Istanbul Bogazi (Bosphorus)

A stay in Istanbul is not complete without the traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty.

Modern hotels stand next to yali (shorefront wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see the Bosphorus is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores.

Eminönü and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip excursion, at a very reasonable cost, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, you can contact one of the agencies which specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruises.

During the journey, you pass in front of the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of Yildiz Palace. On the edge of this park, on the coast, stands Çiragan Palace ,now restored as a grand hotel.

Refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz, it stretches for 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore, its ornate marble facades reflecting the swiftly moving water. In Ortaköy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery.

The variety of people create a lively scene; sample a delicious bite from one of the street vendors. In Ortaköy, there is a church, mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years - a tribute to Turkish secularism and tolerance.

Overshadowing Istanbul's traditional architecture is the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the world's largest suspension bridges linking Europe and Asia.

The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Çamlica Hill, the highest point of Istanbul. You can drive here to admire the magnificent panorama of Istanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens.

On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutköy contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther out, facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city, stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Anadolu Hisari.

The Göksu Palace, sometimes known as Küçüksu Palace graces the Asian shore, next to Anadolu Hisari. The second link between the two continents; the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past the two fortresses.

From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Bosphorus. Below Duatepe, beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when the tulips bloom in spring.

Opposite, on the Asian shore is Kanlica, a fishing village now a favored suburb for wealthy Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlica and Çubuklu is the Beykoz Korusu (Abraham Pasa Woods), a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants you can enjoy the delightful views and clear fresh air.

On the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coast road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sariyer and Büyükdere. Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and börek (pastries). A little further on past Sariyer, the narrow strait widens and disappears into the Black Sea.

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