Day 3 in Istanbul was also our last day there and I wanted to explore the Asian side as well as the Bosphorous. Among the many things to do in Istanbul, a Bosphorus cruise was said to be a must-do. It was the most relaxed way to get a sense of the enormity of Istanbul and after two days of walking around, we decided it was anyway time for an upgrade to our mode of transport. After a sumptuous meal at a place called Balkan Lokantasi, a buffet/self serve format restaurant that can be found across Turkey, we made our way to Eminonu to find a Bosphorus cruise. We hadn’t pre-booked one and we weren’t entirely sure how to go about it either. But just as we were strolling along the promenade, we heard a ferry captain calling out and inviting passengers for a cruise. Skeptically, but still proud of the economic cruise that we chanced upon, we boarded the cruise and took our place on the top deck where we would remain for the next 90 mins.
While the starting point for these cruises aren’t as pretty as one would expect, it was also a terminal for the public ferries and hence it had an undeniably local vibe complemented with the smell of fish and the salty sea with a tinge of kerosene. Soon the ferry undocked itself and we began our journey into the Bosphorus, cruising along with the seagulls, as they made unsuccessful attempts at catching the bread crumbs that the passengers of the cruise were trying to lure them with. As we exited the golden horn, the first Bosphorus Bridge, now called the 15th July Martyr’s Bridge, made its first close up appearance. Built-in 1973, this engineering marvel looks like a thread that connects Asia and Europe, a thread that is 1.5km long and costed USD 21 million. It obviously was not the first time I was seeing this bridge since it is usually visible from quite a few places in Istanbul as well as while flying over Istanbul, but seeing it up close is the only way to truly get a sense of the sheer size of this spectacle. The cruise then took us to the second Bosphorus bridge which was repetition after seeing the first, but by this point in the cruise, I was beginning to get a sense of the how expansive Istanbul really was. While the European side was densely populated with slightly shabby looking apartment buildings, the Asian side seemed sparsely populated and posh with its fancy condos overlooking the Bosphorus. On our way back we crossed the Maiden’s tower, a cute lighthouse on a small island at the junction of the Bosphorous and the Marmara sea, before we docked back next to the Galata bridge. With just a couple of more hours left in Istanbul, we decided to crossover to the Asian side for a quick bite before we boarded the bus to Sabiha Gokcen airport which was also on the Asian side. Since we had already covered tram and ferry as a mode of transport, this time we decided to crossover using their Marmara underground trains. A couple of long zig-zagging escalators later, we boarded the train to switch between the continents. Getting out of the train station and onto the Kadikoy pier on the Asian side left me a sudden sense of detachment from the Istanbul that I had known for the last two days. With its spiraling minarets and cascading domes, the old town was now just a distant skyline and soon Istanbul would become just a distant memory.
Kadikoy center turned out to a very bustling commercial hub where locals went for shopping, window shopping or eating. After quickly grabbing a couple of bureks to eat, a puff pastry with stuffings, we decided to walk down to the Moda park which was the southernmost tip of the Asian side of Istanbul. The walk from Kadikoy to Moda would have been fairly easy if we didn’t have to drag our luggage along, but it was a good sunny day to be out in the Moda park. As we rested on the freshly cut grass of park lawn to soak in what would turn out to be our last glimpses of Istanbul skyline, a few teenagers added to our melancholy mood by playing what I assumed would have been Turkish love songs. As our departure time neared, we took a “nostalgic” tram ride back to Kadikoy pier to catch our bus to the airport.