Buyukada is an island from the Princes’ Islands group of nine islands. Unlike the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul with all the cafes, shopping centres, big buildings, everything that a modern human can think of, Buyukada (in fact, the Princes’Islands or ‘Adalar’, like Turkish call them) is a symbol of tranquility, serenity… It is like a harbour where ‘past’ settled down and doesn’t want to leave. Past, well-preserved and ignorant of new technologies or people’s modern desires.
Buyukada is in the Sea of Marmara, near Istanbul. Only four of the islands are populated and they all have Greek and Turkish names. Buyukada is the Turkish name of the island and it means Big Island, as it covers an area of 5.4 km². That makes it the biggest island in the Princes’ Islands group. ‘These Isles of the Princes lie in sight of Stamboul and its splendors, and of the mountains of Asia, dominated by the Mysean Olympus. They are glorious in physical loveliness…’, Samuel Sullivan Cox – an American Congressman who was appointed Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1885. Just like on the other islands there is no car traffic. To prevent the islands from becoming polluted the only motorized vehicles allowed are the ones of service (fire, rubbish, police, ambulance). Transportation is generally provided by traditional horse-drawn phaetons, and the roads on the island were designed for walking and cycling.
Earlier name, the Greek name of the island was Prinkipo. The Byzantine Emperor Justin II built a palace and monastery on Buyukada in A.D. 569. He was the “prince” who gave the Princes’ Isles their name. Buyukada was used by the Byzantine emperors as a place to exile their enemies, who most often used to be their relatives, and statesmen who might have threatened the emperors’ political power. Interesting is the story of the Byzantine Empress Irene who ruled the empire as a regent and as a monarch. An orphan with great personal accomplishments, Irene married the Emperor and at his death she became Empress-Guardian of all Eastern Empire. Irene’s destiny shared other empresses as well – Empress Euphrosyne, Theophano, Zoe and Anna Dalassena. In modern times Buyukada was the exile location of Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary leader, who was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929. He stayed in the island for four years. For the Emperors and Empresses of Byzantine, the island was a sad place, while for Trotsky it was a kind of sanctuary.
Buyukada consists of two peaks with many steeps. The peak located on the southern section of the island is called ‘Yorgi Peak’ and the other is called ‘Hristos Peak’, which is located on the northern section of the island. Hristos Peak is topped by the former Greek Orphanage, a huge wooden building now in decay. There are many interesting historical buildings on the island – Ayia Yorgi Church and Monastery dating back to the sixth century, the Ayios Dimitrios Church, and the Hamidiye Mosque built by Abdul Hamid II, and many more.
We shouldn’t forget about the monastery of Aya Yorgi (St. George), which lies on the island’s highest peak. Every year, on 23 April thousands of pilgrims of all faiths journey from Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and even Russia. A legends says about the foundation of the monastery. It says of a shepherd who, tending his flock on the summit, where the monastery stands now, went to sleep one hot afternoon. Then he had a dream. In his dream he was advised to dig in a certain place which was close to where he was lying and “he would hear of something to his advantage.” The shepherd did what he was told and he found a man on a beautiful white horse with bells hung round the animal’s neck. The man ordered the sleeping shepherd to carry on digging. Doing so, the shepherd before longer found an old picture which represented exactly the man on the white horse. The moment the shepherd, who previously was quite an imbecile, touched the picture he became extraordinarily knowledeable. That picture represented St. George…
Not a legend, though, are the mansions (kosks) and the comfortable villas (konaks) built by the colourful population of the island during the Ottoman period.
A lot more can be said about the biggest island – Buyukada, an island from the Princes’ Islands group of nine islands, situated in the Sea of Marmara, only an hour and a half away from Istanbul. But I leave this to you, adventurers – to explore Buyukada! To get lost in its misteries! To be amazed with it! You would deffinitely be thrilled by the atmosphere on the island, the amazing old buildings and much more.