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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10/9: Horse & Buggy Time on Istanbul's Prince's Islands

Views from and at the very enjoyable Lotus Hotel, our home away from home for a week in Istanbul:
Melons being sold just outside our hotel.
Breakfast time at the hotel. 
Ahmet, Hotel Lotus’ gregarious and welcoming host, spoke decent English and helped us with directions to places all over his wonderful city. He always had this lovely smile and nothing we asked was too much for him. The hotel was small having only 12 rooms. 
This woman was such a sweetheart and made the most delicious plain omelettes for the guests most mornings. 
We stopped on the corner across the street from our hotel for a loaf of generally hot French bread every morning before walking to the bus stop. Munching it would help sustain us while seeing the day’s sights. The price was only 1TL, about .44! 
Saw this dog every morning and late afternoon on the same corner walking to and from the the hotel to catch the #99 bus to the main bus station and pier of Eminonu. He always had a bone or dried dog food nearby. Turks are also obviously in love with their cats; there were stray cats roaming all the streets all the time, it seemed and likewise food was put out for them too.

Our miniscule room at the Lotus Hotel for the first 3 nights before Vurul, the wonderful owner, so kindly upgraded us to a much larger room for the last 4 nights free of charge. The rate was about $50 a night which also included a delicious breakfast that would be enough to satisfy us for hours PLUS free laundry. What more could travelers want! It was far cheaper staying there than at a hostel even though many of the hostels were closer to the sights.
On 10/9, our last day in Istanbul, we took another ferry ride but this time we headed south for the Sea of Marmara and the Prince’s Islands. The nine islands, four of which have regular ferry service, have provided various uses for the people of Istanbul over the years. Back in the day when the city was known as Constatinople, religious undesirables sought refuge on the islands, while in the times of the sultans, the islands provided a convenient place to exile untrustworthy hangers on. 
The fantastic Topkapi Palace again.
Anyone feel for a simit?
 These fellows right beside us fancied themselves being in a karaoke bar, I think!
From the train station here at Kadikoy on the Asian side, you can take a train from Istanbul all the way to Tehran, Iran, Steven’s stomping ground for 2 years many decades ago.
                              This was the first island the ferry stopped at.
The islands are everything that Istanbul isn’t: quiet, green and car less which was a mighty draw after being in the midst of so many people from morning til nighttime for almost a week. They are a relaxing getaway from the noise and traffic of the big city as restrictions on development and a ban on automobiles help maintain the old fashioned peace and quiet.
This was the second island the ferry stopped at.

We got off the ferry for a few hours at Buyukada, the largest of the islands and Istanbul’s version of the ‘Big Island!’ 
Istanbul's Naval Academy above and below.

More of the floral head wreaths; they were a huge hit especially with the Asian tourists.
We saw these gorgeous bushes all over the island.
A monument to Turkey's beloved Kemal Ataturk; have seen so many photos, sculptures of him sincebeing in Turkey.

Another town, another just married couple!
We convinced ourselves that walking meant that we were able to take in the beauty of the splendid Victorian homes, the fragrant mimosa and jasmine flowers and the beautiful sea views that would have been all a blur if we had ridden in a carriage at a very fast clip up the hilly lanes! It seemed at times like we were witnessing a chariot race with the carriages trying to pass each other at breakneck speed.

Sorry if I got carried away by including too many horse and buggy shots – I just couldn’t resist taking all these photos to show such a different way of life on the island.
 So many of the homes were gorgeous and some even close to palatial that they reminded us of driving along Florida’s Gold Coast a couple of years ago. The house below ranks more in the Haunted House category, I think.

Never seen a mailbox like this before.
 Leon Trotsky was exiled to one of these apartments on Buyukada.

Loved seeing the snazzy wrought iron gates on some of the homes.

Certainly the most modern mosque we’ve seen yet; didn’t take the time to enter as we were on a mission to see the monastery. That was my lame attempt at a joke!

Yup, a horse and buggy parking lot for people wanting to hike up to the monastery.

As we walked up the path to the monastery we noticed pieces of cloth, string and paper that visitors have tied to the bushes and trees in hope of a wish coming true as the church is a popular Orthodox Christian pilgrimage site. Steven was very skeptical that all the bits of paper hanging on the trees were quite so altruistic as they all seemed to be from Nescafe wrappers, a rather unusual item to choose to leave a wish!
The Monastery at long last.

The small monastery entrance. Women weren't required to wear head scarves here even though there were some to borrow .

Only able to take these photos of the monastery before the monk kindly pointed out the No Photo sign – oops.

Beautiful views of the sea from atop the monastery; it was so chilly to sit and relax, we just wanted to turn around and head back downhill right away. Plus the clouds were looking rather foreboding and we had a long hike back to the pier.

I dearly hoped the bride and groom weren’t go to walk all the way to the monastery as that was a long hike in comfy sandals, let alone fancy wedding shoes.
Felt like there was a bike race going on at times as guys would pedal up and down the hills at high speed. Thank goodness nobody was in their way.

Think I was joking about the hills, did you!

First time we’d seen a Domino’s Pizza since leaving home and it was in tiny Buyukada of all places!

The Buyukada Pier.

Istanbul’s skyline looked so magical at night from the boat. What a wonderful way to end our week long visit to Istanbul.