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Bosphorus!


 

The Bosphorus is the 32 km (20-mile)-long strait which joins the Sea of Marmarawith the Black Sea inIstanbul, and separates the continents of Europe andAsia.

It's great for a half-day cruise north toward the Black Sea. You can return to Istanbul by land along the European shore and see all the sights.

The width of the Bosphorus varies from 500 meters (1640 feet) to 3 km (2 miles), its depth from 50 to 120 meters (164 to 394 feet), averaging about 60 meters (197 feet) deep.

It runs right through the heart of Istanbul, past theIstanbul Modern Art Museum, several Ottoman palaces, at least two fortresses, forested hills, and shore villages with Ottoman architecture. (For self-guided touring, I've divided it into the Southern Bosphorus andNorthern Bosphorus.)

Traditionally called Bogaziçi (boh-AHZ-ee-chee, "Within the Strait"), more recently it's been called theIstanbul Boğazı, Istanbul Strait, perhaps to differentiate it from the Dardanelles (Hellespont), called the Çanakkale Boğazı.

Its English name comes from a Greek legend: Zeus had an affair with a beautiful women named Io. When Hera, his wife, discovered his infidelity, she turned Io into a cow and created a horsefly to sting her on the rump. Io jumped clear across the strait. Thus bous =cow, and poros = crossing-place: Bosphorus = "crossing-place of the cow."

Recent marine archeological research in the chill, deep waters of the Black Sea has revealed sunken cities on the underwater slopes along the Turkish coast.

Geological evidence supports the theory that in ancient times the northern end of the Bosphorus was blocked by earth and rock. The Black Sea had no outlet (like Lake Van today), and its water level was below that of the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus.

However, an earthquake destroyed the Bosphorus blockage, releasing a deluge of water from the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, raising the water level and flooding its coastal communities. So it may well be that the Bosphorus is the source of Noah's flood and the legend of Noah's Ark! (Mount Ararat is also in Turkey.)

The Bosphorus has been a waterway of the highest importance since ancient times. Ulysses passed through. Byzas, who founded Byzantium (laterConstantinople, laterIstanbul) sailed up and down looking for the perfect place to found his village.

In 1452, Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the construction of the mighty fortresses of Rumeli Hisarı(Fortress of Europe) andAnadolu Hisarı (Fortress of Anatolia) so he could control the strait and prevent reinforcements from reaching the besiegedByzantine capital of Constantinople.

To the Ottomans it was mostly an obstacle: each spring they had to ship their gigantic armies across the strait from Istanbul for campaigns in Anatolia, Syria and Persia.

During World War I, the Bosphorus was the key to the Black Sea and Russia. The Sultan held the key. The Entente powers wanted it. What they failed to get in battle they got by treaty, and British gunboats anchored outside Dolmabahçe Palace.

Today, the way to enjoy the Bosphorus is to take acruise by traditional ferry,TurYol boat or Dentur Avrasya boat, a self-guided tour of the European shore, or to relax at a tea-house or restaurant along its shores.


 

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