Up the Bosporus to the Black Sea

bosporus cruise, black sea cruise, cruise in Istanbul, book cruisesThis was a wonderful day from back on our first international trip together in 2010. This post is a bit of a mess with all the pictures, but it captures the day very well.

One of the things I had been most looking forward to in Turkey was taking a boat up the Bosporus Strait to the Black Sea. There is something about both those names which strikes those chords in me that still believe in magic and set out to see the world expecting to find the adventures of Marco Polo, Jim Bridger, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Ibn Buttata, and other great explorers. I know…the world is a very different place than it was during the times of those heavyweight explorers but still, the chance to see new places that I’ve spent my life reading about and imagining is really why I travel.
world travel, adventure,
And so, the chance to cruise along the mighty Bosporus and to see the dangerous waters of the Black Sea was something that I wasn’t going to miss.
tourism in Istanbul, Istanbul tours, world travel
Our friend Alp took Hanane and I for a lovely walk through Kadikoy. We loved the Rose Garden and something that we found throughout Turkey and enjoyed hugely were the exercise stations.
free gyms in Istanbul, excercise, travel
Not only are they free and sturdy, but they are also fun. Since we wanted to catch the ferry up the Bosporus, we didn’t have time to take a swim at the Marmara Sea Beach or eat an ice cream, but thanks to Alp, we know that Kadikoy is much more than just where the people who work live as so many of the guidebooks say.
istanbul tourism, Istanbul travel
From the beach we took a bus to a ferry boat at Kadikoy, the boat to Eminonu, and managed to get our tickets for the Bosporus cruise on the public ferry just as the boat was literally shoving off. If we had missed it, we wouldn’t have gotten to take the cruise.The only bad part was that most of the comfortable seats were already taken because we had arrived a bit late.

By the way, public transport in Istanbul is 1.5 lira whether it is bus, tram, or ferry. The longer ferries cost a bit more, this one was 25 lira each for the round trip and very much worth it. The trip up the Bosporus was about 2 hours.
Istanbul tours, Turkey travel, Bosporus cruise, Galata tower
We left from Eminonu Pier where we had amazing water views of the Galata Tower which was built in 1348 and rises above the Beygolu portion of the city like a magic castle. On the left side was Europe and on the right side was Asia. Wow. On the way to Besikatas we passed the magnificent Dolmabahche Palace which dates from the 19th century.
Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul Tours, Turkey tours
The snow white palace stretches 600 meters down the shore of the Bosporus…impressive? Yes..
Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul Cruise, Turkey Cruise, Black Sea Cruise
A bit further on, we had wonderful views of the Ortakoy Mosque which was built by Sultn Abdulmecid in 1854.
Ortakoy Mosque, Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey Cruises, Black Sea Cruise
Not all that old, but certainly very pretty and in a great location.

We then we passed under both bridges which are the connecting points between Europe and Asia. We passed several more palaces and pavilions (The Beylerbeyi Palace, the Goksu Pavilion)

Yali on Bosporus
Hanane’s Dream House
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My Dream House.

Along the shore there were gorgeous old Ottoman era wooden houses which are called yali – meaning coast.

Bosporus Cruise, Black Sea Cruise, Yali
See the two guys? They’re not real….

Istanbul, Turkey, Black sea cruise, Bosporus cruise
We made a brief port call at Kanlica where the stewards brought fresh yogurt aboard for 2 lira each. It was delicious even if overpriced a bit. Then further on we stopped at Sariyer and RumeKavagi and then a final stop at the Black Sea fishing village of AnadoluKavagi where we had lunch..
tourism in turkey, Turkey travel, Turkey trips
If you go to Anadolukavagi be warned that the restaurant touts there are as pushy as those in Fes. Go past them. Walk up straight from the ferry dock. When you come to the 2nd cross street look left and you will find a tiny, non-descript place run by a very nice family.

Hanane and I shared a massive lunch of delicious mackeral filets, fresh hamsi, calamari, breaded mussels, fresh bread, sand a delcious salad for just 16 lira and that included water and sodas. It was one of the best meals we had in Turkey. Absolutely delicious . Of course, we did work up an appetite before we went there because we climbed up to the Yorus Castle (which is only about 1000 years old or so but in a worse state than many far older things in Turkey) for amazing views of the Black Sea.
black sea tourism, tourism in the black sea, black sea cruise, world travel
travel in Turkey, Istanbul tourism, Yorus Castle, Black sea cruise
After lunch we strolled around stealing the occasional piece of fruit from fig and plum trees. We met three nice local girls who asked to take their pictures with us. It reminded me of Japanese tourists in Waikiki randomly asking if I would be in their pictures with them.

Finally we caught the ferry back to Eminonu, the ferry back to Kadikoy, the bus back to Alp and Seraps, and Hanane made chicken and vegetable tagine and amazed Serap with her culinary skills.
turkey travel, women with knives
An incredibly nice day. The only sad part was that when we went to bed, we knew that we would be leaving our new friends and Istanbul the next day.

Kadikoy – A Trip to Istanbul’s Asian Side – Flashback Friday

From 2010 to 2012, I was fortunate to live in several Turkish cities. Istanbul, Izmir, and Manisa. Turkey and Turkish people won my heart over and over. There is nowhere like it on Earth or presumably anywhere else in the universe. I am grateful for the time I was able to spend in Turkey. For a time, I began to feel like a true Istanbulu, a resident of Istanbul. This was written during that time….


Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits in both Asia and Europe. The amazing part of that is that many visitors to the Queen of All Cities never leave the European side. In fact, a day trip to the Asian side can be interesting, delicious, and won’t cost you very dearly.

The ferry from either Eminonu or Kabatas will cost you 2 Turkish Lira each way. The trip itself across the Bosporus takes about fifteen minutes and while you are gawking at Sultanahmet from the sea on the right side or the Bosporus Bridge on the left, don’t forget to pay attention to the little tower that rises from an island in the middle.

IstanbulThe Princess Tower is a place of legends and fairy tales and dates back to the Byzantine era. While there are more than stories than one, the most famous is that of a king who wished to save his little girl when a seer told him she would die. As in most such stories, his plan backfired. In any event, keep your eyes open on the left side of the ferry.

Arriving in Kadikoy you will notice the big thing that looks like a balloon. In fact, it is a balloon. Filled with helium, the Turkbaloon takes passengers up for sight seeing during the summers.

IstanbulAfter you disembark from the ferry you will see a lot of construction work underway. This is for the tunnel under the Bosporus. In a city with 5000 years of history, every inch yields new archeological finds…and bureaucratic red tape to hinder completeion. It should be complete in a couple thousand years more.

Passing the construction head into the backstreets of Kadikoy and enjoy some shopping without the hassle of the Grand Bazaar or other touristic areas. Duck into the passageways and you will find both treasures and oddities. One passageway is filled with the odd collection of comic books, military gear, and sporting equipment. Somehow the three go together.

IstanbulDifferent passageways have different themes so you can find book areas, clothing areas, and of course there are the street vendors offering all kinds of deals on all kinds of things. In fact, Kadikoy is home to the biggest food market in all of Turkey!

Further along pull a chair up to one of the tables at Hamsi. Hamsi is oneIstanbul of the best kept secrets in Istanbul. Here you can enjoy great mezas, fresh black sea sardines (Hamsi), and a couple of pints of cold Efes beer. If that doesn’t appeal to you, right next door is the most delicious lahmacun (Turkish pizza) in the city. Some may argue about this, but when you taste either the meat or the cheese version, you will know the truth. Don’t forget to sprinkle the purple spice on it. It’s a form of poison ivy, but don’t worry, it’s not poison, it’s slightly bitter and delicious. Make sure you also sample their fresh Ayran (yogurt drink).

In fact, Kadikoy is filled with bars, restaurants, and even cinemas. This neighborhood dates back to about 5500 B.C. and today has approximately a half million residents. With all that, a trip to Kadikoy is definitely worth your time.


Couchsurfing in Istanbul and Turkey

couchsurfing in Istanbul
As I’ve mentioned before, we had planned to use couchsurfing.com throughout our trip to Turkey in order to save money and more importantly in order to make new friends and learn about things from a local’s perspective. For two months prior to our departure, I was searching for hosts, emailing requests, and planning our trip around those who were able to host us. While we were excited about the places we would see, we were equally excited about the people we were going to meet. Since we’ve both hosted a lot of people, we had an expectation that those who agreed to host us would honor their commitments since we had planned our travel and time around them, but upon arriving in Istanbul, I found that one of our first hosts (whom we had planned to stay with in Istanbul’s Princes Islands had had to cancel due to illness), our itinerary was essentially this:
1) Day 1 – Hotel Ayasofya
2) Day 2, 3, 4- Couchsurf in Kadikoy
3) Day 5,6,7 – CS on Princes Islands
4) Day 8,9 CS in Bursa
5) Day 10 CS in Izmir
6) Day 11, 12, 13 – Hotels in Mediterrainian
7) Day 14 – Night bus to Cappodocia
8) Day 15, 16 – CS in Goreme
9) Day 17 – Nightbus to Istanbul
10) Day 18 – CS in Istanbul (different hosts)
11) Day 19 – Hotel Ayasofya
So, based on people agreeing to host us, we planned to spend only 5 nights in hotels and splurged to get the suite for our last night in Istanbul. Our first hosts, Alp and Serap were the only one’s that actually came through though so we ended up booking an additional nine nights of hotel accommodations and didn’t know it would happen until we arrived. Not ideal.
Hosts canceled due to illness, pregnancy, unexpected travel, and having just forgotten that they had agreed to host us. While we were sad to have to stay in hotels, mostly we were sad not to be able to experience Turkish life and make new Turkish freinds.
our friends in Istanbul, Turkey
All of that will help explain why one of the highlights of our time in Turkey was getting the chance to become friends with Alp and Serap who were our first and only hosts in Turkey. Reading about the two of them was like reading a better written profile of ourselves and Alp was thorough in his communication as well as being funny. He suggested that we spend the day sightseeing on our own in Sultanahmet and then catch the 5:30 ferry to Kadikoy on the Asian side of the Bosporus to meet them. I called him as the ferry left and he and his wife Serap were already waiting for us.
Istanbul ferry, Eminonu to Kadikoy
They are an interesting and lovely couple. Alp almost didn’t let me pay for the taxi to their flat but when I said that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if he didn’t let me, he relented. During the three days we spent with them they provided us with suggestions, helpful advice, and showed us some places we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. One of them was the busy mezos bar area where we had dinner that night. After explaining three must-eat Turkish meals, Alp let us choose which sounded the most appealing to us. They were Turkish raviolli, Pide (Turkish Pizza), or Hamsi and Mezos which are Black Sea anchovies and tapas, Turkish style.
Istanbul Restaurants, Kadikoy
We chose the hamsi and mezos since it sounded like the most unique experience. Serap then told us that she had been hoping we would choose that one. Alp, like me is a freelance writer and Serap is a food engineer.
black Sea, Hamsi, anchovies, Istanbul food guide
Alp has written a lot of the Couchsurfing guide to Istanbul and we found ourselves in excellent hands during our time with them. For dinner we had the fried anchovies, a variety of eggplant, a delicious salad, and I drank one of the local favorite beers, Efes. It turns out that in Turkey, I’m not alone in being a Muslim who likes to sometimes quaff a beer or two whereas in Morocco only the scum imbibe.
Hanane of course didn’t have any alcohol and put about six sugars in her Turkish tea to make it drinkable for her. Dinner was about 120 lira for the four of us. It included an amazing variety and amount of food. It was the most expensive dinner of our trip but well worth it.
After dinner we had a wonderful walk through Kadikoy and Hanane was barely able to restrain herself from spending all the money I’d given her for souvenirs and shopping but our ‘You have to carry your own bag’ rule kept her consumer impulses in check.
Returning to Alp and Serap’s apartment, Alp made us delicious Turkish coffee and then we all went to bed. They provided us with a room of our own and were the epitome of Turkish hospitality.
In the morning, we went back to Sultanahmet to see several sights they had recommended we not miss (The archeological museum and the Basillica Cistern) while they went to the Turkish Modern Art Museum. In the evening they took us to outlet malls because I had asked where I might be able to buy a cheap digital camera since mine was broken and Hanane’s isn’t of the best quality, but since I knew we had the extra expense of accommodation, I didn’t find one that was in our price range.
The next day,Alp took us for an abbreviated version of one of his favorite Kadikoy walks since we wanted to take a boat tour up the Bosporus and in the evening Hanane made a Moroccan meal for us all in their kitchen. Serap was astounded by Hanane’s kitchen skills and said that she might ask for her to come train some professional chefs at the institute where she works. It was a beautiful meal with great wine and gorgeous conversations. One of the highlights of our trip to Turkey for sure.
Moroccan food in Turkey
In the morning, Alp got us pointed in the right direction so we could catch the early ferry to Bursa. I’d decided that since our second hosts in Istanbul had cancelled, it would be better to start seeing more of Turkey sooner rather than later. I was also anxious to get to Manisa.
So, you might start to see that this trip was more than just a holiday, it was a mission to see if we would be able to make the jump from Morocco to Turkey. I’ll give you more on that later. We kept in touch with Alp and Serap throughout our trip and once again, through couchsurfing, we have made friends that will last a lifetime.

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