Slow Boat from Istanbul

Written by Jo Malcolm

People sometimes ask me what I “do” on my travels. But actually I don’t really do anything. I get somewhere then revel in the sheer foreignness of it all.

When I am in Istanbul, though, as I am now, one thing I do “do” is spend lots of time on the ferries to and from The Princes’ Islands. I mean I spend time on the ferries rather than on the islands.

As my fellow Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, put it, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go”. And with child-like delight, I have reveled in this to-and-from ferry experience since my first trip about fifteen years ago. You might like to try it yourself next time you’re “in town”.

There are nine Princes’ Islands, the biggest of them all; Bϋyϋkada, has a rich, ancient, and well-documented history. Two facts I particularly like are:

  1. That Trotsky lived on this island for a while, and
  2. That “Ladino” (a mix of Spanish and Hebrew) is spoken by the tiny long-established Jewish community, who settled here in 1492, after being expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.

But this article is about my fabulous two hour ferry trip from the European then Asian sides of Istanbul, (Istanbul being the only city in the world built on two continents. Europe and Asia), and out to the aforesaid Princes’ Islands.

My solid, old-fashioned ferry boat (which moves with remarkable grace through the turquoise waters) is run by the Istanbul Municipal Council. Because it is part of their public transport system, residents and tourists journey together on this ferry. I embarked at the easily accessible Kabatas Port.

Our first destination is Kadikӧy on the Asian side of the Turkish mainland. Then Kinaliada, Burgazada and Heybeliada.

If you don’t mind a bit of wind and sun, I recommend sitting outside. The ferry is furnished with wooden benches around the vessel, and white iron railings close by, making for excellent foot rests.

The day I was aboard, the sun shone hot, and the disappearing silhouette of Istanbul-“City of Dreams and the dazzling seascapes were thrilling. In just under two hours, the ferry reached its destination: the island of Bϋyϋkada, with its ghosts of Trotsky and just-surviving Ladino language, there, in all its fabulousness.

There is so much more, but that’s for another story.

Getting thereJo travelled from the Istanbul ferry port of Kabatas on the Sehir Hatlari Line to The Princes’ Islands.

Other infoIn March 2024 the single fare was just under NZ$2.00. The duration of the trip was 2 hours 45 minutes

When travelling Jo enjoys reading contemporary novelists of the country she is visiting. Jo’s favourite music is Joni Mitchells “Hejira” – especially when driving

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