Istanbul, capital of mighty Christian and Islarillc empires, was always a bridge between east and west; now Europe and Asia are linked by road, but ferries remain essential to life in this great city. Tour companies nm Bosphorus Cruises with fast boats, but a leisurely zigzagging trip on a regular ferry from the centre of Istanbul to a The Bosphorus, the 30-lan (19-rni) strait linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, remains an important trade route; in the past, it was also a defence and a sununer escape from the heat and disease of the city. Along both banks are royal residences (including the splendid Beylerbeyi Palace), villas, fashionable suburbs, boat yards, fortresses and working villages. Not many of the beautiful wooden yalis, the summerhouses of the wealthy, survive - many burned down, or were demolished before preservation laws came into force.
The waterfronts are punctuated by mosques, including the distinctive Ortakoy Mosque, just below the Ataturk Bridge. South of soaring Fatih Bridge, the twin castles - small Anadolu Hisar and the massive Rumeli Hisar, the Fortress of Europe - could effectively 'lock' the Bosphorus. Inland from the fashionable settlements on the European shore is Belgrade Forest, once a hunting preserve for the Sultans. The last fany stop is at Anadolu Kavagi, on the Asian shore.
Here there is time to explore and have a meal, or plan a return journey by bus, dohnus, and short ferry hops, visiting some of the places glimpsed on the journey.
WHEN TO GO
The ferry runs all year
TIME IT TAKES
About 1 hour 30 minutes each way
Kucuksu Kasri, near Anadolu Hisari.
The shady site was long a royal favourite for picnics; in the 19th century, the wooden kiosk was replaced with an exquisite tiny Rococo palace.
Sariyer - a fish market and good restaurants, and the private Sadberk Hanim Museum, which displays a fascinating collection in a yali, with rooms arranged in the Ottoman style.
Anadolu Kavagi - a lovely village, with old wooden houses and waterfront fish restaurants. From the top of the huge ruined castle there is a panoramic view to the Black Sea.
The Istanbul skyline from the water, especially at dusk, is spellbinding.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
There is a reduced ferry service out of season - check timetables.