March 03, 2011

New book invites readers on trip through, under Istanbul

Every day the inhabitants of Istanbul walk on land filled with the remains of long-forgotten times. Thanks to the construction of the Marmaray tunnel between the European and Asian sides of the city, we now know Istanbul is at least 8,000 years old. That puts it in the running for one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, alongside Cairo and Baghdad.

Istanbul is a city of mystery that leaves people admiring its architectural and natural beauty. It is also a city that hides some of that mystery underground, as anyone who reads the book “The World Beneath Istanbul” will discover.

Author Ersin Kalkan reminds us of this unmatched heritage of Istanbul in his book, published in Turkish as “Yeraltindaki Istanbul” and in English as “The World Beneath Istanbul.” The book draws attention to the wealth beneath us. It is the story of a city with a long history and a longer prehistory that extends from the newly uncovered prehistoric remains at Yenikapi to the Byzantines’ Great Palace, from St. Sophia to the cisterns. And this is done with a voice that may remind the reader of the classic Istanbul guide book, “Strolling through Istanbul.”

The book takes the reader below ground and above ground, tying the two together since most of the time the buildings we see on top of the soil have been built on top of buildings of a different architectural type in the past. Still, roads tended to stay where roads were in the past and religious buildings were usually built on sites that once housed the shrines and sanctuaries of other gods.

“The richness of Istanbul’s underground is undoubtedly incomparable to that of any other city in the world. The remnants of thousands of years of history sitting beneath soil, the cisterns, tunnels, corridors and labyrinths ... It is an invitation to familiarize yourself with and strengthen our awareness of the wealth of Istanbul. The book may be described as a narrative guide to Istanbul and allows its readers to travel through her past in the present,” Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş says in the introduction to “The World Beneath Istanbul.”

Topbaş said his administration intends to continue producing books on the history and cultural values of Istanbul.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: New book invites readers on trip through, under Istanbul

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