One day in Büyükada…
On a sunny day in Istanbul, maybe one of the best things to do is to go to an island. Büyükada (Big Island of Prince Islands) is a marvelous option!
We are in Büyükada, where you will forget all your fatigue, be met by your childhood on the historical pier and feel detoxicated due to the fresh air. This fabulous land, which you will reach after a cheery ferry ride with the companionship of seagulls, will make your day magical with only the slight touch. In these sunny days take a pinch of pleasure, peace and joy and welcome to the tour of the pearl of Istanbul, Büyükada…
You may reach Büyükada, the biggest of the nine islands called The Prince Islands, by sea bus or ferry from Kadiköy, Bostancı, Sirkeci and Kabataş. Although you may save time by sea bus, we recommend you travel by ferry, which is an indispensable aspect of this tour. Because it is an authentic taste to watch Istanbul behind you, while you drink tea and share your bagel with the seagulls sailing by delightfully.
As soon as you leave the historical buildings in the port of Büyükada, restaurants, cafes and ice cream sellers with delicious flavors surround you. The island welcomes you enthusiastically with people riding bicycles with great merriment, lots of cats and dogs and, of course, seagulls. We should mention that the fresh air in Büyükada immediately affects. Therefore, before the tour, a grand breakfast at Café Pasticceria right on the left of the clock tower, will prepare you for the experiences. While taking breakfast, you may decide whether to get on a phaeton right away or to rent a bicycle. We started the tour with a coach from Maden District driven by 70-year-old Mustafa Çınar, who has left Büyükada for military service. Our first target is Hagia Yorgi Church. We can’t take our eyes off the authentic Büyükada houses along the road and the colorful flowers in the gardens. As we compliment them, Mustafa Bey warns us saying, “You haven’t seen the famous manor houses in Nizam District yet.” We go on the tour leaving behind Naki Bey Beach and Büyükada Water Sports Club on the seaside along the same road. Here is a small tip for you; when you buy rose shaped handmade ice creams, you should only buy them in Büyükada from peddlars in front of the Water Sports Club. And you will see the house of Reşat Nuri Güntekin, one of the prominent names in Turkish literature, just before Hagia Yorgi Church on the tour.
Hagia Yorgi miracle
The square at the beginning of the uphill road to Hagia Yorgi Church is like a festival place. The donkeys waiting to carry you to the church, people sitting in the fun fair casino for lunch-break, pines and coaches, all make up a colorful scene. You may go up to Hagia Yorgi Church on foot or by the donkeys waiting. We say “go up” because we should warn you that this is a steep and long road.
At the beginning of your travel you may flinch; you may feel anxious as you feel worry whether the donkey would throw you or follow a wrong route, but then you relax because the donkeys know the way to Hagia Yorgi Church very well. As they carry you calmly, you enjoy the sightseeing of Istanbul that lies below. Istanbul is seen differently beautiful with every step. The Hagia Yorgi Church can be summed up in one word: fabulous, sitting on the 202 m high Yüce Tepe Hill. On the right side of the church, there are the houses in which the priests stay and the monastery which is closed nowadays. And on the left side there is Yüce Tepe Casino where you can have snacks. On all sides of Hagia Yorgi Church, the Marmara Sea brightens your face with its flashes. The other of the two hills on Büyükada, Hristos (Jesus) Hill, can be seen on the opposite side. There is a strong belief that the wishes made in Hagia Yorgi Church become true. So, don’t be surprised when you see lots of items like watches and necklaces in the glass case at the entrance of the church. They are small thanking presents of the people whose wishes came true. And it is also believed that the holy water in the church has a healing effect. So much so that there are rumors about paralyzed people who walked down Yüce Tepe on foot. The fresh air in Büyükada makes you hungry soon after. If you have finished making wishes and lighting votive candles, come in to Yüce Tepe Casino for the delicious meat dishes. And don’t forget to order handmade wines.
Under the pine trees
The things you will see after you come down from Hagia Yorgi Church and take a walk for 20 minutes in the forest full of pine trees that have great historical importance. During this walk, accompanied by pine cones and bird songs, you have the opportunity to see the Greek Orphanage, which still holds the title of being “the biggest wooden building in the world.” The building, which has been vacant for 30 years, challenges time with its monumental architecture, even though it was left a century behind. Chickens, sheep and fruit trees in its garden now occupy the Hristos Monastery. In the small graveyard near the monastery, there are the graves of the workers who worked in the construction of the monastery and the priests who held duty there.
Love is different in Büyükada!
If you wish to go on your tour from Hristos Monastery to Nizam District, you may get on a phaeton. By the way, we recommend that you shouldn’t leave Büyükada without a walk on Aşıklar Yolu (Lovers Way) and Dilburnu. We did so; after a peaceful walk on Aşıklar Yolu, we had tea, overlooking the sea at Aşıklar Casino. The only thing we feel in this place all surrounded by pines is “peace.” If you want to get cool on your walk, we suggest you go to Prenses Koyu (Princess Bay) which lies just on your left and the Yörük Ali Beach. The beach, which is reached by boat, beguiles you. As you are here, we also recommend you to see Con Pasha Mansion, which was built in the Ottoman age; and the Arap Izzet Pasha Mansion in which Leon Trotstky stayed. Meanwhile, we have to acknowledge that Mustafa Bey’s warning at the beginning of our tour was right. For the mansions in Nizam District, with their architecture and the colorful and well-groomed gardens, makes you think that the princesses in the stories are still alive.
Time to miss the ferry!
You can’t be aware how the time passes in Büyükada. Thus, on the return, a rush begins on the streets. If you are lucky you may catch a phaeton during this peak-hour and you may say farewell to Büyükada by sitting at Yıldızlar Casino just opposite the pier and watch the sunset. Just at that time, you feel your heart ache. You see the ferry coming slowly but you don’t want to go. It is an excitement to make a sudden decision change and wave hands to the ferry that you had planned to get in, as it leaves the landing. Let’s remind you that there are ferries from Büyükada to Bostancı till 12.30 a.m. So, you can complete your tour with an enjoyable dinner without any hurry. What should we eat? Where should we stay? As there are small and big guesthouses in Büyükada, you may prefer Hotel Prenses Büyükada or Hotel Splendid Palace, the primary hotels of Büyükada. We also recommend Hagia Nikola Pension at Hagia Nikola Bay, with its beautiful sightseeing and special atmosphere. We are sure that it will be difficult for you to choose one of the restaurants lined next to the pier. You can have the most delicious fish and meat dishes in all of them. But our special recommendation is to taste calamari and octopus at Milto Restaurant, which has been in service since 1935. And don’t forget to say cheers and raise a toast to Istanbul greeting you resplendently. One of the common traditions of Büyükada nights is to buy a cone of ice cream and go on a walk on the seaside. Thus, we recommend you to eat ice cream as a dessert after dinner. You may buy ice cream from Prinkipo Ice Cream next to the ferry landing or Roma Ice Cream, which has been in service for three generations, and walk from Kenan Evren Park to Water Sports Club and even join the concerts at Turing Culture House. Then, accompanied with the sound horseshoes, you may walk along the lonely streets, where there are no travelers, just island residents, and get to the place that you will spend the night. By the way, don’t bother the seagulls in Büyükada, they don’t sleep till morning!
Return to Istanbul!
As soon as you wake up in the morning open the windows and take the fresh island air and enjoy the exclusive scene of green and blue. On the return, remember these and don’t forget to get hardtacks, Iranian buns and cookies with cinnamon and gum mastic at Büyükada Bakery. One day in Büyükada means peace, enjoyment, fun and health. These are the parts that we recited. And the parts that we haven’t told are hidden in the pearl beauty of Büyükada…
If you are not in Istanbul but willing to see the marvelous Büyükada, it is only a few clicks away...
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