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Looking at Istanbul from the Bosphorus


ANAMED Fellow Caroline Autret shares her impressions on how the sea – and the Bosphorus – is an integral part of everyday life in Istanbul…

Where I come from, the sea has always been an important feature of the landscape and of daily life. For instance, until recently, if you walked on the streets of villages located at the seaside, you could enjoy the colorful fishermen’s houses painted with the leftover colors they used for their boats. Like in Istanbul, the sea surrounds the place, and sailing is part of everyday life. Being at ANAMED this year gave me the opportunity to take the ferries to travel in the city as the Istanbullus do. Being rocked from the sea, if I might say, since my youngest age, I find it amazing to have the possibility to use the sea as a common way of travelling from one mahalle to another. For me, it is fascinating to be able to take a ferry just like a bus or the metro. Indeed, you can use the Isanbulkart as any other means of transport. It is thus a very easy (and most pleasant!) way to cross the Bosphorus to go to Kadiköy for instance, or to ride along the seashore toward the Black Sea, passing various mahalles like Beşiktaş or Arnavutköy. Travelling by ferry is also a better way to discover Istanbul from a different perspective than just walking on the streets. You can enjoy the beauty of various buildings that form the landscape of this millenary city that you wouldn’t have if you took another means of transport for travelling in the city to places such as Dolmabahçe Sarayı in Beşiktaş, Haydarpaşa Garı in Kadiköy, or Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Sarayı, and the city walls in the Old City.

Looking at Istanbul from the Bosphorus also provides a very different feeling about the city: you forget Istanbul is a crowded büyükşehir (megalopolis). It seems peaceful, quiet. When the night is falling, the city is illuminated with many colors, including the bridges on the Bosphorus strait. Nonetheless, this impression of tranquility remains despite the constant activity of the ferryboats.


The Galata Köprüsü between Karaköy and Eminönü.


Boğaziçi Köprüsü connecting Europe and Asia.

Thousands of people take the ferryboat everyday to go to work. I also had the opportunity to meet students from Koç University who prefer travelling along the Bosphorus strait, from Üsküdar to Sarıyer, in order to reach the campus. In this case, they can take advantage of the journey to work inside the ferry. However, when the weather is nice, you can sit outside and, as many Istanbullus do, enjoy the panorama while drinking tea, or feed the seagulls with pieces of simit. On this occasion, hundreds of seagulls follow the boat. They are so numerous that you can confuse the most distant seagulls with “white horses” in English or “sheep” in French, i.e., with the foam of the sea.

In any case, travelling through the Bosphorus by ferry and discovering Istanbul from the sea is a unique experience. To take Charles Baudelaire’s words, it is in my opinion a delightful “invitation au voyage” in every sense of the word.