Thursday, 31 May 2012

Bosphorus River Cruise

Wednesday 23 May 2012. We have crossed the Golden Horn into the old part of Istanbul where we board - by means of some ricketty steps - a river boat that will take us for a cruise on the Bosphorus.

Miss Franny getting settled on the hard wooden bench that was our seating - not a single cushion in sight! Are we daunted? Yes we are a little...

I had to presume that the skipper was well used to taking his boat under the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn as the bridge structure missed the deck mast and string of lights by mere inches! Here a couple of passengers look round back at the bridge as if to say "How on earth did we miss?!?"

We pass the Thomson Celebration moored at the dock and marvel at its ability to remain motionless on water. Our little tour boat is weaving figures of eight. As the drink leaves the glass of the chap near the front of the boat, it is drunk by the woman at the back as she passes beneath its arc...

This is one of several palaces built by Sultans in the past. They are all pretty spectacular and they all had room for a few of his harem - hey but where's the harem in that I ask?

The Ciragan Palace is another case in point. The Sultan had a palace for each season and a girl for each hair on his head. Now I am almost totally bald, but even so...

We reach the first bridge that crosses the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia. This is the Bosphorus Bridge, built in the 1970s and the first bridge to cross between Europe and Asia since a pontoon bridge, made by parking boats side by side, allowed Xerxes I of Persia to march his army across the Dardanelles in 480 BC.

Sitting almost underneath the bridge is a weatherboarded house under restoration.

As we approach the next bridge where we will turn round to come back, we come to Rumeli Castle on the European side, built by the invading Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (1432–1481) in just four months from 1451-1452 to prevent the beseiged Constantinople (as the city was then called) from receiving aid from the Black Sea.

The skipper takes the opportunity to do a U-turn in the river at this point. Right under the nose of the impressively large Minerva Astra which sounded a warning horn at us. Though we were across before there was any danger of collision, the sight of this huge ship bearing down on us made me wonder how much of the tour boat would be left had his engines stalled at that moment...

Which then prompted me to remember that this river was the site of the legend of the clashing rocks which made it impassable to ships until Jason and his Argonauts managed to pass between them, upon which they ceased to clash and became rooted in a fixed position.

I looked again at my glass. What was this stuff...?

So now we are on the Asian bank of the river and heading back towards the Golden Horn. There are some very impressive buildings along this bank. We were told that many millionaires live in this area.

The Kuleli Military School has now dropped the "military" part of its name. It was converted to a hospital during several wars before the students were allowed back in and we were told that Florence Nightingale carried her lamp up and down it during the Crimean War. I haven't been able to find evidence to back this up, however. If anyone knows for sure, leave a comment.

We arrive back at our starting point and one chap is moved to wave to the lucky people on Thomson Celebration whose bums are not a series of parallel indented lines...

We take our leave of the ship by the same ricketty stairs and the bus takes us back to our cruise ship. On the way we pass a bus station, quite crowded and with buses of every colour. I chose a blue one to show you!

As we came back over the Galata Bridge I noticed that for the whole of its length the parapet was home to fishermen. Whether for pleasure or for dinner I'm not sure!

And to finish with, a shot of a tram heading back towards Galata Bridge after we had crossed it.

Large versions of the photos: will end up at this folder on Flickr.

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