Suitcase and World: A Day on Büyükada.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Day on Büyükada.

On our island *tour bus*.

We arrived in to Büyükada after about a 90 minute boat ride from Kabataş.  I, we, had done exactly zero reading on what there is to do or see here.  Personally, after nearly 4 weeks of pretty much constant sightseeing, I'm happy to spend a day doing nothing but sitting at a cafe and people watching or just sitting on a park bench and watching the world go by.  I would welcome any chance to just decompress a bit.

We got off the boat and had no clue where to go so we simply followed the crowd.  Emerging from the terminal, we were immediately standing in the heart of a bustling town center filled with shops, restaurants and a few hotels.

The street leading away from the entrance to the ferry terminal led up hill.  We took the street.  Made a quick two minute stop outside the Mado store....had to check out the ice cream options.  Perhaps a cone later :-)

At the top of the hill was a small square with a small clock tower.

The crowd of ferry people had congregated to the left.  I was curious about why they were all hanging about there so I checked it out.  I was surprised by what I saw.  It was basically the horse carriage version of a taxi stand.  To be more precise, we were at the *phaeton stand*.  The word *phaeton* means carriage.  The picture to the left of the words says it all.

I watched a woman, who appeared to be a tour guide, getting her charges boarded onto one carriage after another.

I reported back to Bro what I saw and he joined me to watch the activity.

I thought it odd that so many people were taking horse carriages but they pretty much all the people looked like tourists to me so the fact that they were taking the carriages must mean something.  We're tourists so we should do the same.  My traveler's logic :-)

Bro is always willing to do anything so long as I am as well.  I hesitated about going on the horse carriage but after I reminded myself that this might be my one and only visit to Büyükada.  So, I said we should do it!

We took our place in line.  We had questions for the man who appeared to be the dispatcher but all he would say was, "70 lira".  He had no time or desire to answer our questions; he just brushed us along.  We decided to just go for it.  Before we knew it, we were sitting in the carriage and off we went.  We had no idea to where.

Later I read that you can go for either the Short Tour (Küçük Tur, 20 to 25 minutes) of the town, or the Long Tour (Büyük Tur, 1 hour) of the town, the shore and the hills. Prices are fixed by the municipality, so there is no haggling.

Clippety clop, we went....through the narrow streets of Büyükada.  We got off to a smooth start except our horse was bit of speedster.  It felt like he really wanted to pass all the carriages ahead of us.  We had absolutely no idea where we were being taken too but we quickly forgot about that.

It's pretty here.  I immediately noticed there were no cars around - no traffic noise whatsover.  Only horse carriages, bicycles and people on foot.  There were plenty of bike rental shops.  People wise, it wasn't bad. It is a weekday in low tourist season.  I can only imagine how crowded and chaotic this place when it's packed with people at the height of tourist season.  That's probably when the full time residents want to escape.

I was quickly beginning to appreciate the relative peaceful and quiet here.  I can see what folks from Istanbul escape to this place.  Later on, I found out that private motor vehicles, including taxis, are not allowed on the island.

To go with the no car theme, there are also no skyscapers here.  While there are many modern building structures here, Büyükada is known for its many fine old Ottoman-Victorian houses.

We passed mansions sitting behind tall concrete walls, saw the red tiled roofs of many a villa, whizzed by beautiful, and well manicured gardens.   Many a house with views of the Sea of Marmara.  Oh, how I envy those homeowners.

It was clearly obvious to us  that this is an island of wealthy residents.  Thankfully, they don't mind nosy tourists clopping along outside their properties.

We were really enjoying our ride.  I was constantly wondering if the driver would stop anywhere along the way but we just kept clip clopping along.

We soon entered what looked like park land. 

We did see some carriages veer off the main road that we were on.  I wondered where they were heading to.  I later learned that there is are some famous churches here, located on the top of the hill.  I suspect those other tourists were off to see a church.  It was obvious we were on some sort of a prescribed ride which did not include those stops so we just continued on.

It was such a nice change of pace to see green landscape.  We've not enjoyed such lovely views since our ride from Urfa to Cappadocia.

Along the way, we took time out for a selfie break.  I was trying to get a bit of the carriage in the photo but no chance. We suck at selfies :-) 

From what we could tell, our ride took us around the island.  We went from heart of town to neighborhood streets to park land back to neighborhood streets and then finally, back to town.  It's a pretty idyllic place, this island called Büyükada.  If I lived in Istanbul, you'd definitely find me here every now and again!

When our time was up, Bro paid our driver.  For the equivalent of about $16, we got a wonderful hour long ride through Büyükada.  If I do ever get to come back, I would hire a horse carriage to take me to the top of the hill so I could visit the churches and then bring me back to town.

We had no idea where to go so we just wandered.  We walked along a few of the narrow streets, occasionally peering in to a window to see what else the store sold.   We also took in views of the Sea of Marmara and ferry dock that we had arrived in to.

We ended up near a small city park.  We spotted a couple of benches and grabbed one.  It was time for a meal break and people watching.

We had ridden up this street ourselves.  Looks so different when you're not in the horse carriage.

We were at the bench for quite some time.  Local four legged residents came to check us out.

After our break, we continued our wandering.  We figured that town center was small enough that you really couldn't get lost.  It was lunch time. Lots of people seating and enjoying a bite or a drink.  The weather here is absolutely perfect for an al fresco meal.

We passed by a few fruit stands. If not for the fact that we're leaving the country tomorrow, Bro would have most certainly bought some.  The small yellow and orange colored fruits are alıç, fruit of the hawthorne tree.  It's typically used to make jam.  I don't know what the small brown fruit, to the right of the persimmons, is.

I have to say.  Walking about and not having to worry about being run down by a car is wonderful!

Poor kitty.  So much fish, no way to get to it.

Bro was drooling over the ever so fresh produce.

We passed by a lokantası called Köşem.  If not for the fact that we had already eaten our lunch, I would have pulled Bro inside.  I have decided that I love these eateries.  You can try so many different foods in one place and for such reasonable prices!

Köşem Lokantası.

We ended on the seaside promenade, flanked on one side by seafood restaurants.

We had read and had been warned that eating in Büyükada is expensive - most places charge at least 20% more than comparable places in Istanbul.  A quick check of several menus proved those warnings to be right.   We were smart to have brought along our food.

Our stroll took us past the ferry dock.  We were curious what was at the other end of the promenade. Turned out to be a dead end.

As we neared the dead end, we passed by what looked to be groups of school children, standing at the ready for a ceremony of some sort.  Some were wearing uniforms, others not.  Each group had a flag bearer and from the flags, they appeared to be students from schools on Büyükada as well as the other islands. 

There was small podium set up across the small plaza, from where the students were standing.  They ware a noisy, cheerful lot of kids.  Adults were milling around -looked to be like a mix of officials, teachers and parents.

We waited for quite some time, for as long as we could for something to start but nothing.  We walked off with a few students who obviously got bored standing around.

It was almost time to head back to the ferry.  I had one more thing to do before boarding the boat. There was an ice cream cone calling my name.  Oh yeah.  Say hello to one, very generous sized scoop of mulberry ice cream served in cone that was coated on the inside and the top part of the outside in chocolate. The outside part was then coated in finely chopped pistachios.  Why don't we have such cones in the US?  I know, forget the mulberry ice cream.  Chances of you getting that is pretty much zilch which is why I will be making it myself when I get home.  I have to wait til early summer when my two mulberry trees give up their luscious fruit.

Your's truly enjoying her last sweet treat in Turkey.

We soon headed to the ferry terminal and boarded our boat for the ride back to Kabataş.   All in all, it was a truly relaxing day on Büyükada - just what the doctor would have ordered for someone seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul and days on end of sightseeing!

The ferry terminal.

The ferry dock on the right.

Taking in a bit more sun before the ferry leaves dock.

Someone was tired.

It was truly an uneventful ride 90 minute boat back to the big city.

After we got off the boat, we still had some energy left so we decided to go to Dolmabahçe Palace. Maybe, maybe, it actually was open today though it was so late that by the time we arrived at the Palace, it would have been closed. Alas, it was indeed closed for the day.  Even so, we walked whatever grounds were open to the public - there wasn't a whole lot to see.  If Bro ever comes back to Istanbul, I will remind him he needs to come here.

The palace clock tower.

Dolmabahçe Camii.

Not sure exactly what this is but the words have to do with wind, air, rain...etc.  Perhaps a weather gauge of some sort?

From the Palace, we walked back towards Tophane.  We took the waterside promenade until it dead ended.

Back on the sidewalk, we walked alongside all the worker bees who were heading home for the day.  Everyone's in a rush at the end of the work day.  I recognize their walk enough to know when to step aside to let someone scurry by. :-)

A very colorful set of steps!

It was time for us to go back as well.  At the Tophane tram stop, we took our usual route back to the apartment.  Back in our space, we rested a bit before having our last dinner at Özkonak.  I had denied Bro of a meal here last night and he made sure to remind me of that. :-)  In all honesty, I too was looking forward to a homestyle meal.  It seemed such a fitting way to not only end our trip to Istanbul but to cap off our trip to Turkey.

Tonight, we both have to pack our suitcases.  Our flight leaves at 8a tomorrow and Pelin has kindly arranged for a taxi to come and pick us up.

As always, my last day on any trip is a bittersweet one.  While I look forward to sleeping in my own bed, I am sad to be leaving as I've had a truly memorable time experiencing Greece and Turkey with Bro!!

Goodnight from Istanbul!