Istanbul joins the Culture Club

Forget the guided tours and locked in confines of hotel plazas, just sew your cash into your belt, get yourself a decent street map and head out into the place that has been nicknamed the City Of The World's Desire.

Of such consequence is this place that for centuries it was known to half the world simply as The City, Istanbul. Née Constantinople, is well fit to qualify to be the Cultural Capital of Europe 2010.

Massed beside the sea – Istanbul is a solidification of history, jumbled houses and docks and palaces along the shore, mighty domes and soaring minarets, ships and ferries swarming everywhere, rumbling traffic over terrific bridges and has enough smog to bring the Chinese army to its knees.

Check out Topkapi Palace, where once the Ottoman sultans held court, where the harem gossiped and the executioners sharpened their blades – keep your hand on your valuable bits when confronted by the harem gossipers, and steer clear of the blade sharpeners with a hungry look in their eye and you’ll do fine.

As to 'Why did Constantinople get the works? Well, that's nobody's business but the Turks . . .'

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