Visiting the Bosphorus Strait, a watery boundary between Europe and Asia, is high on many people’s list when they come to Istanbul. And why shouldn’t it be? Part of its appeal is to indulge in a bit of fun – one minute you’re in Europe, then next you’re in a totally different continent, Asia. For me, it was just as much fun as straddling the International Date Line in Greenwich and hopping back and forth over the Arizona/Nevada boundary at the Hoover Dam. I’m such a child, sometimes…
There are many options when organizing your Bosphorus visit. You can simply cross a bridge or you can take one of the many boat trips on offer. For the boat trips, prices and comfort vary according to what you choose – you can go basic and just ride a local ferry. Or you can choose a “party boat” that plays obnoxious loud pop music for the duration of you trip. Some boats go as far as the Black Sea and others just as far as the next local port on the Strait. I ended up picking a half-day trip recommended by my hotel, one that included a stop at Küçüksu Palace. Seemed like a nice sedate introduction to the Bosphorus Strait that won’t kill my eardrums and nor would it bankrupt me.
The Strait is pretty big – about 31km long and has a maximum width of 3420m. It has an average depth of 65m, but ranges from 13m to 110m deep. Humanity has sprouted up along its shores, densely packing itself in so there is practically never a time where you don’t see “mushrooms”. But most of the fungi are actually interesting – people fishing or playing in the waters, old Ottoman homes in various stages of disrepair, a fort and its long walls, a few Ottoman palaces, and boats ranging from fishing vessels to cruise ships. Especially on a hot day, it is nice to sit back out on the water and watch the busy Istanbullu life go by.
The only time we got off the boat was for a short visit to Küçüksu Palace. It was a summer palace used by various Ottoman sultans for short stays as part of their many country hunting excursions. It’s pretty swanky for what is essentially supposed to be a European-style hunting lodge. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the inside because for some reason, they don’t allow photos inside! I was rather annoyed – if one can photograph the inside of something like Versailles, why not Küçüksu?? It’s pretty, yes, but in the grand scheme of all other gorgeous European buildings, it isn’t anything special.
Overall, I think a trip to Istanbul would not be complete without a voyage down the Bosphorus. It gives you an overview of the city, you can admire the striking architecture, you can envy the rich (cultural and monied) lifestyle on display, and you can enjoy the salt-water laced breezes. You can also ponder this question: was this area really impacted by Noah’s Flood?
Did You Know?
Once, the Black Sea was a small land-locked lake surrounded by rivers and plains. It would have been inhabited by Neolithic farmers and fishers taking advantage of the area’s bounty. There is a controversial theory which postulates that about 7500 years ago, the warming global climate (end of Ice Age) caused the surrounding seas to rise rapidly. That, in turn, would have caused the Mediterranean Sea to overflow, causing the Black Sea area to drown under saltwater. The people in that area would have seen inexplicable rising waters destroying their way of life. And how do ancient peoples tend to explain inexplicable things? Angry gods! As much as there is no concrete proof, I am fascinated and amused by this theory. Hopefully one day we’ll find the answers. Until then, we’ll have to continue to suffer through movies like Noah.