Travels with V
A sea voyage to Prince islands
Istanbul part three
A nice and refreshing sea voyage takes us to the so called Prince islands, an hour by tour boat from the city centre. The name is according to legend from ages ago when banished ottoman princes were shipped here. But today they islands are more like summer paradises for rich Istanbul families who have built fancy wooden palaces here, all with lush gardens and swimmingpools. And the lucky ones who have found a lot by the sea of course have private harbours.
The Prince islands are perfect for a day’s escape from the fumes and noises of the big city. Here all vehicles with combustion engines are forbidden, so it’s really quiet. Transports are made by horse cart, or bicycle, or most common, electric scooters. Just strolling around is like a dream.
We disembark at Buyukada, the largest of the islands, and walk on narrow streets lined with picturesque houses (and some that desperately need some paint) and in a bike shop we rent two bikes.
The roads are in good shape so pedalling around is easy. We head out first looking for the house where the Russian revolutionary Lev Trotsky stayed when he was on the run from Stalin’s terror regime. But the house not easily found, not even people who live here know about it. But one man give us the directions and soon we stand in front of an overgrown garden with a brick ruin in the middle. An odd spot surrounded by luxury villas.
The house was at the time owned by the chief of the secret police and Trotsky hid out here with his family for two years, and then continued to Mexico. Why the house still stands in this sorry state is a mystery. Maybe it has something to do with superstition?
We pedal on to the middle of the island where all roads meet, at a place called Luna Park. We leave the bikes, because the road further on is only for pedestrians. It’s uphill and a bit steep. On the way we pass bushes with coloured ribbons tied to its small branches. These are a kind of prayers tied there by young girls wishing for for fertility.
The road leads to and ends at the top of the mountain, and from up here you can see almost the entire island. Looking further across the water you also get an overview of the enormous city that Istanbul has become, especially on the Asian side.
There’s a small greek-orthodox monastery up here, dedicated to St George, the dragon slayer. The door is locked so instead we walk over to a taverna that almost leans over the steep slope towards the sea to the north.
This is our last day in Istanbul and we just take it easy, stroll around narrow streets in Fatih and have a coffee by the Hippodrome. But there’s some kind of racket here, a large group of street vendors have gathered, they normally sell maps and tickets to tourists. But now the tourists here are few, so maybe that’s the reason a big fight has broken out. One group of vendors chases another group off the Hippodrome, and the winning side, heavy with testosterone, keeps on gesturing and shouting for a little while.
We finish our coffe, take our bags and head off towards the tram station for our transport to the airport and back home. While we wait for the tram we see a small boy walking around barefoot in dirty clothes. It’s november and rather chilly. We suspect the kid is a refugee from Syria, and we contemplate an idea about taking him to a shoe shop and buy him a pair of shoes. Just then the tram arrives and we hop on. But still today sometimes we say to each other: –We should have bought that kid a pair of shoes!