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    [See photographs of the islands at: http://www.birminghamuk.com/turkey/adalar.jpg http://web.syr.edu/~oakdemir/Pictures/Turkey/marmara/images/adalar.gif
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2004
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      [See photographs of the islands at:
      http://www.birminghamuk.com/turkey/adalar.jpg
      http://web.syr.edu/~oakdemir/Pictures/Turkey/marmara/images/adalar.gif
      http://www.thalassemi.com/new/images/yeditepe/09%20-%20adalar.jpg
      http://www.singlix.com/istanbul/buyukada.html
      http://foo.greekvista.com/pages/images/turkey2.jpg
      http://www.gildedserpent.com/articles23/kaylaprinceisland.htm ]

      x0X Islands of tranquility in a sea of urbanization

      Imagine a place where private motor vehicles are prohibited, where public
      transportation consists of horse-drawn phaetons, bicycles or your own steam,
      where industry is unknown and pollution a distant memory, where graceful
      villas replace apartment blocks, where groves of pine trees cover the hills,
      where small, secluded beaches hide along the coastline, where scenic picnic
      areas replace fast-food joints. You might think this is somewhere out in the
      Anatolian countryside, or perhaps in one of the countrys many resort areas.
      But youd be wrong; what Im describing is in Istanbul and is called the
      Princes Islands

      HELEN BETTS

      ANKARA Turkish Daily News

      Istanbul means different things to different people a place to live, a place
      to work, a tourist destination, a commercial hub, a religious center, a
      historical gem, a beautiful city, a weekend respite, a place to migrate to, a
      crowded metropolis, a shopping paradise, a traffic nightmare. But one thing
      that most everyone agrees on is that its a lively city never boring, always
      electric, pulsing with activity. Theres always something to do, somewhere to
      go. Its filled with people and cars and noise everything that makes a city a
      city. It has museums and palaces, old bazaars and modern shopping centers,
      luxury condos and poor shantytowns, broad boulevards and narrow one-car
      lanes. Youll see rich and poor, Mercedes and Sahin, streetcars and dolmus.
      You can find most anything your heart desires here, except, perhaps, some
      peace and quiet.

      But imagine a place where private motor vehicles are prohibited, where public
      transportation consists of horse-drawn phaetons, bicycles or your own steam,
      where industry is unknown and pollution a distant memory, where graceful
      villas replace apartment blocks, where groves of pine trees cover the hills,
      where small, secluded beaches hide along the coastline, where scenic picnic
      areas replace fast-food joints. You might think this is somewhere out in the
      Anatolian countryside, or perhaps in one of the countrys many resort areas.
      But youd be wrong; what Im describing is in Istanbul and is called the
      Princes Islands, or simply Adalar (the islands).

      From royal outpost to wealthy retreat

      Well known to locals yet for the most part neglected by foreigners resident
      in Turkey as well as by tourists, the Princes Islands make up an archipelago
      sitting 20 kilometers southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Only an
      hours ferry ride from the heart of the city and just a few miles from Asian
      Istanbul, the Princes Islands are easily accessed by one of 10 daily ferries
      departing Sirkeci or high-speed catamarans from either Eminonu or Kabatas.
      The Princes Islands are named for a palace built by Justin II in 569 on
      Buyukada, the largest of the islands, which was then known as Prinkipo
      (Island of the Prince). During Byzantine times, monasteries on the islands
      did double duty as places of exile for wayward princes and out-of-favor
      dignitaries, the most famous of whom was Empress Irene, mother of Constantine
      VI, who reigned during the late eighth century. Later on, in Ottoman times,
      the islands proved attractive to non-Turkish residents of Istanbul, with the
      citys Jews settling heavily on Buyukada, Armenians flocking to Kinali and
      Greeks moving to Burgaz. It wasnt until the late 19th century that Istanbuls
      wealthier Turks discovered the islands and began building gracious summer
      homes on the pine-covered hillsides overlooking the water. Several famous
      foreign exiles took up residence here as well, including Leon Trotsky, who
      lived in one of the finest mansions on Buyukada from 1929 to 1933.

      Of the nine islands that comprise the municipality of Adalar, only five have
      permanent residents: Buyuk, Heybeli, Burgaz, Kinali and Sedef. Their
      population totals approximately 20,000, although that number jumps by 120,000
      during the summer.

      Entertainment within and without

      Weve been coming to Istanbul for years any three-day weekend offers a welcome
      opportunity to get away from Ankara and bask in the joys of big-city life;
      however, we have always seemed to stick to the areas we know best and where
      our friends reside, rarely at least after the initial frenzy of visiting
      every famous tourist attraction in town venturing far from comfortable bases.
      That tradition recently ended when my husband and I decided it was time to
      drag ourselves out of Sultanahmet and hop a ferry for Buyukada.

      We headed for the ferry terminal at Sirkeci, just across the road from the
      train station of the same name in Eminonu. Although several boats appeared to
      be awaiting passengers and ready to leave, confusion reigned at the ticket
      counter, which was without a ticket-seller until just before the boats final
      whistle. The ferry from Sirkeci is not a fast boat, stopping as it does at
      Kadikoy, Burgazada, Heybeliada and finally Buyukada over the course of about
      two hours, but the ferry ride in itself was one of the most enjoyable parts
      of our outing. We sailed in the late morning, so the major crowds that flood
      the islands had already gotten their trips under way, but the ferry was still
      an entertaining tableau of locals, tourists, stevedores and animals, all on
      their way to the Princes Islands.

      There was the musician who was entertaining the entire vessel, hopeful for
      handouts, and the woman with the cutest little dog, who was either barking or
      attacking passengers trying to befriend him during the entire cruise. There
      was the staff member who came running after me because I had forgotten to pay
      to use the restroom and then again when I tried to have a cigarette indoors.
      Passengers were loaded down with shopping bags and heavy trunks while vendors
      were hawking everything from cay to kitchen gadgets. It was hard to pay
      attention to the beautiful scenery passing us by with this slice of Turkish
      life parading before us on board.

      But the scenery is indeed worthy of note: Steaming away from the dock, we
      were treated to views of Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofiya, the Blue Mosque and
      Suleymaniye, accompanied by a persistent host of seagulls along for the ride.
      We enjoyed a spectacular vista of the Bosporus Bridge and an intimate brush
      with Kiz Kulesi, or Leanders Tower, offering photo ops that simply dont
      present themselves on land. Haydarpasa train station is a magnificent
      structure made all the more so from a water perspective, and we also were
      able to see interesting structures that somehow escape notice from a car.
      Some people think the Bosporus and Sea of Marmara serve only as international
      shipping lanes, but I can assure you that they play host to a flotilla of
      small craft, from fishing vessels to sailboats to yachts, all out in force
      that day enjoying the calm waters and brilliantly blue sky with nary a cloud
      in sight. The ferry calls in at some of the smaller of the Princes Islands,
      such as Kinaliada, whose name means dyed with henna (kina), and Heybeliada,
      site of the Greek Orthodox seminary -- sitting high atop a hill and in plain
      sight from the ferry -- that has been so much in the news in recent months.
      Finally, we pull into Buyukada and begin our long-awaited albeit
      all-too-short -- tour of the island.

      Watch out for the phaetons

      The area around the port was alive with tourists and horses, which draw the
      traditional phaetons, or carriages, around the island. Private motor vehicles
      are banned on Buyukada, as well as on Heybeliada, so the visitor must be
      prepared to pay for a ride (although tariffs are set by the municipality and
      strictly adhered to), rent a bicycle or see the island on foot. We dont
      usually go in for touristy horse-and-buggy rides, but in this instance Im
      quite pleased that we did since it gave us an overview of the entire island
      in a delightful one-hour drive. Our chauffeur was a congenial chap who opted
      for safety and a leisurely pace over the competitive speeds pursued by some
      of the other hot-rod drivers who passed us by. He also resisted treating us
      to a session of local music on a portable sound system that a few buggies
      obviously possessed so we could enjoy the hour in peace and quiet.

      He transported us through a world of beautiful fin-de-siecle houses on quiet
      streets untouched by motor vehicles and vast pine forests boasting picnic
      grounds with spectacular views. We made a stop halfway through the tour at
      what can only be described as a phaeton parking lot, where tens of carriages
      and their equine engines congregated, allowing the drivers to chat and the
      horses to take a breather while the passengers wandered the grounds, had a
      bit of refreshment, snapped some pictures of the azure sea and visited with a
      variety of pack animals waiting their turn to usher tourists around. I could
      have stayed all afternoon, but our guide was eager to get on his way and back
      to town, presumably for another fare.

      Its a bit difficult to capture pictures of period villas and historical sites
      from a jolting phaeton, even if in the proverbial slow lane, but we were able
      to walk around town a bit after our guided jaunt. Buyukada has a lively
      downtown area full of cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops and showy vendors
      of famous Kahramanmarass delightfully elastic ice cream as well as charming
      Ottoman houses, local shops, a park honoring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, wandering
      peddlers and scrap-hungry cats. We even saw a horse out for a solitary walk
      on his own having a snack on a sidewalk patch of grass.

      You might think that a place in Turkey devoid of automobiles would be a haven
      of safety for pedestrians, but a word of caution: The phaetons are literally
      everywhere, sort of like stepping back in time to the 19th century. Care must
      be taken when stepping off the curb and walking in the streets to avoid being
      run down by a speedy buggy. You must also be mindful of where you step while
      in the street.

      Due to our late start never imagining such a feast for the eyes and the soul
      on this island we were unable to visit two of Buyukadas premier attractions:
      the Monastery of St. George, reportedly offering a panoramic view of just
      about everything, as well as the Hotel Splendid Palace, which I understand is
      an elegant Ottoman Victorian with great atmosphere adapted to modern tastes.
      Well have to save them for our next excursion to the Princes Islands. I have
      no doubt that it will now be easier to leave behind the hustle and bustle of
      the city as wonderful as it is and take a break from our usual haunts for
      another voyage into the magical world of the Princes Islands.

      __________________________________________________________________
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