of interest are the valley formations. The settlements and structures built near the deep and narrow valleys and slopes around the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus have made for an especially interesting sight.

An amazing panorama appears as the slopes suddenly become steep streets of stairs; a relic from the old days... Even though they are becoming less and less common you can still see with sleep streets in Cihangir, Beşiktaş, Arnavutköy and Üsküdar.

The air and water of İstanbul

İstanbul is the greatest waterway city in the world. The reasons for this are fourfold. First of all, it is surrounded by seas. The classical historian Procopius described the city as one where the 'seas are wrapped around her neck like a garland'. Secondly, the sea literally passes though it (The Bosphorus or the Holy River). Third, the world's most renowned 'horn' is here. Fourth, despite of all the rivers that have run dry over the years, it still has copious water resources. To put it succinctly, İstanbul is a city created by water.

Of the dozens of streams, the only ones to have survived and sometimes collect water from river basins are the Istranca, Riva, Sellimandira, Göksu, Hiciz, Sazlıdere, Nakkas, Cakil, Karasu, Kağıthane and Alibeyköy.

There are three natural lakes that in ages past after the influx of the sea became bays; and then subsequently became lagoons: Terkos (25 square kilometers), Kücükçekmece (16 square kilometers) and Büyükçekmece (12 square kilometers). Furthermore, there are 14 barrages which include Ömerli (approx. 23 square kilometers) Alibeyköy, Elmalı, Oarlik, Sazlidere. Buyukcekmece Lake has been dammed and has spread over 43 square kilometers.

The drinking water of İstanbul is primarily supplied from lakes such as Terkos, Buyukcekmece and some of the barrages that we mentioned earlier. Even though the drinking water capacity of Terkos provides for İstanbul is no longer enough to meet the city's needs, its name is traditionally synonymous with 'tap water'.

Generally in İstanbul the weather conditions of the mild Mediterranean or the harsher Black Sea Region prevail. The summers are hot and dry; the winters are rainy and cold. Over the course of history it is said that the Bosphorus has frozen a few times. Various prevailing winds have a profound affect on daily life. If we were to listen to Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, an author known for his interesting.

Observations about the city, İstanbul's weather is the outcome the constant struggle between the Southwest (Lodos) and Northeast (Poyraz) winds.

In terms of latitude, İstanbul is on the same parallel with cities such Beijing, Naples, New York and Thessalonica. Yet its weather is more moderate than those cities'. Autumn in İstanbul, especially at sunset, offers extraordinary panoramas to those who take the time to look.

To make a long story short, here's how our people phrase it: 'İstanbul's water and air is good for everyone.'

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