Our hearts sank as a series of exceedingly large and impersonal looking boats tied up at the wharf came into view. We arrived early seeking the modern yacht promised to us. The luxury yacht taking only a few passengers out on a sunset cruise. Disappointment began to replace our excitement. The idea of pretending to live a rich and glamorous, movie star lifestyle encouraged us to part with our money. But instead, here was mass tourism on full display.
The huge, unwieldy, multi-deck vessels stood empty, ready to load their many passengers – a bit like cattle. it seemed appropriate as the Bosporus is said to be named for Io. In the ancient myth, Io was transformed into a cow destined to wander the world until she crossed this stretch of water.
THE CATTLE CROSSING
Named after the Ancient Greek word meaning ‘cattle crossing’, the Bosporus (or Bosphorus) Strait is now a busy shipping lane. It stretches between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul in Turkey.
So where was the sleek and lustrous yacht of our dreams? We hoped, as travellers often do, that what we chose and paid for would prove to be at least tolerable. Even if not the memorable experience promised to us, the cruise should be tolerable.
Then, out of the distance a classic model of a stylish, avant-garde yacht materialised. And it was heading straight for us.
This is the life
The captain seemed set to knock right into the quay. Instead, he manoeuvred expertly to a stop and invited us aboard. We secured a seat. A seat just far enough outside to get a good view, and far enough inside to protect us from the cold wind. We cast off.
Motoring away from the quay, we felt bewitched by the allure and charm of our vessel. The dozen or so passengers observed each other curiously. Were we all in a dream here in exotic Istanbul? On this beguiling yacht cruising the romantic sounding Bosporus Strait on a gloriously sunny afternoon?
From our onboard guide, we heard of the lavish lifestyles of the last Sultans. We admired an impossibly ornate Baroque waterfront palace and glimpsed expensive villas perched at the water’s edge. We spied mosques and fortresses. We marvelled at bridges connecting Europe and Asia and we tasted a life of indulgence as we were waited on with food and drink.
THE LEGEND OF THE MAIDEN’S TOWER
It is said an oracle told the Sultan his daughter would die of snakebite before she turned 18. To protect her, the Sultan exiled her to a tower positioned out in the water and far away from any snake.
Visited only by her father, the Sultan’s daughter lived to her 18th birthday when the Sultan arrived with a special basket of fruits and nuts. But inadvertently, the Sultan brought an uninvited guest hidden within. The asp bit the daughter as she reached for a piece of fruit, and she died in her father’s arms.
Moral of the story: you should always listen to the oracle!
cRUISING THE bOSPORUS AT SUNSET
The rays of the setting sun painted the Maiden’s Tower with a warm, golden glow. We watched as water taxis ferried couples to enjoy a romantic tryst. Adding to the stylish vibe and movie star glamour, our guide casually mentioned that the tower featured in the James Bond movie “The World is not Enough”.
Reclining at the back of the boat, we sipped our wine and nibbled our baklava. We tied scarves in our hair. Adding sunglasses to cope with the sunrays piercing our eyes, we watched as the giant yellow sun sank behind the minarets of the mosque.
We felt like elegant movie stars on our own sleek and modern yacht cruising the exotic Bosporus at sunset. This dream at least, had materialised.
We booked the Istanbul Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorus through Istanbul Bosphorus Tour (https://www.bosphorustour.com/Sunset-Cruise-On-The-Bosphorus.html).
Cost €50 per person. Departure times vary according to the season so check the details. Drinks and canapes are served onboard and included in the price. Wine is available for purchase.
In total, the cruise takes around two and a half hours.