Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turkey Travelogue: the Bosporus

After visiting Topkapı Palace in the morning on a national holiday, we realized that if we wanted to get away from the huge crowds, we really needed to get out of the city. But we also didn't want to waste any precious time in Istanbul. The next best thing to getting out of town, we figured, was to get out on the water. So we found a boat, and spent the afternoon riding up and down the Bosporus, seeing the city from the sea (note: the following picture is not our vessel -- we chartered a tourist craft at Eminönü, but there were plenty of pleasure boats out on the strait on that gorgeous sunny day).

These first two photos are the Dolmabahçe Mosque and Palace.

Dolmabahçe was built in 1856 by Ottoman reformer Sultan Abdül Mecit. Designed by a father-son team of Armenian architects (Karabet and Nikoğos Balyan), it was the first European-style palace built in Istanbul.

As you're probably aware, Istanbul straddles two continents. The Bosporus is what forms the border between Rumelia (the European side) and Anatolia (the Asian side), and is crossed by two bridges. The first, the Bosphorus Bridge, opened in 1973 and is visible behind this image of the Mecidiye Mosque in Ortaköy, which was built in 1855 and like Dolmabahçe, was designed by the Balyans.

A little further on up, at the strait's narrowest point, sits Rumeli Hisarı, or Fortress of Europe, built in 1452 by Mehmet the Conqueror.

Just above Rumeli Hisarı is the Bosporus's other bridge, the Fatih Sultan Bridge (named for Mehmet the Conqueror), which was added in 1988. In its shadow sits this haunted mansion (Perili Köşk). The 1911, nine-story building has supposedly been bad luck for its owners, according to the locals.

Over on the other side of the strait is Anadolu Hisarı, or Fortress of Asia, built in the 14th century by Bayezid the Thunderbolt.

Apparently by Ottoman standards, Küçüksu is considered "tiny" as palaces go. It was yet another production from the Balyan family and served as a summer palace for Sultans on country excursions and hunting trips. It also appeared in the Bond flick, The World Is Not Enough.

A little further along is Sultan Abdül Mecit's (the same Sultan who brought us Dolmabahçe) Kuleli Military High School, now used by Istanbul Tech.

And back down next to the first Bosporus bridge is Beylerbeyi Palace (yet another contribution from the Balyan family!). This palace was also built to be a summer residence and as a place to entertain visiting dignitaries and royalty.

And finally, all along the Bosporus are the wonderful Yalı -- waterfront villas built during the 18th and 19th centuries as grand summer homes for the wealthy residents of Ottoman Istanbul. I could have filled my camera's card with images of these delightful buildings that ran the gamut in sizes and styles.

I think perhaps watching so many wonderful houses go by might have been my favorite part of trip, which proved to be a fantastic way to see the Istanbul that lies between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara (which via the Dardanelles, gets you to the Aegean, and, of course, Mediterranean Seas).