Luxury Vacation Guide 2012: Istanbul

Travel like a modern sultan with design-conscious hotels, bespoke shopping, and high-end dining at the crossroads of two continents: Istanbul, Turkey.

In 2010, Istanbul made headlines in every travel magazine and newspaper as it was home to one of the European Capitals of Culture. The influx of cash and visitors meant dozens of new hotels, art galleries, museums, and world-class restaurants. As many European countries’ economies have seen trouble in the last year, the Turkish Tiger is booming. Visitors today can relive the glory days of travel in the restored Pera Palace Hotel, built for the Orient Express passengers, or luxuriate in modern style with a water view at the House Hotel Bosphorus. Marvel at the jewel-encrusted treasures at Topkapı Palace and pick up something for your own royal residence at Paşabahçe, where home goods run from a few lira for a çay glass to thousands for a mosaic-tiled Ottoman-inspired vase; or invest in artisanal, limited-edition jewelry and textiles at Armaggan. Sample Turkish classics with a modern twist at Lokanta Maya for shared mezes or at the Michelin-standard Mimolett restaurant and wine boutique. If you haven’t put on too much weight from all the fantastic food, you can commission a bespoke suit, leather jacket, or customized pair of shoes at the Grand Bazaar or on the back streets of Nişantaşı, Istanbul’s fashion district. While no longer a budget travel destination, Istanbul has something to offer every taste, from an elaborate dinner aboard a private yacht to the simple (and cheap) pleasure of a ferry ride between continents.

[flickr image via Witt Istanbul Suites]

How many continents are there?

We are commonly taught that seven continents exist – North America, South America, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. But is this answer really true? As YouTube sensation C.G.P. Grey points out in a new video, the definition of a continent isn’t consistent. In a nearly four-minute video, Grey explains (to I-guarantee-it-will-be-stuck-in-your-head kind of music) that depending on the determining factors, the number of continents could range from as few as five or four to as many as dozens.

Using the definition of “large land masses separated from others by oceans,” is problematic, Grey points out, as technically Europe and Asia aren’t separated by an ocean, North and South America are technically only “separated” by a man-made canal and Antarctica, if one is to be precise, is actually an archipelago covered by ice rather than a legitimate land mass. Very confusing.

Weigh in below – is the traditional definition of “continent” correct? Or, like the shocking discovery that Pluto is, in fact, not a planet, should our definition and childhood textbooks be revised?