Istanbul is an incredible city with much to see and do. Among them all, the biggest attraction to me was the blue-green river that split the city in two. Many of my most memorable moments were spent alongside or even in it.
One of my first introductions to it was at a little cafe where the water came within a foot of the table. People chatted and ate their kahve (coffee) as the waves from passing boats threatened their toes. At one point I noticed a splash in the water, and as I watched a dolphin slid above the surface. It was gone in a moment, but it wasn’t the last dolphin I would see!
One incredible evening was spent sitting on the Asian side with my legs hanging over the water. It was a warm Saturday night and after a successful search for ice cream my coworkers and I settled in to watch the sunset. The park we were in was packed with similarly-minded people picnicking, exercising, and enjoying the view. The bike path and boardwalk that ran along the water was clogged with families strolling by with kids weaving between everyone’s legs.
The sky slowly worked its way from a pale indigo to a fiery pink and orange. As it did, the full moon took center stage in the sky and pierced through the few ragged clouds above us. Next to us a group of men were fishing in the dusk with light-up bobbers. Not long after the sun had set our conversations were interrupted by a sound system echoing over the water from a nondescript barge. In a few minutes, it announced, we were to be treated to a light show on the water.
Our group resettled closer to the barge with the help of strangers making room for us. As darkness truly descended the barge came alive with shooting streams of lit water and music appropriate to a video game boss battle. It was an impressive show that at times made water look like fire and featured a laser displaying messages on a screen of mist.
Three bridges crossed the channel, serving as routes of transportation and landmarks. At night they would glow different colors, offsetting the snaking line of headlights. As the night gave way to day the bridges would occasionally be cloaked in morning fog, prompting the massive cargo vessels to sound horns that would echo through the (numerous, calf-breaking) hills of the city.
Next to, beside, or even over the Bosphorus never compared to being on it. I was lucky enough to get out onto it a few times separate of the ferry crossings, including a day spent on a boat with coworkers.
We boarded in the morning and after the waves proved too rough for us to reach the islands, turned inland and sailed up past the third bridge. We let down the anchor in an inlet and spent the day swimming in the warm green waters, jumping from the deck, and lounging in the sun. At one point three dolphins swam past further out from the shore.
On the way back downriver we stopped at a dock to get ice cream, waffles, and süt misir (corn on the cob) before continuing on our way home. The sun was just setting as we reached shore and disembarked.
While Istanbul has much more for me to see, its most impressive feature to me will always be one not built by man.