Sitting in seat 7A en route from Athens to Istanbul, I couldn’t help tapping my toes and humming one particular song quietly to myself. Since I was a kid, I’d always wanted to visit Istanbul and you’ll just never guess why. (Ok, you probably will, especially if you read my posts on what initially made me want to visit Athens.) When They Might Be Giants agreed to license their cover of the Four Lads’ original “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” to Tiny Toon Adventures, they basically sealed my travel destiny. Just like I rocked out to The Girls Of Rock & Roll from the Chipmunk Adventure at the Acropolis, I knew someday I would go to Istanbul to sing about why Constantinople got the works. (It’s nobody’s business but the Turks.)
Why they changed it I can’t say, people just liked it better that way.
As a world traveler, you’d think I’d have done some more in-depth research before arriving in Istanbul, but my repeat viewings of the video above had to suffice. (I was really busy eating and dancing in Greece, you know. I just didn’t have time for Lonely Planet.) Plus, I knew I’d be meeting up with Amber, who you’ll remember from Thailand & Laos adventures. Amber is always well-versed in the culture & history of wherever we end up, so you can imagine how much I love traveling with her!
Historically known as both Constantinople (for Emperor Constantine) and Byzantium, Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire & the Ottoman Empire. That’s a lot of empires, a whole load of historic back-and-forth, and mucho religious upheaval in the meantime.
It’s interesting to note that many of the mosques in the area were once Orthodox or Catholic churches, and in the famed Hagia Sophia which is now a museum, you can still see remnants of both Christian and Muslim influences.
One of my favorite facts about Istanbul is that it’s the only major city located in both Asia and Europe. Amber had the great idea to celebrate on each continent with a sign, but after a day of searching the Asia side in vain for one particular Turkish bath, we were distracted and forgot about Europe entirely.
While I was tootling around Istanbul with Amber, singing my favorite lyrics (Even old New York, was once New Amsterdam) and absorbing the significance of thousands of years of history and religious ping-ponging, I finally figured out why Constantinople got the works. And I’m not telling anyone!*
*Ok, it was the Ottomans!