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12 replies
Istanbul Worth Going Out of the Way For?
DirtyD
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I have two options for my October trip this year. One is to land in Munich and make my way down to Rome through Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, and Slovenia. The other is to land in Rome and then take some route to Istanbul.

I am a student of history and Istanbul is a major draw for me, but getting there from Rome seems difficult. One way that I planned was to arch north up to Budapest and then back south and reach Istanbul through Bucharest. Another way was to go through the Croatian coast down to Athens and ferry over from Greece. Both methods require a significant amount of time, and from my research, a flight requires more money than I am willing to part with.

Rome is a must see for me. I’ve heard lots of good things about Krakow, Budapest, and Prague. I’ve already been to Munich. Is Istanbul a must-see this time around, or should I focus on the Eastern-European states?

I am open to absolutely any opinions and advice you all have. Thank you!

I am leaving from Los Angeles with $3500 for 30 days
New York, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Sights
luv_the_beach
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As a student of history with a strong interest in Rome, I think you may also find Istanbul intriguing and educational, as the two cities do have a historical connection. After all, both were important Greco-Roman cities, before Istanbul became a Turkish city. Istanbul was founded as the Greek-speaking city of Byzantium. Centuries later, as the Greek-speaking world was absorbed into the Roman Empire, Istanbul became an important city within the Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire. After Christianity started to spread within the Roman Empire, emperor Constantine himself converted to Christianity, he put a stop to persecutions of Christians, and changed the Roman Empire’s state religion from Greco-Roman paganism to Christianity. He also moved the Roman Empire’s capital to Byzantium, and renamed it Constantinople (after himself, quite the ego). The western half of the Roman Empire eventually fell to barbaric invasions, while the eastern half lived on for another millenium as a Greek-speaking Christian empire (with Constantinople as its capital) until the arrival of Turkic peoples in the 15th century who took over the city from the Greeks, and renamed it Istanbul. The city truly is a “crossroads of civilizations” and aptly spans two continents (Europe and Asia). The city has now been Turkish for 4-5 centuries now, adding a new layer of history for the city. Today, it has a strong Turkic and Muslim character, but the European-ness of the city is also evident. If the city intrigues you, go for it.


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DirtyD
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If I were to mandate Rome and Istanbul as the must-see cities for my trip, which route do you recommend as the best way to go between them? My current thoughts on the route are below with Florence, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. What are the other must-sees?

I am leaving from Los Angeles with $3500 for 30 days
New York, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Sights
tigrouflip
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That route looks great, I would suggest something different!
Travelling through the balkans may not be as daunting as it seems.
Rome 4 – Florence or Venice 2 – Ljubljana/Lake Bled 2 – Zagreb 1 – Dalmatian coast 4 (islands and Dubrovnik) – Bosnia 4 (Mostar and Sarajevo are AWESOME, great for modern history if that is of interest) – Montenegro (Kotor) 2 – Macedonia (Skopje, Ohrid) 3 – Meteora 2 – Athens 2 – Greek Islands 4- Istanbul 4

This is 34 days, so slightly longer than you planned, and cut some destinations. The times listed are probably minimums considering my estimate of travel times. I would LOVE to do this trip, been to half of the destinations though and highly recommend! Some safety concerns however crossing through Albania, or Kosovo on your way from Montenegro to Macedonia.

I am leaving from Atlanta, GA with $3000 for 36 days
Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Mostar, Sarajevo, Bol, Makarska, Florence, Málaga, Seville, Barcelona, Ibiza Town
DirtyD
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The safety issue is what gives me pause. I originally was going to go through the Balkans, but the time of year isn’t ideal for the Croatian islands/beaches and the safety issues were a little more than I desire. In all likelyhood, nothing would happen, but having to bypass Prague and Budapest seems like too much of a cost.

I am leaving from Los Angeles with $3500 for 30 days
New York, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Sights
rob_co2
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luv_the_beach wrote:
The western half of the Roman Empire eventually fell to barbaric invasions, while the eastern half lived on for another millenium as a Greek-speaking Christian empire (with Constantinople as its capital) until the arrival of Turkic peoples in the 15th century

I think this part is worth elaborating on since the OP is interested in Roman history.

For some reason everyone seems to dismiss that whole millennium of the “Byzantine Empire.” (Its referred to as Byzantine to avoid confusion of new and old Roman Empires.) The people were Roman and considered themselves so, even though they spoke Greek and eventually took up many eastern customs. Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, whatever its name, for a thousand years it was Nova Roma – capitol of the Roman Empire. While Europe was in decline (the dark ages), Byzantine Rome thrived, with plenty of wars and drama and drunken debauchery, just like the old Rome.

Rome is about the only place that has more Roman history than Istanbul. I guess the reason its overlooked is because the Turkish takeover put its own facade over things, like converting the great Hagia Sofia into a mosque (although now its officially a museum and displays remnants of both its Christian and Islamic past). There are many, many other Roman remains in Istanbul, and plenty are on the normal tourist route, but many more are not. On my last trip to Turkey, I picked up a book called_ Istanbul The Imperial City._ After an entire history of the city, it then describes every noteworty structure that was ever part of the city, from the Serpentine Column (which originally stood in Apollo’s temple at Delphi) to the modern built Bosphorus bridge. Now I can’t wait to make another (4th) trip to Turkey so I can see some of the many things I never knew existed in Istanbul.

Also, the whole western coast of Turkey is full of greco-roman historical sites, like Ephesus and Bodrum.

So if you are really interested in all things Roman, Istanbul should not be missed. Also, you will encounter a fascinating new culture unlike anything you will find in Europe. Consider budget flights to Sabiha Gokcen Airport.

rob_co2
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DirtyD wrote:
The safety issue is what gives me pause. I originally was going to go through the Balkans, but the time of year isn’t ideal for the Croatian islands/beaches and the safety issues were a little more than I desire. In all likelyhood, nothing would happen, but having to bypass Prague and Budapest seems like too much of a cost.

There is nothing unsafe about the Balkans that I know of. Its a little more off the beaten path, and traveling is slower and sometimes more challenging, but that can be a reward in itself.

Croatia has plenty of Roman history too, although many of the old structures there now are from the Venetian period. Split has a great Colosseum, cheaper and better preserved than the one in Rome. And visiting out of peak season, you will actually be able to enjoy them without the hoards of tourists.

luv_the_beach
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luv_the_beach] [quote=rob_co2 wrote:
luv_the_beach wrote:
The western half of the Roman Empire eventually fell to barbaric invasions, while the eastern half lived on for another millenium as a Greek-speaking Christian empire (with Constantinople as its capital) until the arrival of Turkic peoples in the 15th century

I think this part is worth elaborating on since the OP is interested in Roman history.

For some reason everyone seems to dismiss that whole millennium of the “Byzantine Empire.” (Its referred to as Byzantine to avoid confusion of new and old Roman Empires.) The people were Roman and considered themselves so, even though they spoke Greek and eventually took up many eastern customs.

Hi rob_co,

It seems that you’re well-versed in history. Smile

You are 100% correct that the Byzantines, namely the Greek-speaking majority, called themselves Romaíoi (meaning “Romans”). This in fact persisted until the Enlightenment, when they reverted to the classical/pre-Christian term Hellênes as a self-identifier (and it’s what the Greeks call themselves today). The Byzantine Empire was in fact the successor to the Roman Empire. It continued for another 1000 years, and is overlooked (and widely misunderstood) in contemporary Anglo discourse. And I agree with almost everything else you said.

I do have to disagree with you that the Byzantine Empire “eventually took up many eastern customs”. There is no basis for this, at least no more so than adopting cultural influences from the north and west as well; in fact it’s clearly evident there were far fewer influences [during the Middle Ages] from the east than from the west (Latins) or north (Slavs). I think your assertion that the Byzantine Empire “took up many eastern customs” rests on the very Anglocentric misperception of the Byzantines that you and I both criticize. This layman’s public discourse places the Byzantines, its modern successors (the Greeks) as well as other modern societies influenced by the Byzantines (Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, etc) as “eastern” and hence “different”.

If by “eastern” you’re talking about the Muslim world, then you’re wrong; in fact Turkish/Middle Eastern influences didn’t arrive into the Greek/Bulgarian world until the tail-end of the Middle Ages, and in the form of very limited superficial similarities (like food and music), even despite the long Ottoman occupation. In fact there was far more eastward influence from the Byzantine Empire, than westward influence into the Byzantine Empire. For example, mosque architecture in Turkey quite obviously mimics Hagia Sophia, an early Christian Byzantine church which in turn employed a Roman engineering and architectural innovation: the domed basilica as a public building. The basilica, in fact, is the basis of the European church across the European-Christian world, regardless if it was Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, whatever.

If by “eastern” you mean Orthodox Christian Russia/Ukraine/Kievan Rus, then you’re wrong again: Orthodox Christianity was spread from the Byzantine Empire to Russia/Ukraine, etc, not the other way around. Like Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity originated in Mediterranean Europe within a Greco-Roman context (and spread to Russia, etc), even though Anglos think of it as “Slavic”. Hence the very, very strong similarities that both Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity have with the pre-Christian greco-roman religion. In both branches of Christianity, patron saints replaced the polytheistic nature of Greco-Roman religion; churches dedicated to saints replaced temples dedicated to specific gods; the Virgin Mary replaced pagan maternal figures (like Hera); during the Middle Ages, Jesus was portrayed as the all-powerful paternalistic figure Zeus/Jupiter, and later [Renaissance and later] as the youthful Apollo…and so on and so forth.

If you look at early Christian history, there were about 6 or 7 centers of Christianity, of which one was Rome. Others were within the Byzantine Empire (Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, etc, cities in the eastern Med that were then Christian). The archdiocese in Rome argued that there should be a single unified church based in Rome, while the others argued that there should be a loose confederation of regional Christian churches. This disagreement eventually led to the Great Schism in the 11th century. The Roman church became the Roman Catholic Church, while the others became the Orthodox Churches. Both sides then competed with each other to convert the northern Europeans (Slavs, Germanics, etc) to their sect of Christianity, and we are where we are today.

Smile


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Quote:
The safety issue is what gives me pause. I originally was going to go through the Balkans, but the time of year isn’t ideal for the Croatian islands/beaches and the safety issues were a little more than I desire.
Huh???? Croatia and Slovenia are probably the safest countries on the planet. There ARE NO safety issues there.

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oldlady wrote:
Quote:
The safety issue is what gives me pause. I originally was going to go through the Balkans, but the time of year isn’t ideal for the Croatian islands/beaches and the safety issues were a little more than I desire.
Huh???? Croatia and Slovenia are probably the safest countries on the planet. There ARE NO safety issues there.

I think Dirty was more referring to passing through Albania or Kosovo in order to get to Macedonia or Greece.

I am leaving from Atlanta, GA with $3000 for 36 days
Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Mostar, Sarajevo, Bol, Makarska, Florence, Málaga, Seville, Barcelona, Ibiza Town
oldlady
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Granted, there’s more danger in traveling to Kosovo and Albania. I was really trying to make the point that the dangers in Eastern and Central Europe are generally way, way overstated in the guidebooks. Most guidebooks haven’t updated their “dangers and worries” sections on Eastern Europe since 1990, making it seem like traveling to Zagreb involves the same dangers as going to a 3rd world country with an active insurgency.

DirtyD
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tigrouflip wrote:
oldlady wrote:
Quote:
The safety issue is what gives me pause. I originally was going to go through the Balkans, but the time of year isn’t ideal for the Croatian islands/beaches and the safety issues were a little more than I desire.
Huh???? Croatia and Slovenia are probably the safest countries on the planet. There ARE NO safety issues there.

I think Dirty was more referring to passing through Albania or Kosovo in order to get to Macedonia or Greece.


This is what I was referring to, but I’ll take the advice about the guidebooks being outdated into consideration.

I am leaving from Los Angeles with $3500 for 30 days
New York, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Sights
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Hey, I am actually doing a university subject at the end of this year called ‘Graeco-Roman Cities in Antiquity’ and we are starting in Athens… afterwards I am going to stay on and do my own thing… the link with our tour itinerary is below, in case it gives you any good ideas?

http://www.asatours….

Hope that helps!!

I am traveling for 22 days
Rome, Venice, Berlin, Prague, Kraków, Munich, Paris, Marseilles, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Bordeaux, London
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