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GOLDEN HORN

GoldHorn1View from Pierre Loti CafeThese days taking a cruise along the Bosphorus is more or less de rigueur for visitors to İstanbul. Far fewer people think of taking a boat ride along the Golden Horn even though it costs very little and offers a chance to drop in on some very varied inner-city suburbs with some very varied attractions without having to battle the traffic congestion on both sides of the water.

The Golden Horn is a narrow strait that carves a 7km path between the historic peninsula of Old İstanbul and the lower slopes of Beyoğlu, or New İstanbul.

Unlike the prominent Bosphorus ferry terminals at Eminönü, the jetty for the Golden Horn ferries lurks inconspicuously on the western side of the Galata Bridge which partly explains the relative paucity of visitors. To find it look for the Zindan Han building with the Cafer Baba Tower attached to it, then follow the path beside it down to the shore. The ferries run roughly every hour (http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/timetable/halic-hatti-361.html).suspension

Why the Golden Horn? All sorts of reasons have been given for the Golden Horn's colourful name. Some suggest that the “golden” part was derived from the sheen cast on the water by the rays of the setting sun, others that it harboured a memory of the gold coins hastily tossed into it by the last Byzantines as they awaited the approach of the Ottomans in 1453.

As for the “horn” part, most people assume that it refers to the horn-shaped split at the upper end where the Alibey and Kağıthane rivers flow into the inlet. In more prosaic reality the name was probably taken from the Greek word “chrysokeras” whose own derivation is unclear.

Eschewing all such romanticism, the Turks themselves make do with calling it the Haliç, an abbreviation for Haliç-i Dersaadet, meaning “the Bay of İstanbul” in Osmanlı, the language of the Ottoman Empire.

Shortly after setting sail you will see the new and controversial suspension bridge that carries the Metro from Şişhane to Yenikapı.

The ferries stop first on the northern shore at Kasımpaşa , a dejected suburb dominated by assorted military installations standing on the site of what were once old shipyards. Even if you don't disembark from the ferry you will still be able to admire the statue of  “Güzelce” Kasım Paşa (?-1543), an eccentric commander who served Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and kept a pet lion. 

Just up the road you can visit the lovely Aynalıkavak Kasrı, a beautiful small palace in extensive gardens beside the water.

Afterwards, you can hop back on the ferry and recross the water to Fener on the southern shore. From the deck of the ferry be sure to look out for the huge building in Cibali that now accommodates the Kadir Has University and a small archaeological museum but which was once a vast tobacco factory. The deck also offers the best vantage point for viewing the huge red-brick building on top of the hill that houses the Fener Greek High School for Boys (aka the Red Castle).

redcastle2The "Red Castle"Fascinating Fener was once home to the Phanariote Greeks, descendants of the Byzantines who stayed on after the Ottoman Conquest and often rose to high office both in İstanbul and in the Balkan provinces. Of their magnificent brick mansions only a handful survive. The coast road was built on reclaimed land and on the inland side of it you can still make out traces of the old Sea Walls that, with the great Theodosian Land Walls, once guarded the city so carefully. 

Midway between Fener and Balat stands a real curiosity -- the Gothic-style, cast-iron Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgars. The landing stage at Balat is currently out of action but it's only a short walk from Fener.yavuzYavuz Sultan Selim Cami from Golden Horn

From Fener the ferry tacks back across the Golden Horn to Hasköy where you can disembark to visit the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, Turkey's first (and best) industrial heritage museum built on the site of another old shipyard and an anchor-making factory.

After visiting you can hop back on the ferry and cruise to Ayvansaray, the point where the Sea Walls met the Land Walls and one of the best places to get an idea of what the fortifications would have looked like towards the end of the Byzantine period. 

The ferry then crosses back to Sütlüce on the northern shore, which is dominated by the huge Haliç Conference Centre housed inside what was once a much grimmer slaughter-house dating back to 1923. From here you can hire a rowing-boat to take you upstream to Miniatürk where children can cast an eye over cut-down models of all Turkey's major tourist sites. 

From Sütlüce the ferry ambles to its last stop at Eyüp right beside the long burgundy Feshane where all the city's fezes were made. Eyüp is also home to the Eyüp Sultan Cami, İstanbul's most holy shrine as the burial place of Ebu Eyüp el-Ensari, the standard-bearer to the Prophet Mohammed. 

The only place to end a tour of the Golden Horn is at the famous Pierre Loti Café, built over the site of an original coffeehouse where the Turcophile French novelist Pierre Loti used to come to admire a view that extends over the rustic Bahriye Adaları (Navy Islands) and down the Golden Horn. A cable car will run you straight to the top of the hill, then you can walk back down again past a forest of Ottoman gravestones.

PLotiCafePierre Loti Cafe

Around the Golden Horn

Atatürk Bulvarı

Aynalıkavak

Ayvansaray

Balat

Cibali

Eminönü 

Eyüp

Fener

Galata Bridge

Hasköy

Kasımpaşa

Sütlüce

Read more about the Golden Horn suburbs: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-220965-exploring-istanbuls-glorious-golden-horn.html

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