In the Marmara there are several islands belonging to Turkey, the most prominent group being the nine Princes’ Island. Büyükada (“big island” in Turkish) is the largest. The Marmara Sea is a small area between the Mediterranean and Black Sea, on whose coast Istanbul, the Capital of Turkey, lies.
Travelling to Büyükada
Büyükada can be reached from Istanbul by ferry. There are a few hotels on the island if you wish to stay for longer but reserve well in advance, however it can be visited on a day trip from the mainland. The island is very affluent and remarkably peaceful. Cars are forbidden on the roads, so to get around you must either walk (which for a relatively small island – despite its name – is not difficult to see the main sites) or rent a bicycle or go by horse drawn carriage or it is even possible to rent a donkey. The island is well mapped out so the foot passenger will not get lost.
There are numerous good restaurants near the historic landing pier, especially try to taste the excellent seafood. The number of permanent inhabitants is quite small. You are advised to visit during weekdays in the summer : in the winter there are sometimes problems with ferries and at the weekends it can be extremely busy. There are a few small beaches.
Characteristics of Büyükada island
This wealthy island is inhabited by a variety of residents from many religions, cultures and backgrounds. It has also in history been the place of exile for several Byzantine Empresses, and for four years in the 20th century, the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The diversity of the island is reflected in there being many different places of worship including Roman Catholic , Armenian and Greek churches, a mosque and a synagogue. There are also several monasteries. The peaceful streets are lined with elegant houses, many built in the 19th century when this island was an elite resort.
Clock Tower and Monastery of St George
There are numerous attractions for such a small island. After relaxing in a café enjoying the traffic free haven after the heat and congestion of Istanbul, visit the Clock Tower in the main square. This was built in 1932 and is a central focal point for the island. If you wish a horse drawn tour of the island, it is best to book it there otherwise continue walking. The most remarkable landmark in the island is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St George, set on top of a hill. In order to reach it you must walk (no horses are allowed) on a cobbled path up hill (the idea being that the walk is some form of penitence).
The foundations of this monastery were probably in the 6th century AD although the current structure is much more modern. At the top you can see inside the chapel, possibly talk to a monk who is in charge, admire the fantastic view, and purchase refreshments. In addition, There are numerous other churches, a convent, monasteries, a former Greek orphanage (now no longer functioning) that is said to be the largest wooden building in Europe, a mosque and synagogue and a yacht club.
This island is a fantastic place to visit when in Istanbul, and is one of few islands within Turkey but which is beautifully maintained and a haven to visit.