Istanbul, city and principal port of Turkey, lies on both banks of the Bosphorus Strait. This arm of the sea is an important sea-lane between the Sea of Marmara, antechamber of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. But on those waters, classified by international maritime field, the assistance of a pilot is not required… Despite the narrowness of the channel, the presence of strong currents, the volume of traffic and the dangerousness of certain cargoes (Black Sea oil or liquefied gas), making it one of the most treacherous passages of the world where accidents occurred serious, such as ship collision with the shore or between them.
But the Bosphorus is not just a maritime highway. You can also admire its banks adorned with beautiful homes during a little cruise. The houses, in ruins for some, reflect the fortunes of their owners, while the architecture tells the mixture of cultures that have shaped the scenery of this arm of the sea
The Bosphorus lies between two worlds. One of its sides is in Europe and one in Asia. Replacing the former Byzantium, Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire from 395, became Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1923. From its past history, the city retains a cosmopolitan population and towering monuments, including Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia, first Christian during nine centuries and then Muslim for over 500 years. A perfect illustration of the contrasting fate Istanbul.
Near mosques or in parks, you can have a break to sip a Çay (pronounced chai), the national drink. Otherwise, you can just wait for the Cayci carrying its endless small glasses on a tray. Then you will walk through one of these fish markets, or get lost in the maze of covered alleyways of the Grand Bazaar in search of colourful spices, baked goods, carpets and kilims, jewellery, antiques or tea. Formerly a typical market, the place is now more for tourists, but the architecture has kept its charm.
Unique city in the world divided between two continents, Istanbul has two bridges spanning the Bosphorus, and a large fleet of ferries with their riveted steel hulls and decks where you can breathe the sea. Sometimes you can imagine that these vessels, a bit retro, will never be retiring, and they will still animate Bosphorus with their ceaseless shuttles between East and West.
Texte : Anne Jankeliowitch