The minarets of the New and the Süleymaniye mosques were waving goodbye from the shore, wishing us a safe voyage. The seagulls, which would become our constant companions throughout the cruise, were starting to swirl around the stern. We were on board the public ferry that sails from Eminönü about to start our cruise along the Bosphorus.
You get a different perspective of Istanbul from the water, her mosques and minarets pricking the sky, the jumbled streets of the old Galata neighbourhood, the palaces that bear witness to the splendor of the Ottoman Empire. Constructions new and old crowd the shores and watch all kinds of vessels sail past. Perched on the edge, the yalis stand out, those summer houses built by powerful Ottoman families in the 18 and 19 centuries.
In his memoir entitled Istanbul, Turkish author and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk describes how he used to spend hours on end in his balcony watching Russian tankers (which we saw too), Bulgarian passenger ships, Turkish yachts, elegant Italian liners. For Pamuk, the Bosphorus celebrates liveliness, pleasure and happiness, in stark contrast with the melancholy of the city.
The Bosphorus strait divides the European and the Asian sides of Turkey. It also splits Istanbul in two. The geopolitical relevance of this strait lies in the fact that it connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and passenger and cargo ships must, of necessity, sail through here.
The ferry makes few stops. We got off in the last one, a fishing village called Anadolu Kavağı on the Asian side. Beyond, towards the Black Sea, the Bosphorus is under military control and out of bounds for day trippers.
What first caught my attention was the smell of frying fish. There were many food stalks in the tiny main square ready to cater to us tourists.
The Bosphorus is lined with hills, the higher the closer to the Black Sea. Thus, the streets of Anadolu Kavağı were rather steep. I recommend wearing sensible shoes to climb to the 14th century Yoros castle that looms over the village. Mind you, the views make the steep climb worth it.
After visiting the castle ruins, we sat down at a restaurant outside the touristy area. Our table was in a small terrace on the water. I could almost touch it. Sean ate the catch of the day. He said it was fresh and delicious. I had my customary kebap.
During the journey back, the wind picked up and made this January day look and feel even duller and greyer. Suddenly, the clouds opened. The sight of the orange sun setting behind the city more than made up for the wind and cold.