Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Best 20 Lira I Ever Spent

Today was my last day in Istanbul and again took a ferry, but this time I went south into the Sea of Samara to the Princes' Islands, so called because it is where the royal family was exiled in the Byzantine period. There are none islands, five of which are reachable by ferry. Now the islands are home to about 15,000 people, although many people have vacation homes there. The interesting thing about the islands is that with the exception of the police and fire department, no cars are allowed on the islands, so people get around by horse, donkey or bicycle.

I went to Burundi, the largest island. I wandered around aimlessly for awhile and then decided to walk to the Greek monastery, which is on top of a high hill (or a small mountain). I walked for about an hour to the base of the mountain. It was a beautiful day, but it was very hot. I had planned to take a donkey to the top, but they were charging too much and the donkeys looked very feeble, so I walked up.
It was a very steep climb, and the views were amazing, but by the time I reached the top I was dying. It was about 35 degrees and I was hiking in jeans, a tank top and a long sleeved shirt. I reached the top. The church was small and unimpressive from the outside, but inside it was cool and filled with incense and the usual explosion of relics and Orthodox bric a brac.
I climbed back down the hill, at which point I couldn't bear the thought of walking back to the ferry, so I took a charming horse and carriage. It was covered with a roof hung with fringes and I sat comfortably, with my feet up, being pull quickly though the winding streets. As the title of this entry suggests, it was the best 20 Lira I ever spent.
Took the ferry back. It was crowded with people, sitting on the floor and swarming with children (there are SO many little kids here = the Turks are prolific breeders). A small girl shared her raisins with me, which was nice.
I had dinner on a rooftop overlooking the Aya Sophia and then went to smoke for a couple of hours. It was blissful, but now I am exhausted and hot and ready for bed.

Tomorrow morning I fly to South to Izmir and then somehow I am getting to Selcuk (by bus I think, but I will figure it out at the airport). I will be stay 2 nights in Selcuk, solely for the purpose of visiting the ruined city of Ephesus. A new chapter in my vacation.
I will write again when I am at my next destination.
Galata Tower, Istanbul
carpet weaver, Istanbul

fortune-telling rabbit, Istanbul

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