Daily Archives: 19 December, 2008

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Seventh Day @ Istanbul

It’s day 7 in Istanbul, and to be honest, both Liping and I were getting a little tired of the city. I think spending such a long time within one city was not really a great idea. Thank goodness I planned to spend my nine days in Greece split between Santorini and Athens, so it wouldn’t be that bad.

Anyway, back to Istanbul.

This was going to be our last day of really touring the city as we have an early flight from Istanbul to Athens the next morning. Freshly recharged from our cruise yesterday, we decided to visit the Princes’ Islands – the last spot unvisited by us but recommended by Lonely Planet.

Our Fayton for the Long Tour around Heybeliada (Heybeli)

While waiting for the ferry at Emimonu ferry terminal for the cruise to the islands, we got to know a fellow traveler from Brazil. José Rodrigues Júnior was on his own as well, so the three of us ganged up for one-day tour.

The Island of Burgazada

Princes’ Islands lie about 20km southeast of the city in the Sea of Marmara, and make a great destination for a day escape from the city. In Byzantines times, refractory princes, deposed monarchs and troublesome associates were interned here in convents and monasteries, hence the name “Princes’ Islands”. You’ll realise after landing that there are no cars on the islands, something that cones as a welcome relief after the traffic mayhem of Istanbul.

"Fayton" Station at Heybeliada (Heybeli)

There are nine islands in the Princes’ Islands group, and the ferry service stops at four of them. The first two stops at the small islands of Kinalida and Burgazada offers little incentive to actually alight from the ferry. The real deal was located at Heybeliada and Buyukuda.

The Island of Heybeliada (Heybeli)

The charming island of Heybeliada (Heybelie for short) has much to offer. It’s home to the Deniz Lisesi (Turkish Naval Academy), which you’ll see to the left of the ferry dock as your arrive, and it has a number of restaurants and a thriving shopping strips, with bakeries and delicatessens selling picnic provisions to daytripper. Above is a shot of me and three sailors, obviously heading to the naval academy.

Our Fayton for the Long Tour around Heybeliada (Heybeli)

Liping, Jose and I rented a “feyton” (carriage pulled by two horses) for a long excursion around the island. The trip took about 40 minutes, allowing us to take in the various sights of Heybelie. It was refreshing not having to walk everywhere, and with the help of Lonely Planet I managed to identified a few landmarks along the way. I even manage to do a little video at a pit stop.

By the end of the ride, it was time for us to have a quick lunch (which was satisfactory – yet another grilled seabass!) and head for the next destination.

The Island of Buyukuda (Great Island)

The largest island in the group, Buyukuda is impressive from the ferry, with gingerbread villas climbing up the slopps of the hill and the bulbous twin cupolas of the Splendid Otel proividing an unmistakable landmark. It’s a truly lovely spot to spend an afternoon.

Greek Monastery of St. George

The island’s main drawcard is the Greek Monastery of St. George, in the saddle” between Buyukuda’s two highest hills. We read many great things about this monastery, but we totally underestimated the amount of walking we need to reach the place (famous for its paranomic views from the terrace and Yucetepe Kir Gazinosu). When we reached Luna Park, where another 45-minutes of very steep climb up to the monastery awaits us, we decided to turn back since the sun is already setting and we wanted to catch the next ferry back to the mainland.

Here’s the set of photos I took during the entire excursion to Princes’ Island.

After a fond farewell to Jose and promises to write to each other, Liping and I crossed the Galata Bridge to visit the famous Galata Tower, which we never manage to visit during daytime.

Galata Tower

The cylindrical Galata Tower stands sentry over the approach to “new” Istanbul. For centuries the tallest structure in Beyoglu, it domainates the skyline north of the Golden Horn. The paved public square surrounding the tower was created by the municipality as part of the ongoing Beyoglu Beautification Project and it’s been a big hit with the locals of all ages, who gather each day to play football and backgammon, drink tea, buy food from the street vendors and swap local news.

Steep way up to Galata Tower

We hiked up the rather-steep staircase from the Tunel up to Galata Tower. The admission charge was rather steep so we didn’t go up the tower itself, but took many photos of the surrounding area.

After Galata Tower, we went to the famous Seafood Market Street at Istiklal Cadessi for our last dinner in Istanbul. No surprises for guessing we had grilled seabass again. It was a rather satisfying dining at the busy street, with many locals and tourists mingling along its cobbled pathway.

The gang I hanged out with at Bahaus

We made our way back to Bahaus after dinner as we were told earlier there will be a belly dancing show at the bar at about 9 plus. True enough, by the time we reach the bar, it was rather packed with many eager fellow backpackers waiting for the show to start. Met up again with my Finnish friends, plus Steve (the Cambodian guy who is working in Australia – I hope I got that right!), Lucky (the Korean guy who bought a whole bottle of Raki – Turkish vodka – and offered shots all around and was mainly responsible for the amount of drunkeness that night) and a couple of others.

The belly dance was a great success, and a subject of many hilarious moments. I stayed on till late into the night with the gang until they decided to do some pub hopping. Regrettably I was unable to join them since I will leaving the hostel early morning the next day. So it was with a heavy heart I took some final photos with and bade farewell to many of my new found friends. I hope we will keep in touch – thank god for Facebook, LOL.

All in all, a great end to my stay in Istanbul!