Constantinople at a Crossroads

Constantinople is a very nice city.

Probably one of the most beautiful in the world. Emperor Constantine knew what he was doing. He chose the most beautiful spot, between West and East, to build the capital of his empire.

Today it is a huge city of more than 15 million inhabitants, although I have the feeling that no one knows exactly how many people actually live there.

There are so many people that they will be deadlocked by the traffic if they do not take extra measures as soon as possible.

It is impossible to move within the City, even now with measures in place for the coronavirus.

Almost no one is on time for their appointments because no one can predict the traffic. It is a nightmare.

The Erdogan government has built a number of infrastructure projects. There are now large bridges, which stand impressively over the Bosphorus, a key sea route, and tunnels that connect the European and Asian sides.

And, of course the new, huge and well-built Istanbul Airport, which is located about a half an hour outside the city – something similar to Eleftherios Venizelos in Athens – was designed to meet the city's air needs for decades to come.

They are all large, impressive public works.

Meanwhile, the streets are full of young people. It is impressive how many young people are circulating in the City. It is reminiscent of the streets of Manhattan in the pre-coronavirus period.

On the one hand, this is an extremely positive element for Turkey.

New people means growth, a future.

But on the other hand, it can also mean problems if they are not given jobs and consequently, hope for the future.

The other impressive element for someone who visits the City after an absence of just a few years is the dozens of skyscrapers that have sprouted like forests. Again, they are reminiscent – to a point – of Manhattan’s buildings.

They strike a cacophonous note against the city’s traditional monuments, with its many minarets also rising in the sky; but they are also tangible proof of a city that pulsates with dynamism, energy, and optimism.

At the moment, the Turkish economy is at a dangerous crossroads, however. This is Erdogan's Achilles heel.

With a dollar a few years ago you got about 2 Turkish liras. Now you get about 8. And while for the visitor this is a great deal, for the businessman who has loans in dollars or euros and the consumer who sees the prices skyrocketing, it is a bad one.

And while the cheap lira can act as a magnet for tourists, I did not see that happening. The opposite is the case: I saw very few tourists. And this of course because of the coronavirus.

Public opinion seems to believe that Erdogan's days are over. They are tired of his authoritarianism, his persecutions, his endless quarrels inside and outside the country.

If I made a bet, however, I would say that his time is not yet done.

One way or another, right or wrong, he will remain in power. Something like Putin. Erdogan’s departure from the presidency now would leave him exposed to the dangers of trials in the courts of law…


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