Note: This entry is part of a series about our 2012 trip to Turkey.
The 19-mile Bosphorus Strait divides Europe from Asia and is one of the world’s busiest waterways. Taking an inexpensive, 6-hour cruise up the strait from Istanbul to the Black Sea was one of the many highlights of our Turkey trip. We used Rick Steves’ Istanbul guidebook to find the public ferry, which leaves from the Bosphorus Cruise Pier ferry terminal on the Old Town side of the Golden Horn at about 10:30AM. The guide also gives a decent overview of many of the sights you can see from the ferry, if you can keep up! The round-trip fare was only 25 TL (about $13 US) per person.
The ferry has indoor and outdoor seating. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t terribly crowded on this December day and we were able to float freely about without having to stake claim to a seat. The boat makes a number of stops before reaching its destination near the mouth of the Black Sea, the fishing village of Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side. Here, you have 2-3 hours to visit the town, eat lunch, and hike up to Yoros Castle.
We planned to hike up to Yoros Castle and eat a picnic lunch. Rick Steves’ book suggested trying the local bakery’s anchovy bread made with corn flour, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, and of course, anchovies. We’re daring adventurers, right? So we gave it a go. Unfortunately, of all the things we ate in Turkey, this was our least favorite. In hindsight, we probably would have had time to dine at a restaurant and complete the hike, but we wanted to be sure to have enough time at the castle and didn’t want to risk it.
The walk up the castle is interesting. Most of it is through a military-controlled zone and photo-taking is not permitted until you get to the castle. We met another traveler, apparently from the same ferry we were on, hiking to the castle. This was our only uncomfortable experience in Asia, as this man followed us, kept interrupting us to take pictures of him with his phone camera, and didn’t speak Turkish, English, or any language we could remotely decipher. At one point we finally had to tell him a firm “no!” to get him to leave us alone. We think he was a lonely traveler with poor social skills, harmless enough, but unsettling nonetheless.
The hike to the castle is well worth it. When we reached the top, we weren’t sure if there was more to see, but happened to glance someone coming out of a little gateway of the castle ruins and decided to investigate. On the other side awaited a magnificent view of the place the Bosphorus Strait meets the Black Sea. A number of tourists like us had discovered the view and there appeared to be one government official, keeping an eye on the going-ons of the revelers. We met a nice couple from Mexico who were living in Germany and traveling about and were able to have a nice conversation with them in English and Spanish. On our hike down from the castle, we encountered a tour bus of giddy Turkish women, all very happy and friendly, wearing big smiles. We also made friends with some tame strays, a common sight throughout Turkey. The strays seem to be kindly treated in most places we visited, including Anadolu Kavagi.
The ride back to Istanbul provides an opportunity to check out all the sights on the opposite side of the Bosphorus that you weren’t paying attention to on the journey north. By the time the ferry approaches Istanbul, the sunset creates a mystical landscape of hills, buildings, and minarets.