Istanbul 3: Princes Islands, Buyuk Ada

Sofie very kindly offered to show me how to get the tram and boat to go for a trip along the Bosphorus today. We took the tram to the boat from Eminonu to Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul, and, having shown me where to get the tickets for a trip to the Princes Islands, she went off to a huge flea market. The ferry boat to the islands took about one and a quarter hours, and stopped at three smaller islands before arriving at Buyuk Ada (Big Island). Istanbul has many, many ferries, large and small, traversing the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. These are rather ancient, making even BC Ferries’ oldest vessels seem positively postmodern in comparison. Men come through the boats carrying trays of tea, juice and the ubiquitous nescafe, as well as sesame bagels – that’s it in terms of the food and drink selection.

Buyuk Ada’s claim to fame is its horse-drawn carrirage rides around the island, so that was today’s order of business. My driver looked like an old drunk, and his pair of horses cantered along at a fairly sedate pace, being passed by other younger speed-demon drivers as they raced up the hill. We passed the opulent summer homes of Istanbul’s rich and famous, mostly shuttered for the winter with signs warning of snarling dogs on the premises. We also rolled past decrepit, rundown shacks and beach restaurants that had definitely seen better days. At some point in the journey I could see the barracks where all the horses are housed and the corrogated shack slum in which some of the drivers live. When we arrived back in town again we entered a large square where there were very many horses and buggies and cafes with men drinking tea. The whole experience was very surreal. The place is sleepy hollow in the winter – I went into one cafe where I was the only customer and received the full attention of four waiters who stood around watching me drink my cappuccino. Turkey seems to have too many men for any job – rather than one guy on the boat carrying tea, there are three; rather than one waiter for an empty restaurant, there are four. Sofie thinks it’s so that more people are employed … it’s very odd.

The island is also infested with cats – large and small, all well-fed and sassy-looking.

See pictures here.

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