The location of Istanbul could be placed in a circle lying roughly at the intersection of the 41st parallel and the 29th meridian. A number of the world’s important cities also lie on or near the same parallel-cities such as Peking Salonika, Naples Madrid, and New York. It is the place where the continents of Europe and Asia meet too, for it was founded at the point where the Black Sea is linked to the Mediterranean and the islands of the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul is located where roads link East and West, where the sea brings the North and South together. This geographical feature of the city is further stressed by the presence of the Golden Horn, which throughout history has served as a natural harbor for ships of all kinds.
Location and geography-wise, Istanbul was able to develop as three separate cities. The first of these is the historic part of the old city walls which is triangular in shape; this part of the city has a very ancient history, has seen many different stages of development, and could rightly be described as its nucleus. Galata, which lies on the north bank of the Golden Horn, developed as a city in its own right and is the nucleus of the many districts that have grown up around it during the past hundred years or so.
Uskudar was founded on the Asian side of the Bosphorus location and until the arrival of the Turks, this location was an unimportant settlement; it resembles a purely Turkish provincial township which has blossomed just outside of Istanbul like a second city. During the time of the Ottoman Empire, the three parts of the city were referred to as Bilâd-ı selâse. It has been established that there were no settlements of any importance on either side of the Bosphorus during the Early and Middle Ages.
If the few coastal villages which lay close to the city could be regarded as exceptions, then examples of habitation dating from the Byzantine period consist of a few isolated monasteries lying on the coast or on the hillsides overlooking the Bosphorus. After the advance of the Ottoman Turks, it is probable that they were abandoned. Both shores of the Bosporus experienced their main development during the Turkish period when villages sprang up at intervals along both sides, and a large number of waterside residences adorned the coastline between them. It was in the l9th century that a number of palaces were built along the Bosporus, and this added even further to its importance.
It is a great pity that in our day and age a blind eye has been turned to the construction of a number of ugly buildings that have spoiled the geography of this waterway; many of the waterside residences of old have been demolished and a number of facilities such as coal yards and oil storage tanks, factories and workshops, which are not in keeping with their surroundings, have been built along the shores of this natural channel, which must surely be one of the loveliest places in the world, and have done a great deal to detract from the beauty of this “promenade”. If we add to this damage, all done in the recent past, the shanty towns that have also sprung up with incredible rapidity in recent years, then there is no doubt that the shores of the Bosporus have lost much of their loveliness.
The law that was brought out in 1985 to save the Bosphorus deserves to be criticized as far as its terms and its enforcement are concerned.