Travels with V

Istanbul

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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 supposedly from ages ago when banished ottoman princes were shipped here. But today they’re 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 to have found a lot by the sea of course have a private harbour.

The  Prince islands are perfect for a day’s escape from the fumes and noises of the city. Here all vehicles with combustion engines are forbidden, so it’s really quiet. Transports are done by horse cart, or bicycle, or most common, electric scooters. Just strolling around is like a dream.

We disembark at V 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 ot looking for the house where the russian revolutionary Lev Trotsky stayed when he was on the run having fled Stalin’s terror regime. But it’s not easily found, not even people who live here know about it. But one man give us the directions ad soon we stand in front of an overgrown garden with a ruin in the middle. An odd spot surrounded by luxury villas. 

The hose 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 along to the middle of the island where all roads meet, at a place called Luna Park. We leave the bikes, because the road we want to take now is only for pedestrians. It’s uphill  and on the way we pass bushes with coloured ribbons tied to its branches. They are a kind of prayers tied there by young girls wishing for for fertility. 

The road ends at the top of the mountain, and you can see the entire island from here, and looking across the water you 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 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. There’s some kind of racket here, there’s a large group of street vendors here, people who sell maps and tickets to tourists. But there are not many tourists here, so maybe that’s the reason a big fight has broken out. One group chases another 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 then back home. While we wait for the tram we see a small kid 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 the kid 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!

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