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Published: September 2nd 2011
It was fun to go by each island and see the little ones before I got to Büyükada.
The day after the Grand Bazaar I set off around noon to go see the Princes’ Islands. I first read about them in the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times a few weeks before moving here. It sounded like a fabulous getaway from the hustle of the city. I took a bus to Kadıköy and then hopped on a ferry for the islands. It was very self-explanatory. The ferry terminals are all labeled with the name of the ferry’s destination. I just went to the building marked “Princes’ Islands.”
Büyükada is the largest of the islands and the ferry stops there last. There are direct boats from the neighborhood of Bostancı, not far from where I live, but I wanted to see the other islands too. Plus I wasn’t in a hurry. I still feel like a tourist here and probably will for a while.
I didn’t have a guide book or anything, but I figured I would just get off on the last stop, when the boat emptied out. The ferry stops on each island were clearly marked, so I learned the names of the islands on the way. The first stop on the northernmost island
The Little Ones
I didn't learn the names of the islands we didn't stop at, and they're not in my book, but they reminded me of the smallest of the San Juan Islands near Seattle.
is Kınalıada, then Burgazada and Heybeliada. There are more than four islands, but the ferry only goes to the four biggest. The others are barely inhabited anyway.
When I got to Büyükada I walked around a while, admiring the tree-lined boulevards and enjoying the calm. There are no cars on any of the islands, except for ambulances, and transportation is by foot, bike or horse. Horse drawn carriage rides are a big tourist attraction. When I go back with a group who doesn’t want to walk a lot we’ll have to get a tour of the island by horse.
When my feet got tired I went back to the ferry terminal and bought a tourist guide to the islands. The best one there was “The Princes’ Isles” by John Freely, who has lived in Istanbul since 1960 and written several guides in English. This is a short book, but each island gets its own chapter and the maps are useful. I took the guide to the rooftop café of the Prince Hotel to drink tea and enjoy the view while I read.
There are tons of cafés and restaurants along the water. The little center of town
This is definitely not the western US. Seagulls are about all you get for wildlife here, unless you count all the cats and dogs in town.
has plenty of ice cream shops and places to buy sun hats and things that you should have brought with you. But I wanted to find somewhere quiet, with a good view, where I could sit for an hour or two without being hurried away to make room for more customers. After the long day at the Grand Bazaar it was such a relief.
I think a lot of weekends here are going to end up like that. The sights in Istanbul are amazing, but trekking all over the city does get exhausting. It’s nice to have a day to chill by the pool or on an island overlooking the sea.
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