Princes Islands – Istanbul

Following a busy few days in the heart of buzzing Istanbul, we planned to have a few days of rest in the countryside, well sort of. Following the local timetables, and all aboard the ferry, we found ourselves bobbing our way towards the Prince’s Island and our next stop at our salubrious B&B. The Prince Islands comprise four main islands, just down the road from Istanbul and we were headed for Heybeliada (with an area of 2.4 km2) the second biggest, but quieter of the main islands. The attraction? No cars!!! no fumes, just horse power and walking – marvelous. What a haven and so it has apparently always been. A popular destination at weekends, and overrun on high days and holidays – it is a wonderful relaxed, tranquil and slower pace of life.

Though …. when we first arrived and I realised we were staying at the top of a big steep hill, you don’t half miss a taxi! Met by our host from the B&B, we started our ascent, and in spite of a lack of ventilator and carrying one or two extra pounds (surely not) I made it to the top. Martin being a ball of energy and fitness didn’t break a sweat, I on the other hand was grateful to still be breathing and not have altitude sickness. Our B&B was wonderful, well worth the effort, perched high above the town and just below the summit of the island, a very tranquil nature reserve of woodland. Originally the home of the former war minister of Turkey many moons ago, it was now owned by a very charming Turkish / Swedish family, who had restored it to its former glory. Now the only flaw in our plan was that the shops, restaurants, food was at the bottom of the hill, and we were at the top. And what goes down, must then come back up, so we found it best to anesthetise the legs with a spot of tipple before attempting the re-ascent. A cracking plan!

The word for the day was definitely “bimble” and we had a very fine one, through the trees, around the back of the island and down into the town. Just very peaceful, photogenic and relaxing. I can’t remember what we talked about, be we walked and talked all day, as we ambled around. We found ourselves in the shopping area and bought some bread, cheese and cold meats for tea before heading back to the B&B. That evening we were greeted with a glorious sight – the moon rising. I had never seen such a thing before, but it was wonderful to watch it rising as fast as a sunrise!

The next day we caught a ferry to the bigger island called Büyükada, to have a wonder around and walk up to the church and monastery of Agios Nikolaos. This definitely has the feeling of the rich and famous about it, and you half expect to bump into Catherine Zeta Jones & Michael Douglas. Some houses are very grandiose and palatial, and are decadent with their show of wealth. Personally I have a thing for turrets, and spotted one or two glorious wooden turreted houses I could move into there and then. We both love wooden buildings, and being exposed to so many lovely ones here, gave us the urge to build a new shed / “wendy house” at the top of our garden back home – which we did less than 12 months later.

Towards the end of our walk round the island, we were greeted by a very excitable horse who was running around the road having just been let out off the trap harness. Enough to make me hide behind a lamp post and make Martin chortle (he will get on a horse as soon as look at one, I won’t). Said horse was obviously waiting for something – which turned out to be his mate, soon to be untethered himself. And they went galumphing off full whack to the woods at the top of the hill, like something out of black beauty. Apparently that’s where the horses live, and in the morning a whistle brings them back down the hill to breakfast and work. What a wonderful way to work with animals. A memory that will stay with me forever. A full days walking round the island, meant that when we returned to Heybeliada, we treated ourselves to a horse and trap ride back up the hill – very exhilarating!

And the next day we had to leave, a short and sweet sojourn, but batteries recharged for the next leg of Istanbul.