During our trip to Istanbul my husband and I attended the Bosphorus cruise, an afternoon guided tour along the Bosphorus strait – a natural barrier between Europe and Asia. Being built at the both sides of the strait is Istanbul the only city in the world built astride two continents.
The name Bosphorus derives from the ancient Greek legend about the one of the many love adventures of the Greek god Zeus. After his wife Hera found out about his affair with young maiden Io, he turned Io to cow in order to avoid Hera’s rage. In her bovine-form Io wandered the world fleeing from Hera. She crossed the strait and gave the Bosphorus its name – “the passage of the cow”. Interestingly, Turkish people use other word for Bosphorus – Boğaziçi which means “inner strait”.
Because of the strategic location of the Bosphorus between the Sea of Marmara and the Black sea, it has been important waterway since ancient times. Nowadays, it is even one of the busiest waterways in the world, with approximately 50 thousands ships pass through every year.
Bosphorus shores are lined with historical buildings and neighbourhoods. On our two hour long cruise, we passed many of them. To mention just a few landmarks we saw: Dolmabahçe Palace (the first European style palace built by Ottoman Sultans in the 19th century, which served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in late-19th and early 20th century), Ortakoy Mosque; Çırağan Palace (an Ottoman palace now turned to luxury hotel), Rumeli Fortress (a medieval fortress built in mid-15th century by Sultan Mehmet II), Kuleli Military School (military academy which was closed in 2016) and Beylerbeyi Palace (a summer residence of the Ottoman Sultans built in the 19th century on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus).
Guided tour provided us with better understanding of the place we were visiting. We didn’t only received the information about the landmarks, historical buildings and neighbourhoods we were seeing, but we’ve also learned about the general history and geography of Istanbul.
The weather weather was warm and sunny, the sea was calm. All things considered, cruising the Bosphorus strait was a pleasant and interesting way to see the Istanbul from different perspective.