Istanbul, the most Oriental European Capital of Culture

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The Independent Online

For its year as European Capital of Culture, the cosmopolitan Turkish city, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has invested in many restoration projects on historic sites and developed an extensive program of cultural events and festivals to revive its cultural scene with more than 400 events. The festivities will be launched on January 16 with the opening ceremony and will continue throughout the year.

Restoration works
To prepare for 2010, many historical sites and monuments underwent restoration  such as the mosaics and hand-drawn decorations in several sections of Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, a former Byzantine church then Ottoman mosque, turned into a museum under president Kemal Atatürk in 1934, now one of the most visited monuments in town.

The kitchens of the Topkap? Palace which house the palace’s renowned Chinese and Japanese porcelain collection have also been restored. From February 5, Topkap? Palace will also present the exhibition "Thousand Years of Persian Civilization." Home of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, the palace now run as a museum is also a key attraction of the city.

International artists’ workshops and exchanges
Throughout the year, European and renowned artists George Lappas (Greece), Sanja Ivekovic (Croatia), Peter Kogler (Austria) and Sophie Calle (France) will hold workshops for the younger generation of local artists and work with them in shared ateliers. Istanbul 2010 is also organizing international artists’ exchanges between artists in Istanbul and Berlin, to produce an exhibition called Breaking the Stereotypes, which will later tour European countries including Austria and Italy. (

Architectural exhibition: Istanbul 1910-2010
From April to October, the project "Istanbul 1910-2010: The City, Built Environment and Architectural Culture Exhibition" will show the evolution of the city in 100 years thanks to maps, models, drawings and various visual communications devices at the cultural complex Santralistanbul. (

Opening of the Museum of Innocence
Inspired by the novel of the same name by Nobel Prize-winning Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, the Museum of Innocence will offer a poetic and documentary representation (through films, photos and daily life objects) of the culture and everyday life of Istanbul from the 1950s to contemporary days. Opening in summer 2010 the museum will be located in Istanbul’s Çukurcuma district.

In 2010, Istanbul will share the European Capital of Culture title with two other cities, Essen and the Ruhr region (Germany) and Pecs (Hungary), a title that has been awarded by the European Union every year since 1987.

The Turkish metropolis's extensive history and size, being the fifth most populated city in the world (12.7 million inhabitants), gives Istanbul an edge over its two counterparts when it comes to hosting tourists.