The Gilded Serpent presents...
Kayla's Travel Journal

The Prince Islands, Istanbul
by Kayla Summers

As a resident of the 'Anatalyan' side of Istanbul, I had explored the Prince Islands before discovering the convoluted wonders of the European side. I confess with complete humility that my mission was to locate and secure a safe tanning and swim site. (California girl to the core). My friends had taken me to Moda, where we had all been in swimsuits, and after about an hour I proposed that we take a dip. Chins were all raised, the tsk tsk sound in unison, warning NO! Upon further inquiry, they gave me the same look and response that my friends did in Louisiana, when I suggested swimming in the Mississippi. "No one swims in the Mississippi", or, evidently, at Moda!

So off to the Adalar, as the islands are known collectively. Buyuk Ada was the main one where I arrived first.

After the hum of the ferryboat had left, I was impressed with the silence, for there are very few cars. They do, however, have horses and carriages - the carriages with delightful wicker basket frames and leather seats - and the horses well cared for, so you don’t have to feel guilty about renting them.

On my fourth trip I actually did rent one. Talk about 'deeluxe'! The seats are like in a Cadillac, the suspension like a BMW. Naturally, since you are six feet higher, you get a different perspective of the houses and the ocean surrounding you. I am an avid hiker with miserly tendencies; I opted to walk up the hill. I passed gorgeous houses, with incredibly landscaped gardens, marveling at what one can do with a bougainvillea tree if one has a score of years or so. They had taken on the appearance of lilac trees, with their purple flowers cascading down.

As I ambled towards St George's monastery at the top of the hill , I was struck by the serenity. No hawkers, no tour touts, just a good leg stretch. After about a half-mile the houses diminished, and I found myself in a forest of sorts. There is a beach at a day camp site there…but it was pretty dirty, and seemingly there was no attempt at making it clean. Continuing on, I reached the next plateau, where all the carriages end that leg of the trip. There are restaurants....but the whole place smells of horse manure and usually has weird disco or house music blaring. From here you can opt to walk the perimeter of the island or continue to the top, where St George's monastery sits.

When I arrived at St G's, the church was actually open, and it was an incredible space. Lined with pictures of saints and their stories, accessorized in golden themes, lit by chandeliers with Venetian colored glass dripping from the ceiling - very baroque, as the Catholics do know how to do.

One picture that caught my eye was that of a dark virgin, named Mirtidiotissa, who has a special day around the twenty-fourth of September, when thousands of devotees show up to pay homage. (Just to warn you!)

Outside the church was a woman selling amulets to pin to some icon or other in the church; among the more amusing were a car, a briefcase (a job?), and a horseshoe with a Nazarene dangling from it - I guess to cover all bases for luck.

Returning to the plateau, I walked around the island. For the first ten minutes of this leg I think I was passing the horse carriage graveyard or repair station. After that I had great views of the coast. Footpaths appeared occasionally, leading to beautiful beaches or coves, but most were heavily littered with trash. Kinda scary.

About halfway around the island, I spotted an outdoor restaurant with tables overlooking the water. No one was around, but I saw a fire burning in the hearth, and sure enough an elderly man came out after a while to take my order. He stated that they could make whatever I wanted, and served chai. Then I spoke to an ancient woman who ran the place, and I asked her why it was so empty. Clearly, of all the places I had seen, this would be the most attractive one. It was quiet and serene watching the tides over the rocks - much more pleasant than the aforementioned smelly horse/stall restaurants at the plateau. She replied that tourism was down but that they would be open for the winter. I truly recommend this restaurant. I stayed for an hour or so just working on my notes.

Then I moved on down to the waiting ferry to check out another island in the beach quest. Next: Kinal Ada.

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