When I’m in Istanbul, my blood pressure tends to get high. Really high, it seems. No, I’ve never actually had my blood pressure checked in Istanbul so I can’t claim this with a high degree of certainty. But it sure feels higher than normal. And the more often I visit the city, the more I become aware of this physiological sensation.
I can’t really pinpoint why I react this way. After all, Istanbul is a beautiful city that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime. Maybe it’s the challenge of trying to safely navigate my children through the hurried mass of humanity. Maybe it’s the traffic that speeds up when it should slow down, honks instead of brakes, and very rarely yields for pedestrians. Maybe it’s the hordes of tourists clogging the squares and creating seriously long queues at attractions. Maybe it’s the hawking “tour guides” and “carpet salesmen” constantly pawing at me—sometimes even grabbing my arm and trying to pull me into their shops. Or maybe it’s that I just can’t forget the day my family and I got separated in the city because we couldn’t all shove our way off the packed tram before the doors slammed shut and the tram started rolling away.
No matter what the reason, it’s apparent to me that when I’m in Istanbul, my blood pressure seems to tick up notch, knots somehow find their way into my shoulders, and I start to feel like I’m carrying around an extra 5 kilos in my man-purse.
Now don’t get me completely wrong—there are some places in Istanbul I simply love. Take Hagia Sofia, for example. This 1400-year-old church-mosque-museum is an inspiring place to spend a morning. Or, take the Bosphorus. There is something refreshing about sitting in a café on the bank of the Bosphorus watching the boats sail by. But beyond that, visiting Istanbul, for me, has largely become a source of vein-constricting, heart-thickening, hypertensive stress.
BUT, the good news is that I’ve found one surefire way to almost instantaneously drop my blood pressure about 10 points. It’s simple, easy, and even fairly cheap. To lower my blood pressure when in Istanbul, I just need to get myself on a ferry bound for Bursa.
I realize this may sound unrealistic, but it’s true. My wife can even vouch for me on this. The moment I fall into my seat on an Istanbul to Bursa ferry, I can already feel tense muscles in my shoulders begin to relax. As the boat pulls away from the dock, I begin to sink deeper into my chair and my pulse slows to a normal pace. By the time I step off the boat at one of Bursa’s Mudanya terminals, I am more-or-less my calm, relaxed, normal, 120-over-80 self again.
I’m no doctor and I’m certainly not qualified to give medical advice, and I cannot guarantee miraculous cardiovascular healing the moment you step onto a ferryboat. But I can suggest from personal experience that the quieter, more relaxed atmosphere of Bursa might be a welcome change after a few days in the mass and chaos of Istanbul. Bursa may just be what the doctor ordered.
Notes on Istanbul to Bursa Ferries
- Two companies run regularly scheduled Istanbul to Bursa ferry service. Bursa Deniz Otobüsleri (BUDO) runs between Istanbul’s Kabataş terminal and Bursa’s Mudanya terminal. Istanbul Deniz Otobüsleri (ĪDO) runs from Yenikapı (and occasionally Kadıköy) in Istanbul to Güzelyalı in Mudanya.
- A ferry ride to Bursa from Istanbul takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Both ferry companies provide comfortable, reliable service. But when my schedule allows, I prefer the large ĪDO fast catamaran ferry that sails from Yenikapı. I find it to usually be the fastest and most comfortable option.
- From Mudanya and Güzelyalı terminals, you can easily reach Bursa’s center via taxi, minibus dolmuş, or city bus. Bus 1-M runs from Mudanya terminal to Emek metro station. Bus 1-GY runs from Güzelyalı terminal to Emek metro station. At Emek, you can catch the metro to the city center. If you choose to use public transportation, pick up a BuKart at either terminal, which can conveniently be used on all city buses and metros.
- Full-price, one-way ferry tickets usually cost 20-30 TL. But discounts are often offered for advanced purchases, so try to buy early. I’ve purchased one-way tickets for as low as 9 TL.
- Ferries can be canceled in the event of inclement weather, especially during the winter months. So if the weather looks dicey, contact the ferry company for an update.
- See more information about Bursa transportation on The Best of Bursa’s basic info page.