Istanbul is a curious little city that straddles TWO continents—Europe and Asia. Due to the influences of two different culture styles, Istanbul has a lot of interesting sights to discover. One such site are the Princes’ Islands.The Princes’ Islands are found about 20km southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. It is comprised of nine islands. There are 15,000 permanent residents living across six islands, but visitors could reach 100,000 during summer. It is after all, one of the quickest and most relaxing escapes from the constantly busy city of Istanbul.
Because I’m such a Disney kid, I was quite amused with the name of this group of islands. But more than my childish amusement, there’s a historical fact behind its name’s origin. During the Byzantine period, royalty and Ottoman sultans were exiled on these islands, which is how it got its name. During the 19th century, the Princes’ Islands also became a popular destination for Istanbul’s wealthiest, and some Victorian-era houses and cottages are still preserved here.
I was invited to come along this day trip by two other teachers from my batch. We made our way to Kabatas where we rode a 45 minute ride ferry that took us to Büyükada (Great Island). Even from the ferry, you can already spot impressive sights. I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking that it looks like a little fairytale island.
Once we landed, I realized that there were no cars on the island. It was confirmed by one of my colleagues when she said that only police, fire and sanitation vehicles were allowed. Transportation on this island for centuries has been by bicycle, horse-drawn carriage (Kalesa to my fellow Filipinos!) and foot.
We had a lovely lunch at one of the cafes and we rented bicycles from shops on the street. We haggled and ended up paying about 50 Turkish Liras each for unlimited usage. Biking around Büyükada proved to be one of the best afternoons I’ve ever spent. There were so many types of houses: beautiful, majestic, modern, Victorian, quirky, etc. etc. Plus since it was the first few days of Autumn, there were still beautiful flowers around the island.
Every corner of the island is picturesque and I wish we were able to spend more time there. We weren’t even able to really look at several historical buildings on the island like the Ayia Yorgi Church, the Ayios Dimitrios Church and the Hamidiye Mosque.
Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands were my first touristic spot to discover at my new home. It’s really beautiful and I suggest you make a stop there during the summer months or the early days of Autumn. Being on this island was quite exciting and relaxing at the same time. I’m definitely going back in the summer!