As I start my workday in Istanbul, Turkey heading out to find carpets and textiles for various clients my day often starts on the Bosphorus.
I have become expert in being able to time my walk from the flat to the ferry dock. I have daily ‘tour’ that I start each day with and also end each working day with as I catch the ferry from Asia in the morning to Europe and return each evening from the Old City on the European shore to Asia.
In my heart of hearts I ‘know’ that I am in Istanbul once I am on the ferry. For me the attractions are endless. The sea breeze as I sit on an outer deck; the sun on the water; the traffic from massive oil tankers plowing through the waters to small fish boats bobbing like the proverbial cork. People of every socio-economic strata are on the ferries providing for excellent people watching. Of course, there is the opportunity to have a cup of tea on the ferry as well. As I warm my hands on the slim waisted Turkish tea glass all seems well with the world. The icing on the cake is to be able to see the Old City with the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque dominating the skyline that slopes down to the Topkapi Palace at the junction of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn as I head over to Europe in the morning. Equally lovely are the evenings when I am on the ferry as the sun is setting and the skyline is backlit as the sun drops below the horizon and minarets pierce the soft beautiful light.
When visiting in Istanbul and riding the ferries and using other public transport the city has a dynamite electronic gadget known as an Akbil, a variation on London’s oyster card. The Akbil can be purchased at tram stops and ferry docks. Funds are loaded onto the chip facilitating hassle free boarding of buses, trams and ferries! This great little device can be shared with one or two people making it easy to dodge lineups at ticket purchasing booths and machines.
Visitors may often think that they might want to avoid public transport choosing a taxi as a preferable mode of transport but my experience has been that the ferries and trams provide more speedy movement through streets and across bridges that can be jammed with traffic.
Whether it is outlying museums, exhibitions, gardens or archeological sites that you want to see on your visit or tour in Istanbul make a point of planning some destinations that include using the public transport, and if time allows, include a crossing of the Bosphorus on the public ferry for an authentic experience of life in Istanbul.