Wednesday, 30 October 2013

orient express

This week saw the inaugural train-ride under the waters of the Marmara Sea at the Straits of the Bosporus, linking the European and Asian parts of Istanbul with submerged tube line.
This ambitious project, engineered with the assistance of Norwegian and Japanese planners, has taken a decade to complete and opens several years behind schedule—due almost exclusively, however, to preservation efforts to safely retrieve the trove of artefacts, ancient finds from Roman, Byzantine and earlier eras, including shipwrecks and the sunken ancient harbour of the city. There have been other means of bridging the continents since, including the poor nymph Io, a victim of one of Zeus' many liaisons, who he turned into a cow in order to hide her from his jealous wife. Hera, however, saw through this deception and condemned the shamed nymph to wonder the earth, tormented by a relentless gadfly that prodded her onwards, never resting.
Io came to Asia at these narrows, whose name signifies her crossing, like Oxford (oder Oschenfurt)--that is where a cow could ford the waters, and eventually met another unfortunate, Prometheus, punished for giving mankind the gifts of foresight and fire. The tortured god told Io to travel to Egypt where she regained her human form.  The city, straddling both worlds, continued to represent a limit and a point of transition—more recently, a grand hall of a former railway station on Istanbul's modern harbour stands as the remains of the end-station of the fabled Orient Express, beginning in Paris. To travel further east, passengers would disembark here and take ferries to board trains of the Ottoman railways across the straits.