The Bosporus Bridge: A Physical Link Between Asia And Europe
For millennia, the city of Istanbul (Constantinople) in Turkey has served as an important link between two of the world’s major continents. Trade goods, armies, languages and religion – and even the occasional tennis ball – have crossed the Bosporus Strait here, spreading out far into the regions beyond in both directions. It seems only natural that a physical bridge should accompany this valuable cultural bridge between Europe and Asia.The First Bosporus Bridge, commonly referred to as simply the Bosporus Bridge, is one of several bridges and tunnels that cross the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, but when it was completed in 1973 it was the only one to link Turkey and Eastern Europe. The idea wasn’t new even then: Over two thousand years before, Darius the Great had had a pontoon bridge built in the same spot for his armies to use. Today, the flow of people has increased to the point that yet another bridge is under construction to cross the strait.
Planning for the Bosporus Bridge began in 1957, with construction beginning in 1970. Building this modern marvel required the efforts of 400 construction workers and 35 engineers. When complete, the structure included a pair of steel towers rising 165 meters (541 feet) that flank the 1,074-meter (3,524 feet) main span, which is suspended by steel cables.
Just as Istanbul is a symbol of the steady flow of ideas and influences between the continents, the Bosporus Bridge represents the physical flow of goods and people between the regions. Approximately 180,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day, mostly automobiles. The bridge is closed to pedestrians and commercial vehicles for the most part, although for the first four years it was also open to foot travelers. Tolls are collected from vehicles driving from Europe to Asia but not those moving the opposite direction.A notable exception to the ‘no pedestrians’ rule happens in October each year, when the Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon takes runners across the bridge. At that time the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic and many people enjoy a fun run or a stroll across the span, complete with a picnic to enjoy while taking in the view above the Bosporus.
Other events have temporarily closed the bridge to its normal traffic, while illustrating the significance of the link between cultures and regions. Venus Williams and the Turkish tennis star, İpek Şenoğlu, participated in a show match in 2007 – the first tennis match to take place on two continents. Tiger Woods once shot golf balls off the bridge in both directions while visiting Turkey to participate in the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open tournament.
Whether you see it in daylight or at night, when its sophisticated LED lighting array draws all eyes with its shifting colors and patterns, be sure to visit this magnificent bridge any time you have the opportunity. And if you don’t get a chance to see it in person simply take joy in the fact that bridges like this exist, along with the many other kinds of bridges that connect us to one another across time and space.