Bobbing Down the Bosphorus

If you are a geography buff, then you will find the Bosphorus Strait fascinating as did I.

The Bosphorus Strait is a waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara – which eventually leads to the Mediterranean Sea.  For landlocked Black Sea countries such as Romania and Ukraine (as well as Western Russia), the Bosphorus is a critical - and only - water passage to the outside world.

At 19-miles long and just one half mile wide at the narrowest point, the Ottomans used it to conquer Constantinople in the year 1453.  Still a strategic asset today, every ship going through the Bosphorus requires permission for passage.  Turkish flags line the strait, as to not let seafarers forget who owns this waterway. 

I took a full Bosphorus ferry cruise from Istanbul to the edge of the Black Sea (to a town called Anadaolu Kavagi) and back.  It took about 2 hours each way along with a 2.5 hour break in town allowing for lunch and sightseeing.  (Map of the cruise)

First, here is a panorama at Istanbul taken from Galata Tower (click on the photo again after it opens to see the full size image).

The Bosphorus Strait exits to the top right to the Sea of Marmara (which leads to the Mediterranean).  The waterway at the lower right is the Golden Horn, which is a bay through the city.  The Bosphorus continues to the left; the bridge at the left edge is the Bosphorus Bridge, one of two bridges.  The landmass where I am standing is Europe.  The landmass directly across is Asia.

The cruise begins – I will describe from south to north (from Istanbul to the Black Sea).

Here, we see Old Town Istanbul.  The group of buildings on top of the hill is Topkapi Palace (where the Sultans lived).  You can tell the Sultans picked the best location in town for their palace.  The domed building to the right is Hagia Sophia, a church from the times of Constantinople, built in the year 537 (no, I did not miss a digit!).

A container ship is about to exit the strait to the Sea of Marmara.  Maiden’s Tower, another famous sight in Istanbul, can be seen in the middle of the water, between the two landmasses.

Bosphorus Bridge, built in 1973, is 2/3 mile long.

Fatih Sultan Mehmet (FSM) Bridge was built in 1988 and is one mile long.  I thought FSM Bridge was more interesting because it is located near two Ottoman fortresses and near the narrowest part of the strait.

Rumeli Fortress was built in 1453.  Between this fort and another companion fort directly across the strait, the Ottomans were able to successfully cut off the Bosphorus in a siege against Constantinople causing the fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Fancy mansions line the shores.

You can see how windy the strait gets at this narrow point.  FSM Bridge is in the foreground, Bosphorus Bridge is in the background.

A submarine!

Radar towers.

The strait ends in the distance into the Black Sea. The buoy here warns of dangerous rocks (“Clashing Rocks”) underneath.

Again, looking towards the Black Sea, we see Anadaolu Kavagi to the right on the Asian side.  Anadaolu Kavagi (which means “controlled pass to the land of the east”) is the final destination of the ferry cruise.  The strait is military controlled past this point.  The old fort on the top of the hill, Yoros Castle, dates back to the Byzantine times, signifying this location's importance even from back then.

While the ferry slowly docks, all the restaurants along shore try to get passengers' attention to eat there.  I think the military and tourists coming on ferries are the only people keeping this town alive.

Restaurants and food stalls line the narrow streets around town with their grills facing the street cooking up delicious seafood.  Deep fried fresh mussel is a specialty, as are grilled fish filet sandwiches (you can see part of the fish filet for sandwiches on the left).

Mussels were good, but table for one was not.

Here is another town specialty, anchovy bread.  Made from corn flour, green onions, tomatoes, peppers, and of course, fresh Black Sea anchovies.  I bought one of these for 5 TL (less than USD $2.50) and had it for dinner.  It was pretty good, mostly oniony with some fishy taste to go with it.

On the hike up to Yoros Castle.

Reward at the end of the hike to Yoros Castle.  Here we see ships entering the Bosphorus from the Black Sea.  Various active military installations separate the castle and the town below (note military controlled area fence below).  I am standing in Asia, the landmass across the water is Europe, Black Sea is straight ahead, and the Bosphorus continues to the left to Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara.

And that is our geography lesson for today.

Previous posts from this trip:
  1. Down Under for Some Tight-Assed Fish
  2. My Travels to Middle Earth
  3. My First "Super" Flight 
  4. Impressions of Phuket
  5. Steamed Out in Turkey


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