Europe

Up the Bosphorus, Almost to the Black Sea


Wednesday, May 26th, 2004: Istanbul, Turkey

At 10:00 we are at the ferry piers along the Golden Horn, the long, narrow bay that bisects the European side of Istanbul into 2 parts, and forms a perfect natural harbour. We have walked down the hill from our hotel, underestimating how long it will take to get here to catch the 10:35 ferry that goes up the Bosphorus, stopping on both sides along the way, going almost to the Black Sea.

The Touts and Roustabouts

The ferry is full by the time it leaves, full of tourists and, surprising to us, hawkers selling maps, guidebooks, fake Rolex watches and fake Lacoste sweaters. They, and the guys selling coffee, tea and yogurt, all walk around soliciting interest at the top of their lungs. We have dressed in many, many layers – unlike many of those on the boat. Istanbul has been unseasonably cool, mid-teens, since we arrived, and today on the boat the wind is brisk. Because of our itinerary on the trip, we don’t really have the right clothes for this type of weather, and finally, after about 1 hour, we retreat into the inside, no different from the outside except for the lack of wind. We watch with interest as we go along the Bosphorus, which – like the Dardanelles – is a hugely important trading and military route. Other than the occasional fort from long ago, and the location of the Topkapi Palace (which we will visit tomorrow), there is little to indicate that this is more than a recreational location – the palazzos and mansions of the rich line the water, without end, many of them restored Ottoman treasures, while others are more recently constructed.

Almost to the Black Sea

The ferry reaches the terminus of the route, still well inside the Bosphorus, and still in suburban Istanbul, which seems to stretch out along the Bosphorus almost all the way to the Black Sea. (Istanbul is a much bigger city than we had expected before we got to Turkey – somewhere between 13 and 15 million people.) There is a fort at the top of the hill, and we climb up to see the view of the Black Sea. When we get there, we find many people sitting up their, a fair number of them having a “piknik” (Turkish spelling). We are panting from the climb, and are glad we did not have to do it with a fully-stocked picnic hamper. We head down the hill, and have lunch by the water, basking in the warm sun, protected from the wind. This is still a fishing village, and there are fishing boats tied up behind the restaurant. The fishermen sit, smoking and darning their nets, young boys helping their fathers.

On the ferry home, we don’t brave the outside, but nap like cats in the sun that streams through the window.

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