The eyesore seen from Yoros Castle

Controversial construction projects have become one of the defining marks of Erdogan’s reign, and the Third Bosphorus Bridge is perhaps the most conspicuous of them all although the recent presidential palace has certainly garnered its fair share of attention. Critics say the 3rd bridge will irreparably damage the environment and surrounding natural area, not to mention it will cast an iron silhouette over the once pristine view of the waters where the Bosphorus and Black Sea meet. Those wild boars running around Istanbul? You can also chalk that up to the 3rd bridge.

My first view of the infamous bridge was when my friend Heidi  was visiting from the States. Instead of doing the typical tourist activities, we escaped the city and headed out to Anadolu Kavağı to see Yoros Castle. It was a gorgeous May day (the best time of year to visit Istanbul), the sun high and weather breezy. We took a ferry from Sariyer which turned out to be only a short 5 minute jaunt across the Bosphorus and found ourselves in the sleepy fishing village of Anadolu Kavağı. Yoros Castle is located uphill from the main square and instead of hiking our way up, we flagged a taxi and paid a premium price for the 5 minute ride. I recommend doing the same.

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The ferry landing at Anadolu Kavağı

Once we arrived at Yoros, I was surprised to find that there was no official museum kiosk; instead, people were haphazardly milling around. One area – the side facing the water – had been gated off, and a man who was neither in uniform nor wearing an official tour guide badge appeared to be the guardian of this gate. Every 15 minutes or so he would let a handful of people pass to the other side, close the gate behind them, and give them just enough time to take in the view and snap a few photos before signaling to them that it was time to wrap up.

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The ruins of Yoros Castle

From the side of Yoros which faces the water, one has a clear view of the construction of the 3rd bridge. The picture below was taken in May 2014 and one can see that already a good deal of green space has been cleared and the supports erected. .

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The view of the 3rd bridge from Yoros Castle

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The view coming down from Yoros Castle

On the way down, we passed a multitude of cafes with great views but shady menus (i.e. the kind with no prices). We snapped some pictures but passed on what I assume were extremely overpriced mezzes and drinks.

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Delicious fried mussels at Kafkas Cafe & Restaurant, located right at the main square and ferry landing

Back in the center of Anadolu Kavağı, we had fried mussels and fish sandwiches at Kafkas Cafe & Restaurant. The fried mussels were delicious, light and crispy, and hot from the grill. Whenever I think about the best fried mussels in Istanbul, Kafkas is the first place that comes to mind. Heidi who hails from the land of seafood has vowed to bring fried mussels to the East Coast. I think it’s guaranteed to be a hit.

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Heidi finds a little munchkin in AnadoluKavağı

How to get there:

From Beşiktaş, take a minibüs/dolmuş from Barbaros Blvd to the Sariyer iskele and then a ferry from Sariyer to Anadolu Kavağı. The ferry doesn’t run frequently so do check the schedule ahead of time otherwise you may find yourself in Sariyer with hours to spare.

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A day excursion to Boğaziçi University and Rumelihisarı

A few weekends ago, Gurkan and I decided to take a trip to see Bogazici University. Everyone had always talked about how beautiful the campus was, and I had never had a chance to visit. The closest I had came to visiting was meeting with a Bogazici professor in a nearby cafe to discuss my Fulbright application which I, sadly, never submitted. Most know Bogazici University as the most sought after public university in Turkey. Outside of Turkey others may know it as the first American institution of higher education founded outside the US. The year was 1863, and the founders were Christopher Robert, a philanthropist, and Cyrus Hamlin, a missionary and author of ‘Among the Turks’ (1878), a book I’ve never had a chance to read, but hope to get my hands on a copy soon.

I was surprised to find that the campus was not all that far from our apartment – we hopped on a bus on Barbaros Boulevard and since the traffic wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t long until we arrived at the gates of Bogazici University. We walked inside and the first thing I noticed was the view overlooking the Bosphorus. I told Gurkan I’d do a PhD there just for the view alone. Once we got to the main campus, I was surprised to see a campus that looked like it could be anywhere in the U.S. Ivy growing on buildings, a proper quad, and students hanging out on campus on the weekend? Certainly, not like the other Turkish universities I had visited.

The next treat of the day was when we exited campus and found ourselves at the foot of Rumelihisari, an Ottoman fortress, that I had passed many times while on Bosphorus boat tours, but never had seen close up. After asking the Bogazici University security guard for directions, we found ourselves wandering around the surrounding neighborhood, and finally, we arrived at the entrance of the fortress, now an open air museum with a nominal entrance fee of 5 TL (10 TL since April 2014).

Once we got our tickets and entered, we were completely on our own to explore the fortress, and I was amazed at the lack of concern for safety. The stones were old and slippery, the stairways steep and narrow with no railings to hold onto, and the two security guards were oblivious to what was going on. Being the adventurous person he is, Gurkan climbed until he was at the top, and yelled me for me join, but I firmly stood my ground on the main level. At one point, I was persuaded to climb one flight of stairs, but quickly came down once I got to the top and saw the drop below.

We certainly had a great time exploring, and the views from the fortress are without a doubt breathtaking – it’s definitely a place worth visiting but I am not sure I’d hurry back (fear of heights!). Bogazici University, on the other hand, is a place I’d like to return to one day 🙂

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The view from Bogazici University

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Stray dogs at home on campus

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The quad

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Campus buildings

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A cat spies on us as we explore the surrounding neighborhood

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Rumelihisari

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Notice Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge in the background

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The treacherous stairs

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Turkish flags flying opposite each other on the Bosphorus

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Gurkan peering out over the Bosphorus

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Walking back along the Bosphorus

For more on the history of Rumelihisari, click here.