A new connection between Asia and Europe

You can now hop on a train in Europe, go through a tunnel under water, and pop up in Asia! This new railway tunnel goes under the Bosphorus Strait and it connects the Asian and European parts of the city of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The tunnel is called Marmaray, and is 13.6 km (8.5 miles) long. The new railway service will help with traffic problems. In the past, commuters have had to take ferries or drive on two bridges that connect the two parts of Istanbul.

An Ottoman leader, Sultan Abdul Mejid I, first suggested the idea of an underwater tunnel about 150 years ago. Turkey was part of the Ottoman Empire, one of the largest empires in the world. At its peak, parts of Europe and Africa were also part of it. The Ottoman Empire lasted for over 600 years, and fell at the end of World War I. The modern country of Turkey was founded in 1923, and was officially announced as a nation on October 29 of that year. The Marmaray tunnel was opened as part of the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of modern Turkey.

Turkey has been a home to many great civilizations – Byzantine and Ottoman are two of them. Turkey has also created some of the greatest architectural marvels in the world, and is a gold mine of historical artifacts. In fact the Marmaray tunnel project was delayed partly because the folks digging the ground uncovered some architectural treasures. One of them was an ancient port from the 4th century.

Istanbul is the only large city in the world that is a part of two continents. Over 99% of the Turkish people are Muslims. However, Turkey is a secular country, meaning Turkey does not support or oppose any religion. Ankara is its capital city, and the head of the government is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (see image).

You can watch a video on how the Marmaray tunnel was built.

 

Did you know?

There is a connection between the country Turkey, and the bird of the same name. When Europeans first encountered the bird in North America, they confused it with a kind of bird that was found in Turkey. That mistaken identity led to the name “turkey” for the bird, and that name has stuck.

Did you know?

The tallest man in the world is a 30-year old from Turkey. Sultan Kosen is 251 cm (8 ft 3 in) tall! He has been in the news recently because he just got married.

Image Credits: www.tcdd.gov.tr for Marmaray Train’s image, Government of Chile for Erdogan’s image, holylandphotos.org for Bosphorous Strait’s image

Sources: http://www.npr.org, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/, http://www.tcdd.gov.tr