By Ned Dikmen and Karen Malonis
It has been known by a number of names. It has been called Byzantium, New Rome, Constantinople and Stamboul, depending upon who ruled it. Then, in 1930, it was given its newest name.
Today, Istanbul is a modern city with a long and varied history that ranges across continents and civilizations, that spans cultures and religions, that joins East and West. And with its population of more than 11 million people and its access to beautiful waterways all around it, Istanbul is becoming something brand new: a world-class yachting destination.
The Bosphorus Strait, a narrow strip of water that separates Europe and Asia, divides Istanbul, thus making it the Asian city nearest Europe and the European city closest to Asia. To the north, it reaches the Black Sea and the numerous bays and sheltered harbors that dot its coastline. To the south lies the Sea of Marmara.
A stay in Istanbul should include a tour of the Bosphorus by boat. Its shores are a combination of the past and present, of manmade and natural beauty. Modern hotels stand next to simple, wooden houses, marble palaces are situated alongside ancient stone citadels and trendy districts neighbor small fishing villages. During the journey, the boat passes beneath the Bosphorus Bridge, which is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges and which joins the European and Asian sides of the city.
Those who arrive in Istanbul by boat can sail along the Bosphorus themselves. Or if you don’t come with your vessel but still want to get out on the water, you can take a ferry cruise on the Bosphorus all the way up to Sariyer, which sits close to the end of the Bosphorus near the Black Sea.
Another point of interest is the famous Maiden Tower of Istanbul, which is located in the middle of the sea near the entrance of the Bosphorus. Legend has it that one day a king had a daughter. The king’s seers prophesized that she would die on her eighteenth birthday. To avoid this unfortunate fate, the king ordered his architects to build this tower in the middle of the sea and placed his daughter in it in order to protect her from all evil. On her eighteenth birthday, however, the princess received a box full of grapes from her father. Unknown to the king and his daughter, there was also a snake hidden in the box. It bit the princess and killed her. Ever since, this tower has been called the Maiden Tower.
The tower has recently been renovated, and visitors can take a boat ride to the small island of the tower, where a restaurant is also located.
The Golden Horn, named after the color of the setting sun reflecting off its water, is a horn-shaped natural harbor that divides European Istanbul. The Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping centers were based here. Now, parks and walkways line its shores. Midway up the Golden Horn is a neighborhood with entire streets of old wooden houses and churches dating from Byzantine times.
Boaters also can voyage to the Princess Islands, an archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. The name of the islands comes from the Byzantine period, when princes and empresses were exiled here. During the Ottoman period, especially around the 19th century, when steamboats were in use, these islands became popular resorts for Istanbul’s elite. Jewish, Greek and Armenian communities then made up a large part of the population of the islands. Today, the islands are popular tourist destinations during the summer.
You can either sail to the islands with your own boat and anchor behind one of the islands where you can enjoy the beautiful weather and the sea, or you can take a ship to get to the islands. These islands are free of motor vehicles, so taking a horse drawn carriage tour is a good way to view the surroundings.
After navigating the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn or the Princess Islands, boaters can return to one of the large marinas in the area.
There are two main private marinas in Istanbul. On the European side, there is the Atakoy Marina, which can harbor up to 700 boats, including yachts and sailboats.