Bursa is Turkey's fourth-largest city, and was capital of the Ottoman Empire a hundred years before Constantinople had even been conquered. It makes for a great excursion from Istanbul, almost directly across the Sea of Marmara.
Established in 1856, the Ottoman Bank was a part of a comprehensive effort to modernize the flagging Ottoman Empire. Today, its former headquarters in Galata is home to SALT: a non-profit organization dedicated to art, architecture and urbanism.
A stone's throw off the coast of Üsküdar, the Maiden's Tower is one of Istanbul's most instantly recognizable landmarks. It's been a place of intrigue, legend and strategic importance since the city's earliest days.
There's no shortage of charming neighborhoods lining the shores of the Bosphorus, but lovely little Çengelköy is among the very best of them. We had breakfast here on a Sunday morning, before walking along the coast to the incredible Beylerbeyi Palace.
Found outside the old city walls at the end of the Golden Horn, the neighborhood of Eyüp is one of the most sacred spots in the Islamic world.
The irony wasn't completely lost on us. Visiting Dolmabahçe Palace, a symbol of preposterous wealth and privilege, while just outside workers were marching in Istanbul's infamous Labor Day protests. "What's that smell?" I whispered to Jürgen, while admiring a carpet with more square footage than any apartment I've ever lived in. "Tear gas", he said, his eyes starting to well up. "Amazing carpet, though."
With their heads slightly tilted, arms raised in exaltation and spinning in graceful circles, the whirling sufi dervishes are among the most enduring images of Turkey. Istanbul boasts a number of places in which to catch a ceremony, but we chose to attend the twice-monthly performance in the Galata Mevlevihanesi; the city's oldest tekke.
As in most other European cities, soccer is king in Istanbul. But unlike most other cities, Istanbul is home to not one, not two, but three major teams. Galatasaray is currently the top dog, champions of the 2012/13 season and the league's most internationally accomplished side. Fenerbahçe is the wealthiest and has the biggest stadium. But we chose to throw our support behind Beşiktaş.
The Grand Bazaar is really a city unto itself. The main thoroughfares are where you'll find the most popular shops and restaurants, but just like any city, the coolest spots are tucked away in its less-visited corners.
Even more "orient" than the Orient Express, the Baghdad Railway connected the future capital of Iraq to Istanbul. The western terminus was the massive Haydarpaşa Station, which is still one of the busiest train stations in Turkey. We spent a day exploring the magnificent old station and the neighborhood surrounding it.