It must be one of the best things to do ever – sitting on a boat, book in hand (or not), feeling the cool breeze on your cheeks, watching life on the banks, watching the sun set in the horizon, watching the birds head back home… It’s definitely one of my favourite things to do ever. And here are some of my fondest such memories.
Bosphorus absolutely tops the list here – you float past grand mosques, ruined fortresses, seafood restaurants and pretty houses by the water (each of which I desperately want to own). You can float all the way to Anadolu Kavagi, a fishing village close to the Black sea or get off at some point mid way and make your way back to Ortokoy. The latter I recommend especially on a Sunday it is where you can sip on a hot chocolate, tuck into a plump kumpir (jacket potato) and then graze through the Sunday flea market.
Read my story on a Bosphorus cruise – One river, two continents
“It is of this experience that Orhan Pamuk has written, “To travel along the Bosphorus — be it in a ferry, a motor launch or a rowing boat — is to see the city house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, and also from afar, as a silhouette, an ever-mutating mirage”. The Bosphorus is a strait between the Black Sea and the Marmera and runs through the heart of the city, dividing it into two – Rumelia and Anatolia. For a moment out there, you are straddling two continents. The Bosphorus is everywhere in Istanbul; in many ways it defines the dualism of this city: European and Asian, traditional and modern.”
The grandest of them all, the Nile and the cruise we took was for four days, all the way from Luxor to Aswan, from where we made a day trip to Abu Simbel. The Nile cruise is an utterly fascinating experience, punctuated as it is by regular stops and excursions to temples and ruins all along the way. At Aswan, we also got into a smaller boat and floated along for an hour late in the evening. Definitely one of my favourite holiday memories.
What is not to love about a spring evening in Paris? After walking around the city all day, we eagerly looked forward to sitting down and giving our tired feet a break. We again chose a late evening cruise (surely one of the best time to be on water) and watched the lights of Paris twinkle and wave to us as we crossed bridge after beautiful bridge. Especially watch out for the illuminated Eiffel Tower.
Nothing to beat an early morning ride on the Ganga – this is the time the ghats come to life and people begin to dip their feet tentatively into the cold water and then immerse themselves totally, getting up with hands folded in supplication. The flower sellers make their way around the devotees, the pandas get busy with their business development activities, local boys nose dive into the river and everyone manages to wear a purposeful look on their faces. This is what I have written about Varanasi – Shortcut to Salvation.
And then, there are those boat rides, not exactly on rivers but wonderful experiences nevertheless:
- an excursion into the floating village on the Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap – Shifting Shapes
- cruising on the good old backwaters of Kerala, all the way from Alleppey to Kumarakom…
- punting, or rather, being punted on the Cam in Cambridge, past those glorious college buildings and the lucky, lucky young men and women who study there. My first ever published story was on this experience – Apunting we go on the Cam
And finally, a ride on the canals of Amsterdam, easily of my favourite cities in the world – I could easily live there for the rest of my life!