(Oh hi. Just got caught taking a selfie.)
Buyukada is the largest of the nine Princes' Islands, in the sea of Marmara, 2 hours and 5 lira by slow ferry from the Kabatas port in Istanbul. In the summer the island swells with visitors who gather by the shore to enjoy the water and the view and the wildflowers, the food and the drink and the romance of somewhere incredibly old, beautiful and overgrown. They gather all around the perimeter of the 2 square mile island and up top, at the highest point on the island, you can see a monastery and and old orphanage, the latter built of now-decaying slats of wood that was once the color of cream or clouds or paper mache, but is now splintered and an indiscernible white. Mansions dot the island, palatial homes like those that might be found in Bel Air or Grosse Point or in South Beach, but many of these old Ottoman mansions that were once the vacation homes of the Greeks, Armenians and Turks are now abandoned, and cats find their way in every window.
We rented bikes with heavy wheels, made for riding up and down mountains, and started our trek around the rim, pulling over to the side every so often when we encountered a cow or a fork in the road, or heard the chariot-like clomps behind us of the horse-drawn carriages that serve as locals main form of transportation. There are no cars here, just bicycles, buggies and rugged folk with strong legs enjoying the quiet and beauty of the off-season.