It is impossible to think about visiting Istanbul without taking a tour of the magnificent Bosphorus. Stretching for 20 miles from north to south, this narrow straight forms the boundary between Europe and Asia. With magnificent sights to see along its shores, taking a tour of the Bosphorus is the perfect way to get an overview of the city and its history.
An Important Shipping Channel
As one of world’s busiest commercial shipping channels, as many as 150 cargo vessels pass along its waters every day. Running right through the heart of Istanbul, the Bosphorus is the narrowest strait in the world for international navigation, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which connects to the Dardanelles leading out to the Aegean and then the Mediterranean Sea.
Lighting Up and Connecting Worlds
You will notice several lighthouses here: the Rumeli Feneri and Anadolu Feneri in the North, and the Ahirkapi Feneri and the Kadiköy Inciburnu Feneri in South. There are also two beautiful bridges that connect the European and Asian sides of the water, the Bosphorus Bridge and the Mehmet the Conqueror Bridge, with the Marmaray Railroad Tunnel passing underneath the water.
The Crossing of the Cow
There is a wonderful Greek legend that explains the origin of the name “Bosphorus.” It seems that Zeus was having an affair with a beautiful woman named Io. His jealous wife Hera subsequently turned Io into a cow and had a horsefly sting her harshly on the rump, making her jump across the strait. “Bous” is the word for cow in Greek, and “poros” means crossing place, making “the crossing place of the cow” a rather unromantic term for such a picturesque place.
Legends and Discoveries
Geological studies reveal that in ancient times, the northern end of the straight was blocked by rock, leaving no outlet for the Black Sea. Finally a powerful earthquake opened up the area, sending water from the Bosphorus into Black Sea. This raised the water level and flooded the coast, making the area a possible source for the legend of Noah’s Ark. The discovery of sunken cities on underwater hills along the coast attest to the existence of civilizations that may have been thriving prior to the calamity.
With so much history surrounding the Bosphorus, it is no wonder that people flock to its waters. Ulysses passed through on his legendary voyage, and Byzas – who founded Byzantium, later known as Constantinople and then Istanbul – sailed along its banks looking for the right spot to found his city. In 1452, Mehmet the Conqueror built two fortresses: the Fortress of Europe and the Fortress of Anatolia so he could control the area with a tight hand. During World War I, the Bosphorus figured as a key entryway to the Black Sea and Russia.
Your Bosphorus Tour
Taking a cruise along the Bosphorus is a must. With fortresses, Ottoman palaces, forested hills, lovely villages, and so much more, you can go by boat or ferry, taking your time and even jumping on and off to explore on your own. For information on cruises and places to see along Istanbul’s Bosphorus, contact our concierge at Hotel Büyük Keban today and we will help you arrange a tour!