I am having the most surreal experience of all my life here in Istanbul! Our site visits, shopping trips, cinema outings and classes have us running (or rather riding metros, trams, and fünikülers) all over this crazy place. Last Saturday, we took a trip outside of the city to visit Büyükada, the biggest of the Prince’s Islands, which reside due South of the Asian side of Istanbul.
A 2 hour ride on an overly crowded ferry finally brought us to the island, and the first stop was lunch (or breakfast for some)! We ate at a cafe right by the water called CavCav Cafe, and although there was some difficulty communicating with the waiter, we eventually all obtained food and drinks, though not everything was as expected. Tess and Ashley order something called patso, which was depicted in the menu as a wrap with fries and some sort of meat. But when the dish arrived, they were disappointed to find a sandwich with nothing inside but french fries, ketchup and a flood of mayonnaise. Ben and I didn’t mind though, so we helped them finish the patso off, before heading on to our next adventure.
After filling ourselves with buckets of energy in the form of carbs and coffee, we began the long hike up to the closest peak of the island. Our trek took us through beautiful neighborhoods of colorful Victorian style houses, which suddenly transitioned into a winding path through a wooded area where cows and horses roamed with no visible boundaries. In no time, we happened upon our next destination: an abandoned Greek orphanage! Our guidebooks and the great oracle (Google), tell us that this orphanage is the largest wooden building in Europe and the second largest in the world! It was massive, and surrounded by a rickety iron fence that seemingly threatened tetanus just at the sight of it. Holes in the fence were patch with rocks, wooden planks, and even old bed frames, held together with thick gauge wire, added more recently.
As we reached the top of the hill, and I saw that monstrous, rickety building staring back at me, I knew immediately that I must see it, up close and personal! So as our group circled the orphanage’s fence, I kept was keeping an eye out for any openings large enough to slip through. As we rounded the final side of the building, we came upon a spot in the fence where the rusty iron was gone, in place of a wall of a small structure built along the perimeter. I dropped my backpack with the group, scaled the wall, and was finally inside! I borrowed a camera from Shawn and made my way up to the boarded up building. I ran along the sides of the building, stopping anywhere there was a gap in the wooden planks used to board it up, and took some really great pictures of the interior. I saw a kitchen/boiler room, a ruined staircase through a hole in one of the doors, and a basement filled with rubble, before returning to the group. Every room looked as though it had been left completely untouched by people since it’s abandonment in 1964, left to deteriorate, and crumble in on itself. It was sort of unreal to see such a massive, imposing structure that has been left, to wither away on the exterior, while the interior remains so eerily undisturbed. It was certainly the highlight of my day on Büyükada, and it was incredible in this constantly changing city, to take a break and discover something that appears frozen in time.
*Thanks to Shawn G. and Ashley for lending me their photos. Unfortunately, I was a bit too distracted to take my own!