Bosphorus Cruise Istanbul is a bridge between Europe and Asia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, a position that endows it with one of the most unique and beautiful settings in the world. For, between the hills on the European and Asiatic shores flows the BOSPHORUS, the brightest gem in the diadem of nature.

The Asiatic Shore

Opposite  the European  village  of Besiktas stands Uskudar, the first villaga,  or rather town, on the Asiatic shore. Dr Mango dwells on the importance of Uskudar;

"One of he ffects of the Turkish conquest was the ntegration of  Istanbul with  its countryside, now safe from enemy incursion  nd  available  to serve the needs  of the city in food,  rest and recreation. In Uskudar a whole  new city arose which replaced  Kadikoy  as the starting  point  of caravans  and expeditions to Asia. The Turks  were  also particularly   attracted  by the Bosphorus, where  they sought and developed places of shade and refreshment, trying to ecreate in their new home the near-eastern vision of aradise. The  shores of the Bosphorus   were gradually filled with arge wooden summer  mansions (yali) set in walled  gardens and often easier  to reach by sea than by road."


However,   it was  again  Miss  Julia  Pardoe  who  sang praises  to the beauty of Uskudar  :

"It's gleaming houses crowd the graceful point of land which forms the termination of the mountain-chain that shuts in the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and then falls back  only to be bathed  at its base by the wider  and wilder  waves  of the Sea of Marmara. Nothing can be imagined more perfectly  beautiful than the position of the town of Uskudar, as it sweeps round this  graceful point, and throws the long shadows of its arrowy minarets far across  the  ripple   of  the Bosphorus towards the European shore. Clusters of houses are  framed in by luxuriant foliage; verdure descends in rich masses to the very tip of the two seas by which  it is laved; and not an arrow's flight from its quay  stands Kiz Kulesi (Maiden's Tower),  a small and picturesque  castle,  built upon so diminutive a rock that its foundations cover the  whole surface,  and give to the   edifice  the appearance of floating upon the waves.

In 1807 Sultan Selim III had the Selimiye Barracks built on the slopes of Uskudar where Florence Nightingale set up her hospital during the Crimean War. The office she used as matron, and the wards, can still be visited. Beyond the iron gates, on the verge of the Sea of Marmara, lies the British cemetery, where the combatants  in the Crimean War as well as English  surgeons  and nurses  are buried. Their names throng upon the main Crimean War Memorial at the entrance to the cemetery.  The bronze obelisk in grey Aberdeen granite  in memory of Florence Nightingale,  erected under the sponsorship  of Queen Victoria,  now carries the bronze centenary plaque in tribute from Queen Elizabeth. II.

In Uskudar, Sinan, the Turkish Michelangelo, built the elegant Mihrimah Mosque (1547) for the only daughter of Süleyman, the Magnificent, as well as the Şemsi Pasa Mosque on the waterfront of the Bosphorus. Also in Uskudar are the mosques of ATIK VALIDE built by the wife of Sultan Selim II, the VALIDE-I CEDID built by Sultan Ahmet III for his mother in 1710. There are, too, the Ayazma, Selimiye and Ihsaniye mosques adorning the slopes of Uskudar,

The fountains of Uskudar are all elegant both as to architecture and ornament and exhibit the excellence of the art and practice of calligraphy, engraved and gilded on their periphery.

From Uskudar the road runs north.The first village after Uskudar is Kuzguncuk,  once  inhabited  by Jews; it is a quiet  residential  district. After Kuzguncuk, one passes through a long tunnel under the Palace and grounds of Beylerbeyi, and arrives at Cengelkoy, which is famous for its vineyards and gardens, especially for its golden coloured quinces. Cengelkoy's  beauty is enhanced by the presence of Kuleli Barracks, where, so it is rumoured, Suleyman, the Magnificent, when he was still a prince, infuriated his father Selim I, the Grim, to such an extent that he ordered his Chief Executioner to behead  him. However, the Chief Executioner who lived in these barracks kept the Prince hidden there. On his return from the Egyptian Campaign, after an absence of three years, Selim paid a visit to Kuleli Barracks, where the Chief executioner, on the Sultan's expressing his regret of having asked him to execute his only son and successor, produced Suleyman and asked his forgiveness for not having obeyed his command. Both he and the prince were forgiven. The Kuleli Barracks, occupied by allied forces during the Crimean War, burnt down and were rebuilt by Sultan Abdulaziz and converted into a military school in 1872. The road leads on to Vanikoy, where on the hill,  114 metres above sea level is situated the Istanbul Observatory. On the road leading to Kandilli, there stands a fountain, built  in  1780, whose water is said to cure kidney  and gall-bladder disorders. Kandilli, one of the most beautiful promontories on the Strait, commanding from its elevated position, a view of nearly its whole extent from sea to  sea,  is eight  kilometres  to the  north  of Uskudar.  This is where the Bosphorus  currents are very  violent  and form dangerous eddies. The village has hosted  well-known    European  families; Count Ostrorog,  Pierre Loti, Egyptian Khedives  and Claude  Farrere  have stayed in the wooden  yalis  on its shore.

The Girls College of Kandilli is housed in the palace which belonged to Princess Adile,  the daughter of Sultan  Mahmut  II (1808-1839) on a higher slope. The road  then leads to Kucuksu, the famous summer palace of that  name; the beach is on the left and you drive through a great meadow which  becames a playground in summer. After  crossing  a small bridge  over the stream  of Goksu, you come  face to face with Anadoluhisari  fortress  (see Castles on the Bosphorus).

Anadoluhisari is a small fishing village housing some  old  historical yalis belonging to the rich. The road goes on to the village of Kanlica, famous for its milk and yogurt   and to the Mesruta Yali, one of the oldest Yahis on the Bosphorus. Built in 1695 by the descendant  of the world  renowned Koprulu viziers, Amcazade  Hüseyin  Pasa, who  like Mehmet  Koprulu became  a grand vizier, this wooden   sea  palace is a red  pearl bewitching to human eyes. Here, Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasa, the grand Vizier of the day,  gave a memorable reception in honour of Count Vermond,   the Austrian Ambassador  who was sent to Turkey after the  signing of the Passarowitz Treaty on July 21, 1718. The British Ambassador, Sir Edward Montagu, the husband of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and theDutch  Ambassador  were also present at this reception.

Mahmut II used to visit the Mesruta Yali and enjoy its ornate marble fountain in the main lounge and the view from  the comer  of this room, built partly on the Bosphorus, listening to the waves  lapping and kissing the  wooden beams underneath.

The road  winds  round  the Kanlica bay, where, once,  classical concerts  were given on caiques and  the sound  of music echoed from the European  shore; and then one reaches  the village  of Cubuklu,  famous  for its gardens  and, on the slope, the villa  built  by the  Khedive  of Egypt,  Abbas  Hilmi  Pasa.  The  garden  and  the house  were  bought by the Istanbul  Municipality and dedicated  to the enjoyment of  the public. From Cubuklu the road  leads to Pasapahce which became an industruial town in early 1900s.It has an old-established  glass  factory  producing exquisite objects of traditional and new design  for the home and tourist  market  as well as bottles  for spring  waters  and for the nearby Government distillery.  There is also a shoe  factory on the road to Beykoz. The   town  of Beykoz  is  18km  from the Galata  Bridge  and is very lively  especially  on market days. The palace  which stands among tall luscious  green trees was  built  on the order of Mehmet, the Conqueror in 1458 when he heard the news of the capture of Tokat fortress in Asia   Minor and  was  named the Tokat Palace. Mahmut I had   the palace reconstructed in 1745.The first  stone palace  on the Bosphorus was built  in 1845 by the  Khedive of  Egypt, Mehmet Ali Pasa, It was presented to Sultan Abdulmecit  and renovated by Sultan Abdulaziz and is still seen half-buried by the overgrown trees on the  shores of Beykoz and  named Beykoz Palace.Selim III had  a paper factory built here since Beykoz was rich in  forests. The town is divided into two districts: lncirkoy   and Yalikoy. In 1833 the Russian  troops camped on the meadows in Yalikoy,  the landing  stage of which  was called Hunkar Iskelesi - literally the Sultan's Pier - which became famous later for the treaty concluded there before their departure. The French author Pierre Loti, as commanding captain of S.S.  Vantour, anchored in the Bay of Beykoz during the years 1905-1909 and is  said to have written his controversial novel 'Desenchantees' on board his steamer.

Further  into the interior, there are walnut, chestnut,  cherry and mulberry orchards. From Beykoz a road forks off over the hills towards Sile and to the Polish refugee settlement at Polonezkoy, where the refugees produce excellent dairy products. Another road climbs up to the Giant's Mountain, Yusa Dag or Joshua's  Hill, which is  197 metres  above the sea level. However,  it rises  so abruptly from the Bosphorus that it gives one an impression similar to walking under the Lorelei on the Rhine. The traveller commands from there a scene of unparalleled  beauty  and variety as he looks towards the city -  the undulating banks, the glorious strait of the Bosphorus, castled rocks, laughing valleys and bays in front;  and far away the cluster of domes and minarets. Caiques come and go like aquatic birds over the ripple; golden.and silver sails glide swiftly by and usually green woods change colour as the fresh breeze sweeps through their leafy depths.

Twenty five kilometres from the Galata Bridge is the picturesque village of Anadolu Kavagi, The inhabitants are mostly fishermen and boat-builders. There are fish restaurants  and cafes  where picnic-goers  enjoy the solitude  and the seafood. On the northern  slope, there stands the noble Genoese Castle which towers above Anadolu Kavagi and is well visible from the European shore.

Note:  this text is written by a couple  of English customers attended our tour,  who had never seen them, I was seized  with trepidation, lest their glamour had been defaced, lest their purity had departed. I knew that the European shore, as it was accessible through a fast motorway, had lost its distinctive village atmosphere. However, on the Asiatic shore, nothing had changed. True, there was the new Bosphorus Suspension Bridge linking Asia and Europe, New seaside mansions were erected; new restaurants  and cafes were opened; new hotels were built to cater for tourists, but the Bosphorus flowed with all the melancholy charm of that long lost epoch. Everything about the villages on the Asiatic shore was full of the calm poetry of their green glens, their   safe   and   picturesque     little   bays,   their   modest,    romantic    cafes   and restaurants.    It was still possible to enjoy the felicity of their silences, fractured only  by  the  hoots  of  some  distant   steamers   or  the  songs  of  invisible nightingales.

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