A couple of weeks ago we spent our Saturday off on one of the nine islands near Istanbul, Büyükada. Büyükada is the largest of the islands, is currently home to about 7,000 residents, and cars (aside from service vehicles) are forbidden on the island, so most people get around by foot, by bicycle, or by horse and buggy. Visiting Büyükada had been recommended by friends who've spent time in Istanbul, as well as by blogs and our guidebook, so with some advice from our boss on how to get there without having to take the 7:30am ferry, (there seems to be two incredibly early ferry times leaving Istanbul and then a few much later in the day, like around 5:30pm, so we took a catamaran instead - slightly more expensive but it has a better schedule and takes a shorter route as well) we set off and arrived on the island mid-morning.
We didn't make many plans for our time on Büyükada, although I had some ideas for things to do and see. We decided to start out walking up to the Agia Yorgi Church and Monastery. On the way we passed countless pretty houses (sorry about all the pictures of house after house...I couldn't help it!) and were passed by even more horses and buggies than the number of quaint houses we saw. After a while we reached a stopping point/parking lot for the horses, and continued straight uphill with all the people who'd bypassed us in buggies as we steadily plodded along. We'd been warned that the last 20 minutes were a trek, and they weren't joking.
At the top, I went inside the church/monastery combo (Danny had to wait outside since he was wearing shorts), but honestly he didn't really miss out on much. Our guidebook promised that the hour-long trek would lead to worthwhile views, but I felt disappointed. I mean, the views were okay, even nice, but I didn't feel they were worth all the trouble we went through to get to them. I suppose, as Danny said at the time, I've just been spoiled for good views if I didn't appreciate the ones we had over Istanbul and the Marmara Sea.
D - Walking past all the gorgeous timber villas reminded us a bit of Charleston, one of our very favorite cities in the United States. Some of the houses especially seemed like a cool architectural marriage between American Colonial structures and Moorish patterns. The island is definitely a really pretty place for a stroll and an ice cream. I think I somewhat agree with Shannon about it being questionable whether the steep walk uphill to the monastery is worth it or not, but the views and breeze at the top were nice.
On the way back down, we were much less snap-happy with the camera than we were on the way up...I think we were anxious to find some lunch and possibly some ice cream too. We decided on Turkish pizza for lunch and it was fine, but I felt my veggie pizza was a little heavier on the cheese than I would have liked (I suppose that's what eating cheese-less pizza for five years will do to you...). After pizza, we finished up our time on Büyükada with dondurma, or Turkish ice cream, which is very possibly my favorite Turkish food thus far. The ice cream was cheap and the weather was warm, so we both got two scoops and we wanted the same kinds, so we ended up with matching cones - I don't think that's ever happened to us before!
We opted to take the ferry back into the city (as opposed to the catamaran) and it took forrrrever (maybe like 1.5-2 hours?!). At first it was fun, and then we both got out our books and read, and read, and read, and then we were like, "Did we miss our stop? What is happening here??" Nope, the ferry just makes a lot of stops and goes really slow...thankfully we had a beautiful day for it, seats on the upper deck, and good books to read. Instead of heading straight back home, we spent the rest of the evening in Istanbul and wore ourselves out walking around and looking for dinner and lemonade...but it was good. A good day on Büyükada, a new perspective of Istanbul taking the catamaran and ferry, and our second go at Turkish ice cream made for a sweet day off campus, and one I'd recommend to anyone while in Istanbul for an extended period.