Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 12 - Prince Island

We decided to head to the Buyuka ada (Big Island - the biggest of the Prince Islands) and had to eat our breakfast fast in order to make the ferry. Of course this means we only spent an hour on the terrace roof instead of longer. We haven't been in Turkey very long, but already my pants are starting to feel a little snug. Time to go walk off all this halwa!

We took the tram to the Eminönü stop to take the iDo ferry to the islands. We made stops at Kabataş (the Asian side) to pick up more passengers before we stopped at Kınalıada, Burgazada, Heybeliad and finally getting off at Büyükada over an hour later. As soon as we got off the ferry, we were greeting by men standing in front of restaurants asking us to check out their prices. We ignored them and walked up the hill to notice a line around the block waiting for the horse and carriage rides. There was also a line for the bicycle rental place. We didn’t want to wait in long lines and decided to start walking up the hill ourselves to the top, where the Ayia Yorgi Church and Monastery are located. I'm so glad we did, since we got to see some of the beautiful architecture of the island and enjoy the quietness of the walk because motorized vehicles are forbidden on all the six islands.

The further up we go, the more breathtaking the views became. Through the trees one can see Istanbul, the blueness of the water and the amount of freight tankers that were going through the ports. We heard the music of a local resort drift up the trees and listened to the sounds of the horse's hoofs on the road. We walked through a local park where families were having lunch and reached the final rest stop before the last major climb to the top. We bought some overpriced ice cream, took a deep breath and started climbing the cobblestone path. The closer we got to the top, the more trees we saw covered in swatches of fabric. These prayers were left by others who wanted to leave a blessing or request.

At the top, my DH had to wear a long piece of fabric to cover his legs that were in shorts. I hesitate to call it a skirt, since this same piece of fabric is the same one that some women used to cover their heads. We walked inside the teeny weeny church (where no cameras were allowed), make a small donation and went outside to walk around and enjoy the spectacular view under clear blue skies. The architecture of the church was telling of its years and I fell in love with the geometric patterns created by the roof top shingles as we walked by. We decided against buying anything at the café and headed back down to enjoy lunch by the water’s edge. We asked about the cost of the carriage ride to the bottom, realized it was more then the cost of lunch and headed back down on foot. We stopped along the way to enjoy the purrs of sleeping cats, the sounds of kids laughing in back yards and the colours of the vibrant flowers that were in full bloom. We made a quick detour at the house of Leon Trotsky, where he lived for four years after his deportation from the Soviet Union in 1929. The house was very hard to find and several locals had no idea what we were talking about. We finally wandered down this no name street where a group of women were leaving a courtyard. One of them understood English and read the guide book we showed her. She pointed across the street at this run down, gated home that was in ruins with over grown trees and no roof.

We continued on our way, having lunch at a restaurant close to the ferry dock. Okay, let me pause here a moment. I have to tell you about this lunch. The food good, as always, tasted fresh and delicious. We wanted to treat ourselves for walking all the way up and down the mountainside, so we decided on dessert. I have to admit I’m not really that big of a dessert person. Yes, I do occasionally enjoy a nibble of something sweet at the end of a meal, but I’ve not one to always devour a full helping of a chocolate cake slice at the end of a dinner. So we got this Kanafeh that sounded good. We sat there for 20 minutes, still waiting when we saw the cook run by with eggs in his hand. I guess they ran out of eggs and had to borrow some from another restaurant. We were a little put off by having to wait so long, but seeing that was very comical. Then the Kanafeh came and we took a bite. At this point, angles started singing halleluiah and the waters parted. I have never in my life tasted anything so delicious. Ever ever. I’m so sorry mom, but this Kanafeh was divine. I didn’t take a photo because I was worried that if I took the time to take the picture, my DH would get an extra bite. He of course tried to get me to take the picture. Reluctantly, we left the restaurant, got on the ferry and headed back to Eminönü.

We landed back and headed for the Spice Market and walked around smelling all the smells. I had no idea it was such a gathering place for animal selling either. We saw dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, pigeons, cockatiels, turkeys and other birds that we couldn’t read the name plates to figure out where they were. The one that surprised me were the number of huge clear plastic tubs with leeches inside. I’d seen leeches before, but not hundreds in tubs and about 10 different vendors selling them.

We walked through the market, taking our time and enjoying more of this fabulous city. You would think that after walking up a mountain top and back we’d be heading straight for the tram or hail a cab? Nope, after the Spice Market, we walked back through the Grand Bazaar, bought some little treats for our girls and came upon a Dervish at a different bazaar attached to the side of the Blue Mosque. It was mesmerizing to watch him twirl.

After we finally headed back to our hotel, I tried to get a food photo for the day. It was the hotel next to us and their meat delivery. But the man at the door started yelling at me in Turkish so it’s a very blurred shot. But at least you can see how the meat is delivered late in the evening to restaurants around town. I can’t wait till tomorrow where I get to taste more of the lamb kebab!

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