This past Saturday, I spent the day in Büyükada, the largest of a chain of islands just seven miles southeast of Istanbul. I had heard of the islands and how nice the change of pace was from the hustle of Istanbul as no cars are allowed on the islands. People get around on foot, bicycles or horse-drawn carriages. The islands are now places of elaborate summer homes for Istanbul's wealthy families, but it was once a place of exile where members of the royal family and public figures were banished.
I took the 25 minute ferry from Bostancı to Büyükada, enjoying the cool sea breeze, and met my friends Assiye and Alex. We hopped on a phaeton (horse-drawn carriage) that would take us up to the hill where Büyükada's only main site is, a 20th-century monastery built on Byzantine foundations. It was small, quite a disappointment after walking up a steep hill in the blazing sun, but the views were well worth it.
We spent the afternoon strolling back down to the main square in Büyükada, admiring the mansions that lined the streets. We even saw an old mansion for sale and started coming up with ideas on what we would do if we bought it. Assiye is currently working on negotiating with the realtor... =)
I also took the opportunity to take photos with my Diana F camera, the results of which we'll have to wait and see (most likely once I get back to NYC as it's hard to find a place in Istanbul that will develop 120 mm film). We ended our afternoon with dondurma and Efes beer by the pool of their hotel.
Büyükada was certainly a nice retreat from Istanbul, but there really wasn't anything spectacular about it. For those that are coming to visit Istanbul and have a limited time, I wouldn't recommend making the trip out to the islands as there are far more interesting places to go to in Istanbul proper.
© Connie Hum 2009