“To travel along the Bosphorous, be it in a ferry, a motor launch or a rowing boat, is to see the city house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, and also from afar, as a silhouette, an ever-mutating mirage.” – Orhan Pamuk in his book Istanbul, Memories and the City
For me, Bosphorous Cruise was not a ‘boat ride on the river’, the ‘must-do’ touristy thing in Istanbul, it was a visualization of Pamuk’s words in his book about Istanbul, which I’m reading these days. There’s a whole chapter in the book on Bosphorous and to know its history, its importance to the city and its people is what made it all the more fascinating for me. The historic Istanbul and the glimpse of its past glories is best experienced only from here.
From Bosphorous you see the city for all its glory, neighborhood after neighborhood of the old Istanbul spread on the hills, the magnificent Ottoman mosques lining the view and the solitary standing Galata Bridge standing tall and proud.
My favorite part of the view was the palaces (yalis) of Ottoman Pashas lining the Bosphorous with their interesting facades (completely flat with lots of windows, as opposed to the elaborate facades of Roman or French architecture, let’s say). In his book, Pamuk mentions that these yalis were summer homes of the Pashas and much unfavourable to live during the winters but after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Pashas were forced to live in these yalis permanently with all the harsh conditions withstanding.
I took the cruise a little before sundown so that it was daylight when we started but the sun had gone down till the time the cruise started its journey back so you could see the city in a new spectrum, twinkling lights appearing all over and Bosphorous Bridge lit most beautifully.
Because of my experience, i can safely say that Bosphorous cruise was the highlight of my days in Istanbul, with views more mesmerizing than the Golden Gate Bridge and San Fransisco Bay.
In the words of Pamuk, “to be travelling through the middle of the city as great, historic and forlorn as Istanbul, and yet to feel the freedom of the open sea – that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosphorous”.
Author’s Bio: Hi, I’m Asma and I’m the owner of Holiday Done Right. I’m also a writer/blogger and a Communications professional. I’m from Pakistan, currently settled in Dubai, UAE. Follow me on Twitter @AsmAbbas