Islands of Princes



It’s about an hour and a half ferry ride to get out to Princes’ Islands from the European side of Istanbul, which really puts into perspective the size of the city. Ferda and I got to the ferry early and had plenty of time to sit by the water, drink tea and relax.
My t-shirt proved popular on the day, apparently images of squirrels with guns successfully crosses all cultural and geographic lines.

Istanbul has tons of street vendors, many of which sell these fantastic pretzels, and to drum up business on the ferry, the pretzel guy fed the seagulls flying alongside. It was pretty cool actually, he just tore off little pieces, chucked them overboard, and the seagulls would swoop in and snag them out of the air. It proved pretty popular, I couldn’t get a good photo because everybody on the boat was crammed against the rail to watch.

Once we got to the biggest of the islands, Büyükada, it took a long time to hike up to the top, largely because we got lost in a cemetery along the way. Here’s wikitravel’s ‘Stay Safe’ recommendation on the subject:

If you are doing the great circuit of Büyükada, beware of dogs near the cemetery, which suddenly start barking at and chasing you when you are about to re-enter the built-up area in the east of the island if you are circumambulating the island counter-clockwise (or after you have just entered the wooded section if you are doing clockwise). The best reaction is to speed up as much as your legs and the bicycle can endure, they give up after a certain length of chase. This warning is especially true for winter.”

This would have been useful advice before we went wandering on foot through the graveyard in December. As it was, the only dog we ran across simply went his own way, though I think my natural instinct to run from things that chase me would have kicked in with or without the wikitravel warning.

We also ran across a few people along the way. The first was a couple that appeared to be changing clothes in the middle of a wooded area a short distance across from the graveyard. They looked right at me, so I smiled my friendliest smile, but they just stared at me so eventually I stopped. They watched me walking for much longer than I was comfortable with before finally disappearing from view.

The second was a nice bunch of men who were loading up a truck with what I hope was not a body. They gave excellent directions, but not before one of them stepped in front of me, not allowing me to walk past. I didn’t get every word, but the translation Ferda gave me when we we headed off in the opposite direction was pretty much what I figured it to be. “You do not want to walk down this path,” he said earnestly. “Turn around.” When a gravedigger tells you something like that, in Turkey or otherwise, heed his advice.

We walked past an abandoned orphanage next, which had a very loud guard dog patrolling the fence, and I was sad I wouldn’t be able to film a haunted house movie there, it was just spectacularly creepy.

Once we got to the top, we had more tea and enjoyed the view. My trips to Istanbul might best be described as occasional activites surrounding my constant tea consumption.

The Sea of Marmara in the background.

The Sea of Marmara in the background.

Hagios Giorgios Church isn’t spectacular, but it’s still worth the long, long walk to get there. We actually got there after it closed for the night, but a few pleasing words from Ferda and myself about me being a desperate American who had traveled from far away to be there did the trick and I got to have a private audience with the place. The real highlight was the view, which I could never get tired of admiring.

There were so many incredible old wooden houses on the road back to the ferry, though my point and shoot camera wasn’t able to capture much in the darkness.

The ferry ride back was mostly uneventful. We did hit another boat at one point, and pretty hard at that, but nobody else on board seemed even slightly bothered by this, so I tried not to get too worked up over it.


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