This weekend I took a trip to the Princes’ Islands with a dear friend of mine who was visiting Istanbul for a long weekend. We were awoken on Sunday morning by the beautiful sunshine, the best kind of day to be on the Bosphorus. Stopping only for an ice cream breakfast, we headed to the ferry station at Kabataş and boarded – destination Princes’ Islands. The Princes’ Islands consist of four larger islands and many smaller islands in the Marmara Sea, south of the heart of Istanbul. During the Byzantine period, Princes were exiled on the islands and that’s how they got their name. More recently, the Islands have been a resort place for wealthy Turks and a destination for travelers.
After about an hour, we got off on an island with half of the boat, not realizing that we had options of which island to choose (poor planning on my part). Turns out that we got off at Heybeliada, the second largest island. We were quite content with our pick. One of the first things we noticed about Heybeliada was that there were no cars. Instead of automobiles the streets were occupied by horse carriages, bikes and pedestrians. It was super neat. We followed the crowd off the ferry and had a nice lunch on the shore. We grabbed some ice cream (round 2) before hiking up to the highest point on the mountain. It was straight up! As we walked up and up, we could see into peoples backyards and nearly in their homes. Without cars, we found it hard to believe that people potentially make that journey multiple times a day! They’ve got to be fit.
The top was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen! To our right was a forest full of Poplar trees, to our left was a group of local children laughing and playing, chickens were walking around at our feet, and in front of us the view. We could see the rooftops of homes on the island surrounded by light green and purple trees, the Marmara Sea and surrounding islands, and in the distance, the skyline of the city and mountains behind. It was so perfect that we sat down at a bench and didn’t stand up for over an hour.
Next, we slowly meandered down the hill, exploring and smelling the flowers as we went…literally. The ferry ride home was crowded and so we sat on the ground, hanging our feet off the boat and feeling the sea mist in our face. If our legs were longer we could have put them right in the water. We passed the historical peninsula right as the sun was setting. Watching the sun go down just beyond the Hagia Sophia was a spectacular end to the day.