This post is part 8 of 17 of my trip to Istanbul. The series intends to give more than just a I-saw-this-and-did-that review. It aims to share the voice inside my head as I explore a world I’ve only read in books.
The Bosporus River is the winding water way that divides Turkey into two. Most tourists stay on the European side and take short day trips across to Uskudar or Kadikoy, which is located on the Asian side. It’s vice-versa with Istanbulites. Many of them live on the Asian side and commute via ferry to the European side.
Every guide book and website I came across before my trip to Istanbul said that the Bosporus cruise is a must-do. So JC and I boarded our ship at Eminonu. The cruise was about 6 hours long and took up the entire day. We made alternate stops along the European and Asian side of the river. Some people got off and others got on. The length of the cruise varies depending on the amount of time you spend exploring each port.
It would be very lengthy, and extremely boring, if I were to share with you everything I saw along the river. If you’re interested, Rick Steve does an incredible job with his self-guided tour of the Bosporus Cruise. But he never told me that we’d be getting a nice surprise from Greenpeace. They were there to protest for a ban on the trade of Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean.
When our ship left the dock at Eminonu, it gave us an amazing view of the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. All along the river, left and right, grand villas and marble palaces added a modern twist to the stone fortress and small fishing villages nearby. We cruised by the Dolmabahce Mosque and Dolmabahce Palace where the sultan lived after he and his royal family moved out of the Topkapi Palace in an effort to become more westernized.
We passed under the Bosporus Bridge and came upon the Rumeli Hisari, also known as the Fortress of Europe. It was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452. The entire fortress was completed in 4 1/2 months. It was built to control the passage of ships up and down the Bosporus. The Rumeli Hisari became a checkpoint when Constantinople. It was also used to hold war prisoners. Today, the fortress is a museum and contains an open-air theater for summer concerts and festivals.
In about an hour and a half, our ship docked at Anadolu Kavagı. JC and I got off and hiked up to Yoros Castle. We were a little confused as to why there were no maps or signs to direct us. The path was isolated and eerie. Our route took us by a horse that seem to have appeared out of no where and we encountered a number of stray and very hungry dogs. We also passed through a cemetery and a couple of Turkish military bases. The soldiers did not look friendly. Once we arrived to the foot of the hill where the castle was located we realized that if we had just turned one more page in Rick Steve’s guide book, we would have seen a set of directions that would have taken us up to Yoros Castle. Instead we went off the beaten path.
When we reached the top, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of where the Bosporus River meets the Black Sea – the name sounds so ominous. Before the Byzantine period, the Yoros Castle was used by the Greeks and Phoenicians for trade and military purposes. There use to be a massive chain that extended across the width of the Bosporus from the Yoros Castle to the Rumeli Kavagı, located on the opposite side of the river. The chain was used to prevent attacking warships from entering the strait and into the city. What’s left of the Yoros Castle now are the ruins and the castle’s surrounding walls. The mosque and towers have disappeared.
The wind was gusty at the top of Yoros Castle but it felt so good against my skin. JC and I climbed as high as we could along the wall and sat there for a few hours. We stared out to sea as it turned from patches of blue to sea-green. When we saw that the gray clouds were coming in from the Black Sea, we decided that it was time to head back. We didn’t want to get caught in the rain. I took a nap on our cruise back to to Eminonu and by the time we docked, it was starting to get dark and we were starving. We walk towards the fish boats on the dock and had fish sandwiches for dinner again.