Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bosphorus Cruise

View of Galata Tower and vicinity from the ferry

After a hectic week of work we found ourselves in Istanbul with a day to do some sightseeing. The guide books unanimously agreed that taking the 6 hour ferry tour up the Bosphorus strait to the Black Sea was an essential experience. It was cheap and best of all didn't involve too much exertion, so seemed like the way to go.

I fell asleep for much of the trip (exhaustion combined with stomach bug) but periodically awoke to witness lovely sights.

The experience really captured my imagination. The ferry crisscrosses the Bosphorus as it moves northwards towards the Black Sea, making stops to pick up passagers in the various towns and suburbs of Istanbul. The idea of jumping between two continents, 5 times in the same day and then having a brief glimpse of the Black Sea fascinated me.

Paula overlooking the Bosphorus at the Andalou fortress

We landed at the final stop of Anadolu and chose to wander around for the few hours before the last ferry back to Istanbul. We found a local cab driver who offered to take us on a tour of the local scenic lookouts. First stop was the old fortress that overlooks the town, originally built by the Byzantines and many centuries later occupied by Venetian merchants who traded with the Ottomans. The cabbie took off without asking for payment, telling us that he would be back after his lunch. There wasn't much left of the fortress, but there were some very nice views!

You blow me away!

The cabbie eventually re-appeared and invited us to get back in his cab in that polite yet firm tone that we inevitably experienced with the locals. We didn't have much choice anyway, so we went along with the flow as he sped at breakneck speeds over the primitive road towards the 'nearby' village that was the gateway to the Black Sea. He assured us of fantastic views to come. The meter was still running from the moment we got in his cab right through his lunch break and now as we sped towards the promised lighthouse vantage point. When we eventually arrived, the place was closed, and so he shrugged his shoulders and tried to appear as if this was something he hadn't expected. We did, however, get a nice view over the opening of the Bosphorous into the Black Sea which was worth the detour. The meter was still running..

My first glimpse of the Black Sea

The Black Sea wasn't really any blacker than other seas, but there was definitely something special about it. There is something fascinating about the variety of countries and peoples that surround it: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia all directly touch it. Definitely worth spending some time studying the geography!

We still had an hour or so to kill before the return ferry, so we had Turkish coffee and delicious local ice cream. The cafe afforded a nice view of the Bosphorous:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Istanbul is one of the most haunting, beautiful cities I've ever been to. If you have a chance you should visit Arnavütkoy ('Albanian Village') some 30–40 minutes' drive away from Taksim Square. It used to be inhabited by poor Greeks but now it's a fancy neighbourhood housing mainly wealthy Turks. It's full of beautiful houses, along the Bosphorus, built in the old Ottoman style and the cafés and eateries are to die for. Alberto Manguel's review (see link below) of Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul" captures the city's melancholic side, but this is a city of many moods and faces.

6:50 am  

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