On The Road: Princes' Islands are a Turkish delight that stretch on and on
Saturday 18 July 2009
It's warming up nicely, as usual. Another hot and sunny day for Istanbul, but I'm heading out for some air. Not too far – the city's still in sight – but long gone are the horns, the hawkers and the hustle.
The Princes' Islands serve as the ideal Istanbul getaway. This archipelago of nine islands (only five of which are inhabited) lies just one hour's ferry-ride from the coast, yet it feels a million miles away. Büyükada, pictured, is the largest. As you approach, terracotta-roofed villas rise from the green hills. Step off the ferry and you're greeted with cafés, ice-cream vendors and the promise of fresh calamari at sun-down.
With no cars on the islands, the fashionable mode of transport is the bicycle. But the horse-drawn cart comes in a close second.
Hiring some wheels is first on my list; stocking up on cold water and sun-cream are next. I've heard that it only takes an hour to navigate the entire parameter of the island, but count myself lucky I haven't arrived in the midday heat.
Escaping the city is one thing, escaping the port on this island is something else: three very steep hill climbs and I still haven't reached the summit. But I push on, and I'm so glad I did. The view is crystal-clear: islands, the sea and a backdrop of the city in the far distance.
It's time to find a hidden cove and cool off. After half-an-hour of less strenuous cycling, I'm ready to take a dip. I'm still only halfway round the island; my one-hour bike ride turning into at least four. Tired, hungry and totally relaxed, thoughts of the city return: it'll be time to go home soon. One last thing, though: that fresh calamari.
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