There are probably very few of you who are not familiar with the song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” We at Hotel Büyük Keban of course are quite partial to the 1953 tune, with its clever lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy. Probably in response to Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra’s famous “C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” is a comical commentary on the city’s name change in 1930, making reference to other name changes, like New York City’s former moniker, New Amsterdam.
Originally recorded by The Four Lads in 1953, there have been countless covers ever since. We love the one done in the 2000’s by Monsieur Camembert, the Australian Klezmer Gypsy band, and of course Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald’s version in 1953. There are many other highlights where the song has been used, including in a very funny sketch on the 1954 episode of The Jack Benny Program where a man tries to buy train ticket to Constantinople, on a Muppets episode, in the film “Mona Lisa Smile,” and in a dance number on television’s “Bunheads.” It has also been covered by many bands including the instrumental surf-rock band, Bruno & the Gladiators in 1963; by Bette Midler in her 1977 “Live at Last” show; by Lee Press-on and the Nails in 1998, and most famously by the rock band They Might Be Giants in their album Flood in 1990.
“Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night”
A Brief History of Names
Istanbul has had many different names throughout time: Byzantium from 660 BC to 196 A.D., Constantinople from 196 to 330 A.D., to the Roman Empire from 330 to 395, and on through the Eastern Roman Empire, where the name honored Constantine the Great and was a strong symbol of the dominance of Christian civilization.
In 1453 the Ottoman Emperor Sultan Mehmed II conquered the city and changed its name to Istanbul. Much later in 1923 when the Turkish War of Independence occurred, Istanbul became a part of the Republic of Turkey, where the name was embraced for its root in the Greek word “istimbolin,” meaning “in and to the city,” a term commonly used by Turks even before Constantinople was overtaken by the Ottomans. In 1930, the Turkish Postal Service Law made the name official, whereby Istanbul has become fixed in the minds of inhabitants and visitors alike.
The Allure of Visiting Istanbul
Our rich Turkish history is part of what makes visiting the country such a fertile experience. Add the embrace of our hospitality, the deliciousness and variety of our food, our exceptional craftsmanship, and the marriage of western and eastern cultures that create an exotic yet accessible atmosphere, and you have the perfect formula for a great vacation.
With Hotel Büyük Keban so perfectly situated for easy access to every point in Istanbul, as well as our comfortable and inviting accommodations, we are happy to give you pointers about the city, including insights into its past, along with making the most of your travel plans. For more information and to book a room, please contact us today!