Old Meets New – Bosphorus River Cruise

Yesterday, we got a relatively early start and took a river cruise up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. The boat departed at 10:35 from Eminönü next to the Galata Bridge which spans the Golden Horn tributary of the Bosphorus.

It’s about 18 miles up the Bosphorus from old Istanbul to the Black Sea. Along the way, the boat stopped briefly at several ports-of-call – Beşiktaş, Kanlıca, Emirgan, Yeniköy, Sariyer, Rumeli Kavağı and Anadolu Kavağı – but it was not a hop on, hop off, cruise, so we stayed on board until we reached the final stop at Anadolu Kavağı where the boat docked for 3 hours.

Here’s a picture of the Galata Bridge that I took while we waited for the ship to depart (we got there an hour early to make sure we got on board):

And here’s the boat. We went straight up to the top and got seats on the left so that we could view the european coast as we traveled since the route hugged that shore for most of the journey.

Almost immediately after leaving the dock, we passed the Galata Tower, built in 1349, which sits overlooking Beyoğlu, the more modern part of Istanbul, located on the northern side of the Golden Horn.

It seemed that most of the sights along the Istanbul portion of the Bosphorus were a contrast between the old and the new, like this mosque, flanked by modern office towers:

This massive structure is the “New Palace” constructed by Sultan Abdul Meced around 1850. Apparently, the Topkapı Palace wasn’t big enough for this guy, so he moved the royal residence up the Bosphorus to this place which he named the Dolmabahçe Palace.

The Dolmabahçe Palace has nearly a quarter-mile of seawall frontage along the Bosphorus. It is truly massive. Supposedly, the Sultan built Dolmabahçe Palace to prove to foreigners that the Ottoman Empire was not in a state of decline. It was rumoured at the time that the dynasty was running out of money. Unfortunately for the regime, Sultan Abdul Meced’s rash act proved the rumour as the Ottoman treasury was nearly depleted by the cost of the Palace.

Just past the Dolmabahçe Palace, we went under the Bosphorus Bridge (also known as the Attatürk Bridge), completed in 1973 as – get this – the first bridge to span the Bosphorus. Think about that. Less than 40 years ago, the only way to cross this relatively narrow body of water was by boat! No doubt the Turks didn’t want to or couldn’t interfere with the tremendous amount of shipping in the Bosphorus (supposedly 80,000 freighters and tankers transit the Bosphorus annually between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea), but, still, the rest of the world managed to bridge channels like this 100 years ago.

There are only two bridges over the Bosphorus: the Bosphorus Bridge; and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, built in 1988, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges. The Fatih Bridge spans the narrowest part of the Bosphorus at the location where Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror, crossed in 1453 on his way to lay siege to Constantinople. After he crossed from the asian side, he immediately built a fortress, Rumeli Hisarı, as a staging area for his attack on the city. Astonishingly, the fortress of Rumeli Hisarı took only 3 months to build.

Here’s the Fatih Bridge. It was pretty spectacular.

The rest of the cruise was pretty uneventful. After the Fatih Bridge, Istanbul is left behind and the shoreline turns to fishing villages and mansions of the lesser royalty. We decided to just relax and enjoy the ride, though we did move inside for tea and in order to get out of the wind.

The boat made alternating calls on the european and asian sides of the Bosphorus, the last dock on the european side being Rumeli Kavağı, before crossing to the asian side at Anadolu Kavağı, our final destination. At this point, we were able to see the Black Sea.

After an hour and a half journey up the Bosphorus, we reached our destination: Anadolu Kavağı.

Time to get off the boat for lunch and a hike up to the Roman fort that overlooks the Black Sea.

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