Istanbul Stories and Tips

Swimming in the Sea of Marmara

Princes' Islands-Buyukada Photo, Istanbul, Turkey

From Istanbul you can just see in the hazy distance the chain of land that makes up the Prince's Islands.

Here unfortunate threats to the Ottoman throne were often exiled...after having been blinded.

Nowadays, people use the islands for a pleasant escape from the city.

According to our guidebook, Sunday is the worst time to visit because of crowds, so we took a ferry to the islands on a Monday.

With ferry service cheaper than cruises up and down the Bosphorous, we decided to island hop at least once. Our first stop was Buyukada, the Great Island. Here Leon Trotsky made his home for a time. Here Leon Trotsky's daughter committed suicide.

When we got off the ferry, we found a port similar to the port we had visited in Asia after a Bosphorous Cruise. But it wasn't evident what we should or could do.

We had read about two monasteries on the island, so we approached the queue of horse and carriage drivers and asked to be driven up to one of them. The driver did not speak English. After an interesting string of broken Turkish and sign language, we got into the carriage and enjoyed a ride up to the top of a hill. Unfortunately the driver dropped us off at the more modern monastery, a closed building at the time of our visit. And then we were stranded.

We walked a while, exploring, and found a more impoverished area than was evident in the tourist sections of Istanbul. As we made our way back to the port, however, the houses began to look nice again. We got lunch by the water and agreed that the visit had been interesting, but we should have gone to the older monastary...and we probably wouldn't recommend a special trip to this island.

We were off to Kinaliada next, the first island that you actually reach via ferry coming from the city. Here we wanted to go swimming. We got off the ferry and walked to the right where we saw that many other people had the same idea. The thin beach was rocky, but the water was blue. We scanned the horizon for dolphins. We found a place to spread our towels on a concrete area above the rocks---seats can be rented for 5 lyra each---and applied the suntan lotion.

The water was cool but refreshing. Vendors walked up and down calling out the price of bread, holding books of henna designs you could get applied to your skin. Dark-faced men with white teeth and curls of wet, lovely hair on their legs threw their giggling children into the water. A woman in a green head scarf sat near us with the waves licking at the only exposed part of her body...her feet...as foam wet the hem of her skirt.

We caught the 4pm ferry back to the mainland.

This was a most enjoyable retreat and one of my son's favorite experiences in Istanbul.

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