A cruise on the Bosphorus & visiting the Dolmabahçe Palace

If you have more time in Istanbul, one of the things I definitely recommend is a cruise on the Bosphorus. I indulged in a small group yacht cruise that included some drinks and snacks, information about the places we were cruising by and took us to the Asian side of Istanbul. I used Velena Cruises and would highly recommend it – even though it can be considered pricy for a 2.5 hours cruise (€45). You have a lot more affordable options, with traditional boats and bigger groups.

The cruise left from Kabatas port at 10am, and we were immediately given a plastic cup of water – the way these were given in turkey was something I had never seen before and reminded me of jelly cups children sometimes get. They also gave us small sandwiches and nuts, and Turkish coffee and tea were also offered. Doing this trip up the Bosphorus really takes you outside the classic view of Istanbul – far from the old town, you are offered views of more modern shores and also, now, wealthier. European-style palaces are seen across both sides of the river. Yet, it is also important to understand the importance of those waters.

The Bosphorus strait unites the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara separating Asian Turkey from European Turkey. It is the world’s narrowest strait for International navigation. The name comes from Ancient Greek (boos poros) which means “ox ford” or cattle strait. It has roots in the mythical figure of Io who was transformed into a cow and condemned to wander the Earth until she met Prometheus who promised she would be restored to her human form by Zeus. Because of its location, the strait was of great importance for the defence of Istanbul, then called Constantinople

We stopped at in the Asian side only for a 20 minutes break, in the town of Kanlica. This town is known for its yoghurt and seemed to be the main attraction. As I was not feeling like eating yoghurt at that point, I skipped that and Just wondered around until we could get back on the yacht.

Going back, we sailed closer to the Asian coast, seeing the colourful wooden houses by the strait, while the tour leader told us stories about the owners of those houses and palaces – including the story of how a boat literally collided with one of those wooden houses – the company owning was charged for all the repairs leading to its bankruptcy.

The cruise ended where it started – in the Kabatas port. From there, it’s a short walk to Dolmabahçe Palace – the European-style palace where the latest Ottoman sultans and harems lived. It was irdered by the Empire’s 31sr Sultan, Abdulmecid I, built between the years 1843 and 1856, exchanging the Topkapi Palace – which lacked the luxuries and comfort of more modern European monarchs.

While the layout and the decor relfect the influnce of Europen styles, with a mix of barroque, rocoo and neoclassicla styles, it also contain, in its functionality, traditional Ottoman elements found in typical turkish homes.It is the largest palace in Turkey, containing 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 hamam (baths) and 68 toilets. Plus, it seems like 114 tons of gold were used to gild the ceilings, and over 100Kg of gold used to decorate the palace – very different from the traditional Topkapi. Unfortunalty, photos inside were prohibited, but hopefully you can get the gist of the luxury of this palace from my outdoor photos.

The complex is a beautiful place to visit and relax in – besides the palace, there is also a recently renovated art museum, restaurants and cafes as well as the beautiful views to the Bosphorus.

I would also recommend having a meal in the restaurant just by the clock tower – it is quite cheap and good, the perfect place to relax after or before exploring the Dolmabahçe.

Love, Nic

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