Days 253 to 254 - Princes' Island(s) et al...
Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
221Trip End Jan 08, 2012
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During the Byzantine period, princes and other royalty were exiled on the islands, and later members of the Ottoman sultans family were exiled there too, giving the islands their present name. Since the 19th century, the islands have become a popular resort for Istanbul's wealthy, and Victorian-era cottages and houses are still preserved on the largest of the Princes' Islands.
We boarded the ferry which stopped off at 3 smaller islands before the last and biggest called Büyükada (which actually does mean large island). We walked up the pier directly into the street rising sharply from the seaside abuzz with means to be a tourist. We walked a short loop around this hub finding a plethora of bicycle rental shop. We chose a calm proprietor and rented 2 bikes for an hour. There is no vehicle traffic on the island aside from a rare service or delivery truck.
The roadways and paths were busy with pedestrians and tourists who were remembering that they knew how to ride a bike. A short ride had us out of the hub and into shaded streets of white painted colonial homes built into the hillside gradually fading into a coniferous forest. With the forest came an even steeper hill and we both commented that it was much hillier than we had expected!
We followed a sign down a narrow asphalt path towards the beach only to discover it was ‘The Beach Pansiyon’ which could also have been named ‘The Dodgy Pansiyon Nowhere Near The Beach’. Grudgingly we turned around and lowest geared our way back up the hill.
At the intersection of virtually all the island roads horses with carriages lined the curb; the market clearly saturated in this shoulder season. We had been passed by a few clattering hooves on our way up the hill and were pleased to see that these horses had a catch pouch for their inevitable bowel movements keeping the paths (mostly) clear.
The ride downhill was much more enjoyable though we used the brakes early and often, not trusting the semi-rickety bikes to hold up in a full speed turn. We tried unsuccessfully to find a way from the path down to the beach – it seemed that a lot of places were private or had been closed for the season.
Speeding along we smiled with the physical memories of youth and the freedom a bike provides. We made it back just in time to avoid a late fee.
Strolling down from the bike rental we passed numerous shops selling fresh fish and proprietors eager to entice us into their restaurants. We came upon a busy and home-style looking café and ordered a chicken döner to go: Worst meal in Turkey! It was a wrap that was both chintzy and bland – can’t win ‘em all… We had an ice-cream to fill the void and it hit the spot.
We waited for the ferry and watched as the gulls hovered in place as the wind blew across the Marmaran Sea. We got back to the mainland in time to walk back to Lynn’s (though she had left for Scotland) before the first clouds we’d seen in Turkey turned into rain.
Mia made a nice dinner of spaghetti arabiatta with chicken before we confirmed plans to meet up with a friend of Lynn’s who had let us into her apt. We took a dolomus down to the Pub Street area. We were led as only a local could through an inconspicuous doorway to a wonderful courtyard café. We shared our Turkish experiences with Cem and another friend of his, a kindly expat Netherlandic woman. We spoke with buoyancy of spirit, engrossed in the joyfulness of the moment while recounting our 3 weeks of Turkish time.
It was still raining when we left and we took a dolomus back to our general area before scampering through the light drizzle back to Lynn’s place.
After a late night, we slept in the next day before venturing over to Istanbul’s European side in the afternoon for a tour of the Bazzars, picking up a few last minute souvenirs. Since we sent our last package home to Canada with our friends in Bangkok, we have been slowly accumulating more. If we had been on a ‘vacation’ we would have picked up a lot more stuff but we did our best to maintain our minimalist ethos. Despite this, the number (and size) of our keepsakes increased dramatically in (Eastern) Africa and Turkey since we knew we would be handing off a package to Eli’s parents at our next port of call: Greece.
We packed our bags (and the now full and separate souvenir bag) and they felt a little heavy and certainly unfamiliar since we had arrived in Istanbul over 3 weeks ago. We went to bed early as we had a cab coming at 6am.