These last few weeks have been a bit of whirlwind of midterms and papers and internship interviews. It feels great to have a few weeks to take a moment, explore the city a bit more and reconnect with friends. Thankfully, my program scheduled a trip just in time to relieve some stress.
Sunday I went to Büyükada Island, one of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, about an hour ferry ride from Istanbul. After hustling to the station with my group of girlfriends, we enjoyed a quick çai before an hour of quietly listening to our iPods on the breezy top floor, looking out to a gorgeous view of Istanbul fading into the back. One of my favorite things about riding the ferry, as I frequently do to get to the Asian side of the city, is the gypsy performers that circulate the boat. A fifteen-year-old girl dressed in clashing prints, equipped with a tambourine and soulful voice for melancholy hymns, had the entire boat in awe.
The islands were like nothing I had expected. Only after only 30 minutes on a commuter boat that left drizzling, smoggy Istanbul were we cruising by luscious, colorfully antique and tropical looking islands. Once we docked, we grabbed bikes from a local renter and took off up and down the hills while some others took a horse pulled carriage. Our guide stopped in front of one gorgeous, wooden home with detailed carvings that looked out over the sea. The home belonged to Russian revolutionary theorist Leon Trotsky after being banished by Stalin but welcomed to Turkey by Atatürk.
We ended towards the top of the island and walked the final stretch to a Greek Orthodox Monastery as it is considered a pilgrimage to walk the final (difficult and steep) stretch. The monastery was beautiful, as was the view. There we all ate typical yet delicious Turkish foods such as meatballs (köfte) or lamb and roasted vegetables and wine. You may think it’s strange that we visited an orthodox church in Muslim Turkey. It is because the Princes’ Islands are, for the most part, inhabited by non-Muslim communities – known as the Millets in Ottoman history.
Back on the mainland, I find myself discovering new favorite places every week. For example, the neighborhood “Cihangir” (pronounced ji-han-gur) is extremely eclectic with antique stores piled with treasures on every corner.
Another place I have been going to is called Koopertif in Taksim and is an unmarked, expat type live music venue. There are musical instruments laying around to be picked up and played in the snug, bohemian setting. It’s really a great place that you should check out if you’re ever in Istanbul.This week I am going to try and make it to the modern art museum and another exhibit close to my university in Karaköy that digitally projects wall sized versions of Van Gogh’s work all over an empty warehouse. I have heard it’s something I’ll never forget.