The Bosphorus (“Bogaz”, or “throat” in Turkish) is that magnificent stretch of Water that separates the European and Asian shores of Istanbul. It extends 30 km all the way from Sarayburnu, the city’s historic peninsula With all its magnificent monuments to times gone by, to the Black Sea at Anadolu Kavagi. Even now, when many of the Wonderful wooden “yalis” (waterside mansions) that used to line the shores have been ripped or burnt down, the beauty of the Bosphorus is still absolutely magnetic. Few things can be more enjoyable than taking a day trip all the way along it, looking out for historic palaces and ancient castles, and ?oating beneath the twin modern bridges without which the Istanbul traffic would grind to a complete halt. At Sariyer village you can stop for a fish lunch and see a castle with a view down to the Black Sea.
Since 2011, Prometheus Tour provides private or shared Bosphorus cruises and dinner cruises for FIT, groups, honeymooners and celebritions.
Why the Bosphorus?
According to Greek mythology, the king of the gods, Zeus lusted after a priestess called IO. Afraid of getting caught by his jealous wife Hera, he decided to turn her into a cow. Of course Hera was not fooled by this ruse, and sent a gad?y which tormented poor IO into wandering the earth until eventually she crossed what is now known as the Bosphorus and gave it its name Which means “ox passage” in Greek. The story had a happy ending because Io eventually escaped to Egypt where Zeus had the decency to restore her to human form.
Yalis old and new
In Greek, the Word “yali” is used to refer to the waterfront in general, although in Turkish it means a large Waterside house. The Bosphorus yalis are graceful wooden mansions that sit right beside the water with landing-stages for boats to tie up at them. The first yahs were built in the early 18th century, during the so-called Tulip Era, but most date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, as population pressure made land along the Bosphorus more valuable, many were either demolished or caught fire in sometimes suspicious circumstances. Those that still remain are aptly described by the locals as “the pearls of the Bosphorus”.
History on both sides… Eminonu to Bebek
Shortly after leaving Eminonu, where ferries for the Bosphorus tours depart, you will see the old sheds that now house the Istanbul Modem Art Museum on the European shore. Immediately opposite, there is a magnificent view of Saraybumu (Palace Point) with the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque giving it a wonderful silhouette. A little further along, you will spot Kizkulesi (Maiden’s Tower), just off Uskudar on the Asian shore. This tower boasts the perhaps predictable story of a young princess locked away to protect her from the threat of early death, which finds her out anyway, when an old lady arrives with a fruit basket containing a snake. The elaborate 19th-century Dolmabahce Palace then looms up on the European side, followed shortly afterwards by the pretty early 20th-century Besiktas landing stage, which Was recently given a makeover. A little further along you will see the Four Seasons Bosphorus Hotel and the luxurious Ciragan Palace Hotel, With its wonderful swimming pool right on the Water’s edge. On the opposite shore is the late 18th-century Pink Yali, more correctly called the Fethi Ahmet Pasa Yali. As you approach the Bosphorus Bridge look out for Ortakoy (Middle Village) on the European shore; this is one of Istanbul’s liveliest nightlife hubs. Facing it, and almost immediately beneath the bridge, is Beylerbeyi Palace, which looks like a cut-down version of the Dolmabahce and was once the home of Sultan Abdul Aziz (r. 1861-76). Still on the Asian side you will also spot the twin towers of the Kuleli Miltary School which was built in l860. Back on the European side of the strait, the boat will sail past lovely Arnavutkoy (Albanian Village) which retains many of its wonderful wooden houses, some of them turned into restaurants and cafes but others still occupied. A little further along you pass the beautiful Art Nouveau building in Bebek that used to house the Egyptian Consulate.
Rumeli Hisarı to Anadolu Kavagi
Over on the Asian shore you should keep your eyes peeled for the white Kibrisli Mustafa Emnin Pasa Yah, Kucuksu Palace and the late 17th- century Koprulu Amcazade Huseyin Pasa Yali which is the oldest surviving Wooden mansion on the‘ Bosphorus. Shortly before Istanbul’s second bridge, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Koprusu, will loorn up with the unmissable ruins of Rumeli Hisari on the European shore. This castle was built in 1452 as Mehmed the Conquerer readied himself to drive the Byzantines out of the city for good. These days it serves as a museum. On the opposite shore are the less dramatic remains of Anadolu Hisari, its older and smaller twin. The boat continues past Kanlica and then, on the Asian shore, you’ll see, high on a hill, the Hidiv Kasri, Wonderful Art Nouveau summerhouse built for the last khedive (Ottoman govemor) of Egypt in c.1900. On the European side the boat skirts Emirgan and the pretty harbour at lstinye before coming to Yenikoy (New Village), a particularly upmarket suburb where you’ll see the 19th-century Sait Halim Pasa Yali, now restored for use as a banqueting hall. Further still, you pass Tarabya and Sariyer before arriving at Rumeli Kavagi where some people will want to disembark to sample the fish restaurants. Otherwise you can continue to Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side and the end of the run.
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