A few days ago, Eloise, Eva, and another exchange student from Hungary, went to the Princes’ Islands. This chain of Islands, the two largest being Buyukada and Heybeliada, is located in the Sea of Marmara, about a forty-five minute ferry ride from the European side of Istanbul. During the time of the Byzantine Empire, those exiled from the empire would be sent here. However, after seeing the beautiful and peaceful landscape of these islands, I hardly see living there as a punishment!

Early morning, we all met in Kabataş to board the ferry. We had all wanted to sit on the benches that lined the outside of the ship, but since those were the best seats in the house, they were filled quickly. The ride was bumpy and I was incredibly thankful not to have become seasick. We all agreed that we would stop first in the second to last island, Heybeliada. Cars are forbidden on Heybeliada, making it ideal for hiking and bike riding. As we stepped of f the boat and onto the dock, we noticed something peculiar in the sunlit water. These strange looking creatures appeared to be floating near the surface. They were Jellyfish! I had only seen jellyfish in pictures and at the aquarium, so to see them in the wild was rather exciting!

The small little town center was filled with cafes, bike shops, and quaint hotels. Without any cars, seeing men in their trousers and herringbone caps,  and walking along cobblestone streets, was like being transported into another time. It was a welcomed getaway to all the hustle and bustle of mainland Istanbul. Our group decided that we wanted to rent bikes and ride to a small beach on the opposite side of the island. I could not believe how inexpensive it was to rent a bike for the entire day. With a mere seven lira, about four dollars and sixty cents, I had a bike, complete with a basket. My only complaint was that the bike, the smallest they had, was just a little big for my petite size. When I sat on the seat my tip toes barely touched the ground!

Before we set out, we decided to stop at a lokanta (a small buffet-type restaurant) and ordered köfte (Turkish meatballs) sandwhiches to go. Ordering was quite interesting since the restaurant owners did not speak English, and the best phrase I could come up with was, “Üç köfte alabalirmiyim (I would like three kofte)….to go.” The last bit caused some eyebrows to raise, so, my friends and I tried to demonstrate leaving the restaurant. This led to more confusion as the owners encouraged us to sit down. Eventually, I mentioned bicycles which yielded an understanding. “Ahh, ‘paket’,” the owner realized. We all smiled. Despite the language barrier, we were able to communicate. It was amazing to see that a lack of a common language was only a small hindrance in communicating.

Food packed and map in hand, we set out in search of the beach. The ride across the island was beautiful and very tiring at times. Hill after hill, it seemed as if we would never arrive. Well, after getting a bit lost, we found our beach. We had to leave our bikes up on the hill since the beach was a rather steep walk down the cliff. The rocky beach was breathtaking. You could see yachts scattered across the Marmara, and the crystal blue waves hitting the rocks was beyond surreal. Before we dove into the cool waters of the Marmara, we enjoyed our köfte sandwiches. I had forgotten to wear my swimsuit underneath my clothes so I had to journey into the trees to find an appropriate dressing room. I recruited Eloise to hold a towel up. We both giggled as we saw others down on the beach and our friends waiting near by. I was terrified that someone would catch a glimpse of my behind! Dressed, and without incident, we all headed a bit more down the path to the water. The rocky climb down was a bit scary, because the wrong step could cause you to slip and fall onto a very rocky bottom.

Once we arrived safely, it was time, after a somewhat exhausting bike ride, to relax. The water was cold but refreshing. As the waves hit us we would lose our balance falling into the water. We sat the rest of the afternoon in the little cove, skipping rocks, floating in the cool water, and watching as the yachts sailed by, Buyukada in the background. After about three hours of lazing around, we decided to head back to the pier. We finished riding around the length of the island, and arrived at the pier, exhausted, and proud of our trek.

This time, as we boarded the ferry, we were lucky enough to score seats the on perimeter of the ferry. As the sun set, and the ocean sprayed our faces, were were awestruck by the beauty that surrounded us. Approaching the European side of Istanbul, the colors of sunset were the perfect backdrop for the end of an exciting day.
Look for my pictures of Princes’ Island on facebook! Also, for those of you interested in another perspective of Istanbul,  although the blog is in French, and to get a look at some fantastic pictures, check out my dear friend Eloise’s blog at http://turquie2010.tumblr.com


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