On my last day in Istanbul, I decided to revisit the Princes’ Islands – Adalar in Turkish. The Princes’ are a chain of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara. I first discovered them during a visit in March 2013, when I explored Büyükada Island. This time it was Heybeliada Island.
Festival of Eid-al-Fitr?
Somehow, I got the date of the Muslim festival Eid-al-Fitr confused and incorrectly thought it was Sunday, not Monday. With everyone “breaking their fast” and enthusiastically celebrating, Monday was a hectic day around Istanbul – especially on Bosphorus ferries!
A trip to the islands on Eid-al-Fitr was a unique experience, but not one I would repeat. The overcrowded ferries had people crammed everywhere and standing in the aisles. It took forever for the ferry to get from Eminönü’ (emmy new new) to the islands. I saw a sign for 453 life jackets – total. There were at least three times that many passengers on board! Unbelievably, the ride back was even more crowded. I got stuck on a level with lots of babies. At the end of the long day, they were hot, tired, hungry, and cross!
Frazzled parents tried to soothe and control their children. There were noisy sibling squabbles, and also the rare mellow baby “hanging” through the entire hectic ferry ride cute, cool, and never making a sound. Because everyone was relaxed and festive, I took several “people” photographs, and they didn’t seem to mind. Got a harsh stare from an unfriendly looking Muslim woman – but I wasn’t photographing her…. On the way back, many passengers succumbed to the heat and rocking motion of the ferry and fell sound asleep.
When we finally arrived back at Eminönü’, the Muslim family I’d been hanging out with on the ferry gave me a hug. In their best English, they said “have a wonderful day” ;o) – it was very sweet. Even the naughtiest little boy I’ve ever observed peeked out from behind his mother’s skirt and waved bye, bye…
About the Princes’ Islands
“The Princes’ Islands evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine Empire, to a popular destination for tourists and Istanbulites to escape hectic city life.”
Of the nine Islands, four are open to the public:
- Büyükada – biggest and most popular
- Burgazada – peaceful with magnificent scenery
- Heybeliada – picnicker favorite
- Kınalıada – smallest island with few foreign visitors
Peace and Quiet on Princes’ Islands
The Princes’ Islands skyline is beautiful with pine-forests and pretty wooden Victorian cottages. In addition to sheer natural beauty, the main feature on the islands is silence! Except for ambulances, “motorized vehicles are banned, making the islands a quiet oasis of peace. Among the sounds heard are bicycle bells and horse hoofs on the cobblestone pavement. That’s right, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the primary mode of transportation on the island.”
You can travel to the islands via sea bus (fast ferries) or regular ferries. They depart from Eminönü or Kabataş. Depending on the number of stops, the sea bus trip takes about an hour and the regular ferry twice as long. Neither mode of transportation is expensive. The islands are a popular summer spot, and colorful beach umbrellas line the coast. Heybeliada has a diverse population, with many Greeks, Bulgarians, and other Europeans.
The Princes’ Islands are an oasis of peace and quiet. Except for ambulances, motorized vehicles are banned.
Summer sun is strong on the islands, so visitors should be prepared! If you come to Istanbul, the Prince’s Islands are a must see. For smaller crowds and a less hectic trip, visit earlier in the day during the week.
I’m sad to leave Istanbul… My next blog post will be from another favorite city, Cape Town!