Bosphorus, The

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01Heart And Soul2012082520120826 (WS)
20120827 (WS)

Flowing through the heart of Istanbul, in Turkey, the Bosphorus has been a flash point between cultures, religions and imperial powers for thousands of years; from the Roman and Byzantine Empires, to the clash between Islam and Christianity and the Cold War between the super powers of the East and West.

The Bosphorus has a rich and bloody history that's inspired poets, writers and artists from around the world.

Edward Stourton looks at that rich history and how the Bosphorus works today.

Fifty thousand vessels make their way through the narrow straits every year - everything from small fishing boats to giant oil and gas tankers battle through the treacherous currents - making it one of the busiest and most dangerous international waterways in the world.

(Image: People travel over the Bosphorus in a passenger-vehicle ferry in Istanbul. Credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Edward Stourton explores the history, religion and the mythology of the Bosphorus.

02Heart And Soul2012090120120902 (WS)
20120903 (WS)

For thousands of years travellers have made their way to Istanbul, drawn by tales of its cosmopolitan and exotic delights.

The city's unique culture has grown out of its place at the heart of three empires - the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman - and the strategic importance of the Bosphorus that flows through it.

Despite waves of conquest, Istanbul has always managed to retain a diverse religious mix.

Until relatively recently that is, as Edward Stourton discovers on the latest of his journeys along the Bosphorus.

(Image: Istanbul skyline and Bosphorus ferry)

Edward Stourton continues his journey along the Bosphorus river in Turkey.

03 LASTHeart And Soul2012090820120910 (WS)

Istanbul is famously, the only city in the world to straddle two continents - Europe and Asia. The dividing line is the Bosphorus.

Edward Stourton has been exploring the life and rich history of this stretch of water, which is 31 kilometers long. The Bosphorus gives Istanbul its unique character.

But, as we hear in this last programme of the series, having a foot in both Europe and Asia, forces the people who live there to ask themselves interesting questions about their religious identity and the future of Turkey.

(Image: View from he Bosphorus of the Istanbul skyline)

Edward Stourton brings his journey along the Bosphorus river to an end.