On my last day in Istanbul, I decided to revisit the Princes’ Islands – Kızıl 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 festival of Eid-al-Fitr confused and incorrectly thought it was observed on Sunday, not Monday. With everyone enthusiastically celebrating, Monday was hectic around Istanbul – especially on the 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 in every corner and standing in the aisles. It took forever to get from Eminönü’ (emmy new new) to the islands. I saw a sign for 453 life jackets – total. There were three times that many passengers?! 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. I watched squabbles between siblings and observed the rare mellow baby hanging through the whole hectic ferry ride cute, cool, and never making a sound. I took several “people” photographs, mostly because everyone was so relaxed and festive they didn’t seem to mind. Got a harsh stare from a Muslim woman – but since 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 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 era, 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
Peace and Quiet on Princes’ Islands
The Princes’ Islands skyline is dotted with beautiful untouched pine-forests and wooden Victorian cottages. In addition to sheer natural beauty, the main feature is silence! Except for ambulances, “motorized vehicles are banned, making the islands an oasis of peace and quiet. 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.”
You can travel to the islands via sea buses (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 popular summer spots and colorful clumps of beach umbrellas line the coast. On Heybeliada, I noticed an especially diverse population, with many Greeks and Bulgarians.
Except for ambulances, motorized vehicles are banned, making the Princes’ Islands an oasis of peace and quiet.
The 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, I recommend visiting earlier in the day during the week.
I’m sad to leave Turkey… Next blog post will be from Cape Town!