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Reading list | The European Shore of the Bosphorus

‘On paper, the road up the European Shore would appear to be one of the great waterside drives,’ writes Andrew Finkel in Cornucopia 52, the special issue on the Bosphorus. ‘But in practice few ever attempt the 17 miles from downtown Karaköy to rural Rumelikavaği.’ Apart from traffic, the shore, which has spectacular dawns, is often hidden from the road, and it was only in the 1980s that the last stretch was built. So the best way to see it, Finkel concludes, is by boat, though the Metro now extends to Hacıosman, a 6-min taxi ride Büyükdere.

The towns that dot the shore as far as Sarıyer were once fishing villages with sleepy monasteries. By the late 19th century there were desirable yalıs as well as kösks – country houses with gardens – and handsome embassies and consulates. Ortaköy has preserved its waterside palaces and piazza, but only two of some 40 yalıs remain at Kuruçeşme, the first village north of the First Bridge, and the Art Nouveau houses at Arnavutköy are half-hidden by the road.

The heart of the Bosphoros Riviera is Bebek, its waterfront dominated by the Belle Epoque Egyptian consulate. Hotel Bebek has been here many years, as has Bedek Badem Ezmesi marzipan shop concocting its delights of pistachios and almonds. At the top of the northern esplanade is Rumelihisarı, where the fine fortifications guard the Bosphorus’s narrowest spot in the shadow of the Fatih Bridge, the second Bosphorus bridge.

Beyond the  bridge is Baltalimanı, where the Japanese garden is modelled on Chofu Garden outside Tokyo. At Emigran is the wonderful Sakıp Sabancı Museum, which holds major exhibitions. Beyond it are the attractive waterside merchants’ houses at Yeniköy, once the most cosmopolitan village on the European shore, where young poet Cavafy lived for three years.

The Black Sea comes into view at Büyükdere, where there is a collection of porcelain and antiquities in the excellent Sadberk Hanım Museum. The fishermen of neighbouring Sariyer are passionate about their lüfer (bluefish) and çiroz (dried mackerel). Watch out for wild boar escaping habitat depridation in the Belgrade Forest as the third Bosphorus Bridge is being built at this northern end of this otherwise tranquil waterway.


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