The Bosphorus, 33 KMs strait that joins two seas and two continents, has been the subject of legend and art from time immemorial. The name Bosphorus comes from the Greek for "cow's crossing", due to an incident related in Greek mythology.
Zeus, to shield his lover Io from the warth of Hera, changed her into a cow, but Hera pestered Io with a horse-fly, causing her to leap across the strait to escape it. The Bosphorus strait has been known as the "cow's crossing" ever since.
A natural connection between the Black sea and the Marmara sea, it was formed when what was then a valley was in-undated wth water. The area where the Bosphorus opens into the Black Sea is 3600 meter wide, while the opening to the Marmara sea is 1675 meter in width. Its narrowed point is 698 meter, between Anadolu Hisar and Rumeli Hisar. There are strong currents created by the exchange of water between Black Sea and Marmara and the speed of the current can reach 9-10 miles.
Churches and monasteries were contructed along its shores, as well as Byzantines rulers summer palace. The Ottomans, who had begun to settle on its shores even before the conquest of Istanbul, beginning with Sultan Beyazit II, built royal gardens and summer palaces on its two sides.
In the days when sea travel was restricted to row-boats, settlement reached only half way up the Bosphorus. It increased as ships started running in the last century, leading to the establishment of promenades, coffee houses, tea gardens and groves along the coast. A striking feature of Istanbul, The Bosphorus coast is lined with Yalis (seaside mansions) flirting with the sea, each with a tale of its own. The bridges built in the last quarter-century unite the two continents. There are benches placed on the shores and a variety of restaurants and bars for the well-to-do, or more moderate tea gardens for every one.
Providing air circulation for the over populated city, with cool breezes sweping in on hot summer days, it is an artery of the city. The Bosphorus is the principal site to see for all who visits Istanbul.