Biking in Buyukada

Our foray to the Princes Islands had us over the hills and far away from the congested, car ridden pollutant that is Istanbul.

It seems that most of our weekend explorations happen as a result of a failed attempt at an excursion elsewhere. This occasion was no exception. How naive was I to concieve of the notion that a Bosphorus cruise leaving from Eminonu at 10.35am on a Saturday morning was at all possible after a night of drinking red wine. An hour and a half commute from door to dock. I don’t think so.

On perusing other possibilities departing imminently, the Princes Islands were of course a no brainer. These little beauties located a shortish ferry ride away from Istanbul are so called due to numerous princes and later sultans being exiled to them. I wouldn’t complain.

Fifteen minutes before the ferry left, the terminal was packed. Istanbul style. We barely made it through the turnstiles there were that many people in front of us, with more coming in from behind it was on the verge of becoming a crush. Cue an hour and a half long uncomfortably full ferry ride. Really, how do these things stay afloat?

With four islands to choose from we were spoilt for choice. We decided on the last stop and the largest of the Princes Islands, Buyukada (the literal translation meaning ‘big island’). Go large or go home. Not only are these Islands beautiful to look at, they are also car free. A welcome escape from the horn honking, traffic dodging madness that is Istanbul.

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After we grabbed a bite to eat we made our way to one of the many bike rental places on the Islands. Fifteen liras is all it costs for a day full of wind in the hair, skirt up the bum freedom. Note to self; wardrobe contingency plan needed for such situations.

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I am always a bit shaky on a bike at first, due to many a mishap as a reckless child with no fear. It seems the courage and fearlessness that had me daring the steepest sloped corner turns sans breaks, has slowly eroded with each year of my adult life.  Now descending slopes with a lesser incline at a pace that would rival a seventy year old on a shop mobility scooter,  I am now officially a pussy.

These islands are by no means flat, remember to bring a bottle of water for those uphill struggles. It is of course totally worth the exertion, not only for the beautiful views. Where else in the world can you be king of the road on a two wheeled vehicle. Free to go back, forth, zig zagging this way and that, without worrying about someone mowing you down with their four wheeled menace. Do watch out for those horse drawn carriages, the form of public transport on the island. Death by dangerous horse drawn driving is not the way to go.

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Whilst wandering notice the traditional Ottoman style wooden houses scattered around the island. Most of their counterparts on mainland Istanbul have been mercilessly disposed of and replaced with the soulless, character draining apartment blocks that fill the city with an assortment of dull hues. These buildings give one an insight into the Istanbul that was, before hyper development took over, besmirching the skyline and the history that these houses represent.

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Due to being on our bikes, we missed some of the main sights the island has to offer, an abandoned greek orphanage and a couple of nice churches complete with wonderful views. Instead we enjoyed the place for what it was, a respite from the smog filled mainland, a beauty in green that retains the character that much of Istanbul has lost. The ferry a time machine transporting us to a place that time forgot.

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