The Şehir Hatları ferry boat line, offering service across the Bosphorus to the Princes Islands and up to the Black Sea, has been operating for 165 years. The fleet consists of twenty-eight boats, some carrying 600 passengers with their cars, others carrying up to 1,800 foot passengers. The iconic white boats with yellow trim date back to 1973, though most are more recently built to match the changing times. The forty-five docks around Istanbul create a series of interconnected lines criss-crossing the straight and the Golden Horn.
The M/S ŞH-Kadıköy crosses from Beşiktaş to Kadıköy and back again twice an hour. Built in 2009 this boat carries up to 1,800 passengers, though it doesn’t often feel crowded. One can always find a quiet corner of the boat, either up on the top deck with views of the sky and gulls, the rear with its beautiful curved stair cases, the covered bow on the middle level, or the lower benches on the outside that give the feeling you are gliding over the water. There is always a man offering hot tea or toast to warm your hands on a chilly day, or of course, you can go inside with the padded seats.
A ferry ride, no matter the weather, is a pause in time. To feel the cool, salty breeze, to smell the slight scent of motor oil, to hear the cries of seagulls as people toss them simit, the call of the çaycı offering tea in a real glass, the rumbling engine as the ferry pulls away from the dock — riding the ferry in Istanbul is the one mode of transportation that is inspiring and rejuvenating. A slice out of daily life, away from the hectic horns, the crush of people, and pressures of work and reality, a ride on the ferry is a space for relaxation.