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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bosphorus Odyssey

Bosphorus Odyssey | Turkey | Terra Encounters in-depth

Water Ways and Dreary Days

Taking a cruise along the Bosphorus is one of the quintessential things to do in Istanbul.  By cruise, I do not solely mean the overpriced tourist cruises.  Probably the best deal is the ferry that goes to Anadolu Kavağı near the Black Sea, Kara Deniz.  Here you can climb up to a hilltop Yoros fortress for panoramic views.  The stopover is long enough to eat lunch.  The boat trip takes about 5-1/2 hours return for TRY 25.

Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul
Bosphorus Cruise
However, one of the drawbacks of a March trip was that we had dreary cool weather in Istanbul. Therefore, it was not worthwhile spending so long on a boat with rainy weather.  We decided against going on the full-day cruise and opted to crisscross the Bosphorus on low cost ferries, looking for views of the cityscape.  The price was right but the photography, not so good. Of course, if you cross purposely to sightsee or eat in Asia, it is even more worthwhile. 

Sultanahmet from Ferry to Kadıköy
In our Kool Kadıköyexpedition, we enjoyed the atmosphere and food during an evening in this non-touristy suburb. However, the afternoon is poor for photography of the Sultanahmet area since it is back-lit.  It was beautifully lit up at night on our way back though.  

From Eminönü take the ferry to Üsküdar where you will arrive in a vibrant bustling harbour and market area.  There were still lots of people in spite of the rain.  There are also some old mosques to visi.
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Üsküdar
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
Right at the harbour is the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, built in 1548 by Mihrimah Sultana, daughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and the wife of his Grand Vizier, Rüstem Pasha.  It is decorated with colourful election flags in the photo.

Şemsi Pasha Mosque, Üsküdar
Şemsi Pasha Mosque
Take a short walk south along the quay to Şemsi Pasha Mosque.  It was built in 1581 by Mimar Sinan, the most famous Ottoman architect of Süleymaniye and Selimiye (Edirne) Mosque fame.  Şemsi Pasha has a much smaller dome than Süleymaniye Dome-ination but it does have a spectacular view over the Bosphorus. 

From here, you can take the ferry across to Beşiktaş and then back to Eminönü. The last trip passes parallel to the “Dolmabahçe Coast” but you are not as close as a cruise.  This area along with the Tower are the most attractive parts of the coast contrasted to the modern architecture of the rest of Istanbul.  The area is so urbanized you finally see the scale of this 18 million-person city. 

Dolmabahçe Mosque & The Ritz, Istanbul
Dolmabahçe Mosque

Dolmabahçe Mosque

The Dolmabahçe Mosque was built as part of the palace by the Valide Sultan, mother of the sultan.  It is very ornate and more like a palace hall.  Towering above it is not a sleek modern office building.  It is the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where one night will cost you anywhere from EUR 355 to 975.  The imposing building to the left of the Ritz is the ITU, the Istanbul Technical University. 

Dolmabahçe Sarayı

The Dolmabahçe Sarayı is the highlight of any trip on the Bosphorus.  Dolma in Turkish means “stuffed or filled”, bahçe means “garden” and sarayi means “palace”.  Dolmades are filled in delicacies of Greece and Turkey.  So why was this place called Filled-in Garden?  This used to be a bay where the Ottoman fleet was stationed.  The harbour was filled in.

Dolmabahçe Sarayı
For centuries, the Ottomans lived in Topkapı Palace Paradise.  But I guess it was no longer a paradise to the Ottomans since it lacked the splendour and comfort enjoyed by the European monarchs.  So this quintessential European (Baroque) style complex was built not only as a palace but also as the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 until the fall of the empire after World War I.  

Dolmabahçe Sarayı
The Ottomans spent about $1.5 billion to construct the palace.  This phenomenal amount – even today – was equivalent to one quarter of the Ottoman annual tax revenue!  The huge expense required extensive loans, which in turn led state bankruptcy.  This in turn, led the Empire to seek allies (the Germans) to protect their borders against the designs of the British and French, who won the war and divided the Middle East and North Africa between them.  

 Bosphorus Ferry at Night

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