A day in the Princes’ Isles

A Lesurely Sip of Tea
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.

Our first last day in Istabul has arrived. Tomorrow we leave for a 10 day road trip down the coast from Izmir to Antalya and back. There and back is like 1000km by road and we have 10 days to do it in. Should make for a nice ten days. After that we come back to Istanbul and stay in the Bond House for a week. We took this first last chance to see our apartments from the water.

Everyone has been saying that the Princess’ Islands are great and that we should visit them. Who are we to fly in the face of everyone’s advice? Time to catch a ferry. After some initial confusion with the ferry website we just rolled down there and found a schedule posted to a board. Indeed there was a ferry leaving for the islands in 20 minutes. First leg: smooth. Istanbul really knows how to run a ferry business. Everything is right on time, confusion is to a minimum and there is hot tea and cold bread hawked on board. Also a live infomercial for a cucumber slicer! Exiting!

The ferry visits four islands. Lonely Planet says the small two aren’t worth visiting, everyone says the big one is the one to see. Everyone also says that the islands are crazy packed becuase they are where everyone in Istanbul goes to get away from it all and there are 20 million people in Istanbul. Anyway, when the ferry butted up against Heybeliada, the smaller of the two main islands, we leapt off hoping to avoid crowds.

Before getting on the ferry we packed a backpack with sausage and beer and we bought some bread and pastries. Our plan was to find a little stretch of beach and make it our own. That didn’t really happen. We walked from the ferry into the park and it was exactly like walking onto Newcastle Island (which is a little island that everyone takes the ferry to to get away from it all in Nanaimo). People and picknick benches everywhere, well trod trails and well tromped grass. Not a super interesting place and no sign of any beach. Let alone our little personal bit of beach. The one big difference was packs of wild dogs.

I am not shitting you. There was a pack of wild dogs that came and started growling menacingly at us as soon as we got there. Which scared me! I had a pair of sandles on and no stick handy, I had no usable weapons in this standoff! A horse drawn carriage interupted the standoff long enough for us back our way to some barbequing Istanbullers who took little to no notice. Although the dogs mellowed out as we got ourselves safely surrounded by members of our fellow species. We eventually managed to lose them when one of the picknickers started throwing leftovers for the dogs (this is why we don’t feed wild dogs in Canada).

Dogs lost, we decided to wander beyond the park and see if there was a bit of unclaimed seafront elsewhere on the island. We ended up wandering around the outskirts of the town and then up into a pleasent looking grove of pines. Coming down from the grove we realised we had circled the entire half of the island and were back in the park (although from this point on I was carrying a big rock around with me in case of dogs). The circular route had given us a good view of the accessable side of the island and we decided to bite the bullet and find a nice place to sit down sans private waterfront. The spot we did find was downright idylic. Under a tree surrounded by a small meadow of wildflowers with a view of the blue Marmaris sea we ate our fill of delicious Turkish food. We drank our beer and chatted about Turkey. It was, in the end, incredibly pleasent.

After we finished we decided to explore the town some. It is a small town. There is almost no reason for it to exist and aparently in the winter months it almost doesn’t. But they have one thing going for them. One fantastic thing: they have banned cars and combustion engines! Heybeliada means “saddle island” and the city is right in the saddle stretching up both sides. The main side is quite steep. That means poorer people live higher up because it’s more work to walk up and down to your house every day. This is an interesting inversion I have read about but never seen. San Francisco had this in spades. Nob Hill was a poor neighborhood until the cablecar went in. Then it was upscale all the way. Heybeliada is still cheap on the hillsides despite the fan-Tastic view.

We ended up walking all the way up to the top of the city and the 2nd mountain (hill, whatever, it was steep and much higher than the first). Where we found some actual peace and quiet in the form of a dirt road across the top of the island. This was really nice. We could just walk and chat about the island and how it has no cars and an amazing view and probably costs nothing to build on. But time was ticking and we had to catch a ferry home.

Down down we walked and when we got to the bottom there was a ferry loading up right there! About to leave! I am a sucker for this situation so I just ran us to the ticketer and then on to the boat. I was succesfully very fast about it. So fast, in fact, that we didn’t have time to discover that this particular ferry wasn’t going where we wanted to go. A fact we didn’t actually discover until it docked where we didn’t want to be and everyone got off. Actually Sarah had guessed earlier but I held out in vain hope until the end.

So now we were in… I don’t even know the name of the place. But luckily it was a major ferry port and an attendant at the wrong ferry dock helpfully told us how to find the ferry home to Kabatash. Which we did and here we are. Sun baked and preparing for our first last night in Istanbul and the flight to Izmir. At least that’s the hope. If we get to the airport and a plane is just about to leave we could end up anywhere.


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