Our small group — still waiting for the larger group to arrive — took a cruise up the Bosphorus for most of the day today. Doing so, we were sailing on one of the most famous waterways in the world, a literally legendary marine passage. Traditionally, the name comes from a legend about Io, a priestess of Hera, the wife of Zeus. That famous philanderer had seduced Io, and then, in order to protect her from his justly often-jealous spouse, had turned her into a heifer. (That doesn’t seem to me an ideal solution from Io’s perspective, but it’s not clear that Zeus asked her about it.) But Hera sent an unusually vexing gadfly to torment her rival, and, finally, poor Io-the-cow jumped into the water, which is now called, literally, “the crossing of the cow” or “the cow’s ford” (Bosphorus). Jason and the Argonauts sailed up the Bosphorus to the Euxine Sea, now called the Black Sea, seeking the Golden Fleece. According to Herodotus, Darius of Persia built a bridge of boats across the Bosphorus so that his troops could pass from the Asian shore to the European shore to do battle with the Scythians.
We caught a ferry from the Golden Horn, near the Spice Market, and sailed in zigzag fashion up the Bosphorus to its last stop, on the Asian shore within sight of the Black Sea. There, we debarked and hiked up to a fortress built there to control access to the Bosphorus from the north.
After sailing back to the Golden Horn and resting for a while, we had dinner in the dining room atop the Arcadia Hotel. My wife and I have stayed there before. It’s an okay hotel with rather small rooms, and the food is good but perhaps not great. (My wife disliked her dinner, I liked mine quite well, and reactions among the others were mixed to positive.) But the view is utterly magnificent, and that’s why I recommended that we eat there tonight.
The Sultan Ahmet or Blue Mosque is on the right in the photo above. The early sixth-century Hagia Sophia is on the left. Out of the photo, further to the left, is the Church of Hagia Eirene, pretty much contemporary with Justinian’s Hagia Sophia, and, just beyond that, the Topkapi Sarayi, the place from which Ottoman sultans ruled for four centuries. In the foreground is the area of the ancient hippodrome, where chariot and horse races were run before audiences of roughly 100,000 and where, early in his reign, Justinian had his general, Belisarius, seal the doors of the raceway and massacre 30,000 people during the Nika Revolt.
I can think of no restaurant with a more spectacular and historically significant overlook. Frankly, I don’t care what food they serve. Corn dogs or canned corned beef hash or tuna fish sandwiches would be just fine.
Posted from Istanbul.