The Bosphorus Strait on the map divides Europe from Asia and connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. On both its banks stretches the largest Turkish metropolis – Istanbul (the ancient Constantinople).
The Bosphorus Strait is more than 3.7 km wide and about 30 km long. The depth of the Bosphorus in the fairway is from 30 to 80 meters. For several centuries this strait has been called the soul of Istanbul.
The ancient name of the Bosphorus is cow or bull ford. According to legend, the daughter of the king and the river god, whose name was Io, became the lover of Hercules. But he was afraid that his wife Hera would become angry, so he turned poor Io into a cow, and she disappeared into the waters of the strait.
The Bosphorus Strait – the Soul of Istanbul
This ancient city by the very fact of its existence divides and connects such different human civilizations of the West and East: Rome and Byzantium, Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam.
And the heart of the city can rightly be considered the Bosphorus Strait, flowing along the border between the two continents. It enchants citizens and guests of Istanbul with its beautiful waters and exquisite shores, ancient palaces and ultra-modern skyscrapers.
The greatness of Constantinople (Constantinople), its ancient temples and palaces are reflected in the waters of the Bosphorus. It neighbors the ruins of fortresses and modern skyscrapers of Istanbul, creating a truly unique spectacle.
History of the Bosphorus
Scientists believe that the Bosphorus Strait appeared about eight thousand years ago. In those early days, the water level of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara was much lower, and they were not connected to each other.
But during the mass melting of snow and ice at the end of the Ice Age, this level in the world’s oceans, in general, and in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, in particular, rose significantly, and a huge flow of water connected them.
According to scientists, at first there was a river valley at the site of the Bosporus Strait, which was later flooded by sea water. Admiral Makarov in the 19th century established two currents in the strait: a fresh current from the Black Sea and a salty current from the Sea of Marmara.
Archaeologists on the slopes of the Bosphorus in the 20th and 21st centuries discovered ancient cities submerged thousands of years ago. Historians believe that the end of the last Ice Age and the emergence of the Bosphorus gave rise to the myth of the Flood as set forth in the Old Testament.
The importance of the Bosphorus Strait
What is the Bosporus for Turkey? Thanks to this strait, the Black Sea countries have access to the Mediterranean Sea. Half of Turkey’s GDP comes from the Bosphorus. This is its strategic and economic importance.
The Bosphorus Strait is considered one of the most difficult to pass in the world because. is characterized by the high intensity of ships and vessels moving there, strong currents and rapid changes in weather conditions in winter and spring.
In Turkey, the fast current in the strait is called the Devil’s Current. It usually accelerates especially in early spring, when the snow melts in the Danube basin. Meltwater flows along the banks of the strait, bubbling and boiling in cauldrons in the narrowest places.
Today, the Turkish authorities are planning to solve the problem of heavy congestion of the Bosphorus by building an oil pipeline about 100 km long. But all the projects so far remain solely on paper.
The shores of the Bosphorus
Here every citizen can endlessly admire the ancient palaces of marble, stone forts, wooden Turkish yaly (mansions near the sea) and ultra-modern hotels.
Yali is a wooden multi-story house built at the very edge of the sea. These buildings from the 17th century survived to this day and today have become restaurants, hotels and houses where the local nobility lives today.
Traveling through the Bosphorus
To fully experience the charm of the strait, you should travel on a tourist ship or ferry. You are sure to enjoy this walk immensely.
You will see Istanbul in all its beauty and oriental strangeness. And Russian tourists are likely to subconsciously feel the Byzantine essence of ancient Constantinople with its Christian traditions.
You’ll see Istanbul light up among the ships and ferries of the Bosphorus. Hear the voices of the mullahs calling their flock to daily prayer at St. Sophia, which is now a mosque.
You can see it all from a ferry, cruise ship or yacht from Eminenyu to Anadolu-Kawagi. At the end of the trip, you can go ashore, walk around, and come back with the same ticket.
Crossing the Bosporus by ferry is a real adventure. Ferries in Istanbul are different: voyage and tourist, expensive and cheap. You can cross the strait on a regular ferry in half an hour, a voyage on a tourist ferry will take much longer.
Sightseeing near the Bosphorus
Seeing Istanbul and the Bosphorus by ferry or boat in the evening is the most exciting experience. It is at this time that the city and the strait, colored by a scarlet sunset, are most mysterious and extraordinary.
Bosphorus Cove – Golden Horn
There are many bays in the Bosphorus, but the best is considered to be the Golden Horn. It is really shaped like a horn, and its banks are as sinuous as the shores of the Bosphorus. On the Golden Horn there are many excellent marinas for yachts and ships, and the waters are clean and clear.
This bay is protected from strong winds, the mild Turkish winter comes here in December, and there is almost never snow. The best time to visit the Golden Horn – Velvet season, which lasts all autumn.
Bridges and tunnels
According to legend, the first bridge over the Bosporus was built by King Darius of Persia. He melted down his 700,000-strong army here with a system of rafts and ships. But this unique engineering structure did not help him, Darius’ army was destroyed by the Scythians.
Today, three bridges and two tunnels connect the banks of the Bosphorus and sprawling Istanbul:
- The Bosphorus Bridge, erected in the early seventies of the 20th century;
- Sultan Mehmed Fatih Bridge, in operation since the late eighties of the last century;
- Sultan Selim Grozny Bridge, commissioned only a few years ago;
- Marmaray tunnel, more than 13 km long, connecting the railway system of Istanbul;
- Eurasia” tunnel more than 14 km long, part of which is at a depth of more than 100 meters.
In the narrowest part of the Bosphorus, on the European side to control the passage of ships in the mid-15th century was built fortress Rumeli Hisar. Today all that is left of it are ruins.
And opposite this fortress on the Asian side of the Bosphorus stands the fortress of Anadolu Hisari. In the Middle Ages a huge chain was stretched between the two fortresses to prevent ships from sailing across the Bosphorus to the Mediterranean or the Black Sea.
The Dolmabahce Palace of the Sultans of the Ottoman Porte was built in the Baroque style in the mid-19th century on the European side of Istanbul. At that time the Ottomans decided to surpass Europe in the sophistication of architecture and achieved much.
It took several tons of gold to decorate this palace. It is also interesting because in its halls you can find a whole collection of paintings by Aivazovsky, which the famous artist painted on commission from the Turkish sultan.
St. Sophia Cathedral
This symbol of Byzantium and Eastern Christianity was erected by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. in the shape of a basilica. At that time there was not a more grandiose and expensive Christian temple in the world.
But in the 13th century St Sophia Cathedral was plundered by the Crusaders, and in the mid-15th century the Turks captured it and turned it into a mosque, which became known as the Hagia Sophia. Orthodox Christians still worship St. Sophia Cathedral as a symbol of their denomination.
This mosque was built in the early 17th century next to St. Sophia Cathedral, it is an example of Islamic architecture. Today it is still active and is considered the main mosque of Istanbul and the main symbol of the city.
The Blue Mosque was built in connection with the defeat of the Ottomans in the war with Austria to propitiate Allah. It combines classic Byzantine and Turkish architecture and is covered in white and blue ceramics.
This palace was built in the 15th century and was the main palace of the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century. At the end of the 20th century, Topkapi was included in the famous UNESCO list. And today it is one of the largest historical museums in the world.
Twenty-five Turkish sultans lived and ruled in the palace until it was replaced by the more European Dolmabahce. Topkapi was built in full accordance with the principles of Ottoman palace architecture, has four courtyards connected by a wall, etc.
Istanbul Hotels with a view of the Bosphorus
Ferries, boats, steamboats, yachts, ships and oil tankers constantly sail through the Strait of Extraordinary Beauty. Many tourists go to Istanbul just to admire the Bosphorus.
Hotels near the strait are the most popular among travelers. There is a huge number of them, you can always choose a suitable room or apartment. Here are a few of the most famous hotels.
This five-star hotel is located near the famous Taksim Square. His room has amazing views of the Bosphorus. This brand of hotels is known for its high quality service and excellent Mediterranean cuisine.
Rooms at the hotel are affordable for the Russian middle class +. The interiors are elaborately decorated in the national style. The hotel is ideal for business and leisure travelers.
Double Tree by Hilton
This hotel from the famous Hilton hotel chain is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, close to the historic part of the city. Rooms here cost less in tourist season than at The Ritz-Carlton, but the view of the strait from the windows is magnificent.
Not far from the hotel there are many expensive stores and restaurants. Very close by is a very beautiful embankment of the Bosphorus. And on its roof is an outdoor pool with a bar and excellent Mediterranean cuisine.
The hotel is located in the old city, near the Blue Mosque and the Cathedral of Sophia the Wise. Kalyon Hotel overlooks the Bosphorus, which flows into the Sea of Marmara.
It’s a great place for business people because. The hotel has its own business center. The staff is very well trained, there’s a beautiful terrace and everything you need in the rooms.
The hotel is located next to the famous Galata Tower in an old 19th century building. In the morning, a delicious breakfast is served on the terrace or delivered to the room.
Nordstern is famous for its Turkish baths and many other national treatments. Also here you can order a real Thai massage. This hotel is a “luxury” hotel for the middle class +.
Anjer Hotel Bosphorus
Another five-star hotel, you can also see the Bosphorus from its windows. There is a high-speed streetcar stop next to it and it will take you quickly to the ferry across the strait and further to any place in Istanbul.
Anjer Hotel Bosphorus is perfect for tourists who have decided to go sightseeing and shopping on vacation. Near the hotel is the center of Istanbul – Taksim Square.
Problems of the Bosphorus Strait
A glance at the Bosphorus Strait on a world map shows that it is one of the busiest waterways in the world. It is several times more in demand than the Suez and Panama canals. The capacity limits of the strait will soon be reached.
This could lead to oil tanker accidents and, as a consequence, oil spills, fires, catastrophic environmental problems in the city of Istanbul, a city of millions of people, on the banks of the Bosphorus.
In addition, the Bosphorus is very difficult to navigate, as mentioned in Greek mythology. This navigation entails ship accidents. There are heavy fogs in the spring and real storms in the winter, provoking collisions.
There are ways to redistribute oil flows; the construction of oil pipelines bypassing the Bosphorus. But the solution of the problem is hampered by the complex political situation in the region and the conflict of strategic and economic interests of different players.