Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Bosphorus Strait - Fact and Fantasy

Our journey through the Bosphorus Strait from a practical standpoint took us to and from the Black Sea.  But it seemed as though this waterway was leading us on a magical journey into the land of myths and fables.

Rumeli Fortress in the morning mist
We'd left Istanbul in the middle of the night (by our standards) at 11 p.m. For that reason, I was alone on our balcony watching the lights of the Asian shore as the Westerdam, our 82,348-ton cruise ship, glided toward the Black Sea on a rather chilly night in early October. (Joel, a bit more sensible, opted to sight see on our early morning return trip.)

It took just a bit more than a half hour to traverse the 20-mile long Bosphorus, the waterway connecting the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. This narrow channel, the fabled waterway of Jason and the Argonauts, varies from a half mile to 1.5 miles in width, bisecting two continents, Europe and Asia. 

Leaving Istanbul's busy harbor, we began our journey by sailing under the Bosphorus Bridge; so grand a structure that it seems more an elaborate sculpture sweeping across the waterway than a major highway between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

At night it is as brightly lit as a theatre marquee.  Just as we passed under the bridge, a light show began above, magically, it seemed. The clear lights illuminating the cable spans chased back and forth, off-and-on like tumbling dominoes between the towering bridge pillars outlined in blue lights. (It probably happens every hour, but I'd like to believe it was done for our benefit - setting the scene for our magical, mythical journey.)

Allowing that myth and magic to guide my imagination, I envisioned the kings and queens and mythical beings who lived in the grand buildings lining the Asian shore; some of which were outlined with lights and others mere shadows against the dark sky. Tourist maps show that they were, in fact, -  hotels, the Beylerbeyi Palace, a school, a pavilion, and numerous unknown structures. Those buildings gave way to expanses of darkness,  then the few lights in a small fishing community and we were entering the Black Sea.

We need to return to towns along the Bosphorus
Our return trip was on a misty-almost-rainy early morning (before 7 a.m.) which again lent itself to a magical wrap that softened the views of villages and structures along the shore.  The ship's topmost deck was our viewing platform where, with a handful of fellow cruisers, we'd race from side to side so as not to miss anything along the way.

It was all too soon over and we were passing Istanbul's Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace en route to Athens.  But this short stretch of waterway will draw us back one day. Next time, though, we'll use local ferries from Istanbul's harbor.  Guide books say ferries can take from 5.5 to 7 hours depending on the stops made along the way. . .now that will be a cruise!

Note: Photos in this post are the property of Jackie Smith, permission required prior to re-use.

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