In no place is the Bosporus very wide, but where it narrows even further in the sprawling city of Istanbul, modern Turkey has suspended two intercontinental bridges. In the past, these narrow points held forts where cannon could dictate commerce and bar enemy combatants. As they attempted to wrest control of Constantinople from the fading Byzantines, the Ottomans built two of these forts that still stand across from each other: Fortress Europe and Fortress Asia.
Once the Ottomans arrived, their sultans began to raise palaces and mosques upon the banks of the Bosporus. Sometimes they created real estate by filling in bays to make room for their huge gardens. While we'd expect these to have distinctly Eastern and Muslim flavors, most are baroque and designed by the same prolific and long-lived Armenian Christian family.
Not just the sultans built summer homes on the Bosporus shores: their noble pashas and viziers vied to outdo each other by building the most lavish Yalis (Ottoman villas). Over 600 line the strait, mostly built in the 19th century as the Ottoman empire declined.
There's much more of the shore to see by clicking here or follow the link below to see our first stop on the cruise.
Geek and Legal Stuff
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Created on September 15, 2008