On my second day, Wednesday, in Istanbul we decided to make a boat tour on the Bosphorus river and the weather was nothing but perfect for it. We bought tickets at the stop in Kadıköy for 12TL (£3.30) each and drank coke while waiting for the ferry to depart.
220 yards from the coast of Üsküdar on the southern entrance of the Bosphorus strait is a small island with the Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi) on it. You might have seen the tower in the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Today the tower serves as a restaurant and cafe. You have excellent views of Istanbul from the top, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to make a trip to it. I definitely want to do it next time I am in Istanbul.
There are many legends about the construction of the tower and its location. My favourite and the most popular Turkish legend is about an emperor who had a much beloved daughter. One day an oracle prophesied that she would be killed by a venomous snake on her 18th birthday. The emperor tried to keep his daughter away from snakes and had the tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus to keep her there and protect her until her 18th birthday. Only a father visited her frequently. On the 18th birthday of his daughter, the emperor brought her a basket of exotic fruits as a gift and he was delighted to have prevented the prophecy. Little did he know that an asp hid inside the basket along with the fruit and you can guess what happened next: The young princess reached inside the basket and was bitten by the snake. She died in her father’s arms just like the oracle had predicted. The tower was named the Maiden’s Tower after the legend.
Next we passed the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace. The palace served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922, apart from a 22 year interval from 1887-1909 in which the Yıldız Palace was used. Construction started in 1843 and was finished in 1856. I can’t believe it took only thirteen years to build this beauty.
Shortly after we crossed the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the world’s largest suspension bridges linking Europe and Asia.
The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the Bosphorus bridge on the Asian side. It was built as an Imperial Ottoman summer residence in the 1860s. It was a place to entertain visiting heads of state. Empress Eugénie of France visited the palace on her way to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and had her face slapped by the sultan’s mother for daring to enter the palace on the arm of Sultan Abdülaziz. However, she still enjoyed her stay so much and was delighted by the elegance of the palace that she had a copy of the window in the guest room made for her bedroom in Tuileries Palace in Paris.
Behind the palace rises Camlica Hill, the highest point of Istanbul.
Soon we spotted the second link between Europe and Asia, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. It was just recently completed and I actually can’t easily tell the two bridges apart. We then turned around and went back to Kadıköy.