The Bosphorus links the Black Sea, referred to in ancient times as Pontius Euxinus, with the Sea of Marmara, known as Propontis. It was formerly known as Bosporos and there is a legend to enrich this name. It is considered that the root of this name “Bos” is of Thracian origin. The length of it ranges between 28.5km and 31.7km (depending on where it is measured), which means an average length of 30km. Its width at the northern end is 4700m, and at the southern end, 2500m. The widest place is in the Buyukdere vicinity (3300m), and the narrowest place is that which lies between Rumelihisar and Kanlica (660-700m). It is known that the deepest part of the Bosphorus is 100m in depth. Apart from this, there are two main currents. One of these is the surface current, flowing from the Black Sea to Marmara, and this could be considered as the surplus waters of the Black Sea. The other current flows along the bed of this canal from Marmara towards the Black Sea under the hydrostatic pressure of salty, heavy density water. A number of hypotheses exist about the formation:
1. That it came about as a result of a wearing away of friction; that the surplus waters of the Black Sea, which is an inland sea, gradually wore away the canal now known as the Bogaz (Bosphorus).
2. That it came into being as a result of volcanic action and that the water of the Black Sea flowed through the fissure that opened up.
3. That it was originally a valley which gradually filled with water.
A stay in Istanbul is not complete without the traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor, and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to Yali (shorefront wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see this beauty is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark in Eminonu and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip excursion, at a very reasonable cost, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, you can contact one of the agencies which specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruises.
During the journey, you pass in front of the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of Yildiz Palace. On the edge of this park, on the coast, stands Ciragan Palace, now restored as a grand hotel. Refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdulaziz, it stretches for 300 meters along its shore, its ornate marble facades reflecting the swiftly moving water. In Ortakoy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery. The variety of people creates a lively scene; sample a delicious bite from one of the street vendors. In Ortakoy, there is a church, mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years - a tribute to Turkish secularism and tolerance. Overshadowing Istanbul's traditional architecture is the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the world's largest suspension bridges linking Europe and Asia.
The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Camlica Hill, the highest point of Istanbul. You can drive here to admire the magnificent panorama of Istanbul as well as the beautifully landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutkoy contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther out, facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city, stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Anadolu Hisari. The Goksu Palace, sometimes known as Kucuksu Palace graces the Asian shore, next to Anadolu Hisari. The second link between the two continents; the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, dedicated to the Sultan Mehmed The Conqueror once completed in 1988, straddles the waterway just past the two fortresses.
From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the canal. Below Duatepe, beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when the tulips bloom in spring. Opposite, on the Asian shore, is Kanlica, a fishing village now a favored suburb for wealthy Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlica and Cubuklu are the Beykoz Korusu (Abraham Pasha Woods) -a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants, you can enjoy the delightful views and clear fresh air. On the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coast road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sariyer and Buyukdere. Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and borek (pastries). A little further on past Sariyer, the narrow strait widens and disappears into the Black Sea.