The Bosphorus – Marmara
The shores of both old and new cities lie along the northern, European bank of the Bosphorous, the narrow strait that divides Europe from Asia. Two massive suspension bridges now span these overcrowded waters, in which tour boats, ferries, supertankers and fishing vessels vie for space in the overcrowded waters. From all of them you see the Istanbul skyline, one of the most dramatic in the world. Tours up the Bosphorous include several notable buildings, including the Sultans’ 19th-century Dolmabahçe Palace. On the far, Asian shores lie Uskudar (Scutari), where Florence Nightingale nursed the sick during the Crimean War; the charming Ottoman summer palace of Beylerbeyi; and a whole series of delightful villages full of fish restaurants and fine old mansions, built by the 19th-century aristocracy. Looming at each other across the water are several Byzantine and Ottoman castles, including Anadoluhisar and Rumelihisar.
West of Istanbul, the provinces of Thrace and Marmara embrace the Sea of Marmara, while the towns of Gelibolu and Çanakkale mark the entrance to the Dardanelles, the narrow straits leading through to the Mediterranean. This was the site of the infamous Gallipoli landings during World War I, which led to the deaths of nearly 250,000 British, Turkish and Anzac troops and shot Turkish General Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk) to fame. Inland, the cities of Edirne, in Thrace, and Bursa, in Marmara, are both fascinating historic towns with a wide range of magnificent architecture, such as the Selimiye Camii in Edirne, said to be the masterwork of Turkish imperial architect, Mimar Sinan. Just outside Bursa, the Uludag National Park is a wonderful forested mountain reserve, with excellent walking in summer and skiing in winter. A short way south of Gallipoli are the ruins of ancient Troy. Of the nine levels of the excavated settlement mound, the sixth is supposed to be the Troy depicted in Homer’s Iliad.