Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hagia Yorgi in Prinkipo, Istanbul, Turkey



Dear Colleagues,

Hagia Yorgi peak is the highest point in Prinkipo island, 202 meters above sea level. It is on the second hill. The monastery is built in 19th century on top of remains a holy ruin back from 10th century. It is a holy place for all religions.

There is a ritual to climb and you should strictly follow the centuries old rules. It is 970 meters from the starting point in lower end, the merry-go-round square. Once there was a merry-go-round fun place in the 19th century, which was demolished long ago but the name still stays.

You should start with a certain pace, slow but non-stop. You should not speak, nor talk to anyone. You will pray all the time while walking, for whoever/ whatever you believe in. Orthodox believers climb barefoot.

It is 1700 steps for me from the starting point till the main gate of the monastery. It takes 15-17 minutes to climb. When you reach the upper point, take your time, change your t-shirt, bring towel and bottled water with you.

Enjoy the view, Sea of Marmara, sunrise in the morning or sunset in the evening. Light a candle in the monastery and pray to realize all your wishes. In the end you will feel relieved, comfortable, free from all your worries, family matters, global warming, financial crunch etc.

Have some time, ask tea or Turkish coffee in the nearby cafe. You may also have country lunch, green salad and kebab with young red dry local wine, or local beer. While going back, you will feel refreshed and wish to come back.

It is daily routine for me when I stay in Prinkipo close to Hristos Monastery from early May to mid- November.

Almost every morning, at the town center you will see your humble blog writer with undercover local fisherman appearence with some thick beard in High Café (Yuksek Kahve) reading his daily local newspaper Cumhuriyet while sipping Turkish coffee with no sugar... Occasionally he may be seen as trying to type a few lines for this blog on his laptop PC.

There are so many hidden and not-so hidden gems in and around Istanbul, away from the usual path.

And the pureness, innocence, and beauty of the Prince Islands is definitely a gem for all Istanbulians and tourists to enjoy...

Your comments are always welcome

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

One day in Büyükada…

We are in Büyükada, where you will forget all your fatigue, be met by your childhood on the historical pier and feel intoxicated due to fresh air. Be sure that this fabulous land, where you will reach after a cheery ferry travel with the companionship of the seagulls, will make your day magical by only a slight touch.
On a sunny day in Istanbul, maybe one of the best things to do is to go to an island. Thus, in these sunny days take a pinch of pleasure, peace and joy and welcome to the tour on pearl of Istanbul, Büyükada… You may reach Büyükada, the biggest of the nine islands called Prince Islands, by sea bus or ferry from Kadiköy, Bostancı, Sirkeci and Kabataş. Although you may save time by sea bus, we recommend you travel by ferry, which is an indispensable aspect of this tour. Because it is an authentic taste to watch Istanbul behind you, while you drink tea and share your bagel with the seagulls sailing delightfully. Büyükada tour
As soon as you leave the historical building in the port of Büyükada, restaurants, cafes and ice cream sellers with delicious tastes surround you. The island welcomes you enthusiastically with people riding bicycles in a great merriment, lots of cats and dogs and of course seagulls. We have to mention that the fresh air in Büyükada immediately affects. Therefore, before the tour, a grand breakfast at Café Pasticceria right on the left of the clock tower will prepare you for the experiences. While taking breakfast, you may decide whether to get on a phaeton right ahead or to rent a bicycle for 5 YTL for the tour. We started the tour with a coach from Maden District driven by 70 year old Mustafa Çınar, who has left Büyükada just for military service. Our first target is Hagia Yorgi Church. We can’t take our eyes from authentic Büyükada houses along the road and the colorful flowers in the gardens. As we speak with high compliments Mustafa Bey warns us saying, “You haven’t seen the famous manor houses in Nizam District yet.” We go on the tour leaving behind Naki Bey Beach and Büyükada Water Sports Club on the seaside along the same road. Here is a small tip for you; you may buy rose shaped handmade ice-creams, you can only eat in Büyükada from peddlars in front of the Water Sports Club. And you may see the house of Reşat Nuri Güntekin, one of the prominent names in Turkish literature, just before Hagia Yorgi Church on the tour way. Hagia Yorgi miracle
The square at the beginning of the uphill road to Hagia Yorgi Church is like a festival place. The donkeys waiting for you to carry to the church, people sitting in the fun fair casino for lunch-break, pines and coaches all make up a colorful scene. You may go up to Hagia Yorgi Church on foot or by the donkeys waiting. We say “go up” because we should warn you that this is a uphill and long road. So, we preferred the donkeys for 15 YTL for each. At the beginning of your travel you may flinch; you may feel anxious as you feel uncomfortable and worry if the donkey would throw you away or follow a wrong route, but then you feel relaxed because the donkeys know the way to Hagia Yorgi Church very well. As they carry you calmly, you enjoy the sightseeing of Istanbul that lies down. Istanbul is seen differently beautiful in every step. We can say “fabulous” by one word about the Hagia Yorgi Church, on the 202 m high Yüce Tepe Hill, and its environs. On the right side of the church, there are the houses in which the priests stay and the monastery which is closed nowadays. And on the left side there is Yüce Tepe Casino where you may have snacks. At all sides of Hagia Yorgi Church, Marmara Sea brightens your face with its flashes. The other one of the two hills on Büyükada, Hristos (Jesus) Hill, is seen on the opposite side. There is a strong belief that the wishes made in Hagia Yorgi Church become true. So, don’t be surprised when you see lots of stuff like watches and necklaces in the glass case at the entrance of the church. They are small thanking presents of the people whose wishes came true. And it is also believed that the monastery water in the church has a healing effect. So much so that there are hearsays about paralyzed people who did walk down Yüce Tepe on foot. We have said that the fresh air in Büyğkada makes you hungry soon after. If you have finished making wishes and lighting votive candles come in to Yüce Tepe Casion for the delicious meat dishes. And don’t forget to order handmade wines… Under the pine trees. The things you will see after you get down from Hagia Yorgi Church and take a walk for 20 minutes in the forest full of pine trees have great historical importance. During this walk, accompanied with pine cones and bird songs, you have the opportunity to see the Greek Orphanage, which still holds the title of being “the biggest wooden building in the world.” The building, which is vacant for 30 years, challenges time with its monumental architecture although it has left a century behind. And the Hristos Monastery is just a fair land with chickens, sheep and fruit trees in its garden. In the small graveyard near the monastery, there are the graves of the workers who worked in the construction of the monastery and the priests who held duty there.
Love is different in Büyükada!
If you wish to go on your tour from Hristos Monastery to Nizam District, you may get on a phaeton. By the way, we recommend that you shouldn’t leave Büyükada without a walk on Aşıklar Yolu (Lovers Way) and Dilburnu. We did so; after a peaceful walk on Aşıklar Yolu, we had tea in samovar, overlooking the sea at Aşıklar Casino. The only thing we feel in this place all surrounded by pines is “peace.” If you want to get cool on your walk, we offer you not to pass over Prenses Koyu (Princess Bay) which lies just on your left and the Yörük Ali Beach. The beach, which is reached by boat, beguiles you. As you are here, we also recommend you to see Con Pasha Mansion which was built in the Ottoman age and the Arap Izzet Pasha Mansion in which Leon Trotstky stayed. Meanwhile, we have to say that Mustafa Bey’s warning at the beginning of our tour was right. For the mansions in Nizam District, with their architecture and the colorful and well-groomed gardens, makes you think that the princesses in the fairs are still alive. Time to miss the ferry!
You can’t be aware how the time passes in Büyükada. Thus, on the return way a rush begins on the streets. If you are lucky you may catch a phaeton in this peak-hour and you may say farewell to Büyükada by sitting at Yıldızlar Casino just opposite the pier and watch the sunset. Just at that time, you fell that your heart aches. You see the ferry coming slowly but you don’t want to go. It is an excitement to make a sudden decision change and wave hands to the ferry that you had planned to get in, as it leaves the landing. Let’s remind you that there are ferries from Büyükada to Bostancı till 12.30 am. So, you can complete your tour by an enjoyable dinner without any hurry.

What should we eat? Where should we stay? s there are small and big guesthouses in Büyükada, you may prefer Hotel Prenses Büyükada or Hotel Splendid Palace,the primary hotels of Büyükada. We also recommend Hagia Nikola Pension at Hagia Nikola Bay, with its beautiful sightseeing and special atmosphere. We are sure that it will be difficult for you to choose one of the restaurants lined next to the pier. We should at once say that you may have the most delicious fish and meat dishes at all of them. But our special recommendation is to taste calamary and octopus at Milto Restaurant, which is in service since 1935. And don’t forget to say cheers and raise a toast to Istanbul greeting you resplendently. One of the common traditions of Büyükada nights is to buy a cone of ice cream and go on a walk on the seaside. Thus, we recommend you to eat ice-cream as a dessert after dinner. You may buy ice cream from Prinkipo Ice Cream next to the ferry landing or Roma Ice Cream which is in service for three generations, and walk from Kenan Evren Park to Water Sports Club and even join the concerts at Turing Culture House in which nice night programs are organized. Then, accompanied with horseshoe sound, you may walk along the lonely streets, where there are not any travelers or anybody else except island residents, and get to the place that you will spend the night. By the way, don’t bother the seagulls in Büyükada, they don’t sleep till morning! Return to Istanbul!
As soon as you wake up in the morning open the windows and take the fresh island air and enjoy the exclusive sightseeing of green and blue. On the return, remember these and don’t forget to get hardtacks, Iranian buns and cookies with cinnamon and gum mastic at Büyükada Bakery. One day in Büyükada means peace, enjoyment, fun and health. These are the parts that we recited. And the parts that we haven’t told are hidden in the pearl beauty of Büyükada…

TT said...

Thank you for the wonderful post, and the comment above provided by 'anonymous.'

There are so many hidden and not-so hidden gems in and around Istanbul, away from the usual path.

And the pureness, innocence, and beauty of the Prince Islands is definitely a gem for all Istanbulians and tourists to enjoy...

Ardent said...

I loved reading this post and the comment by Anonymous. I visited Büyükada 20 years ago. Reading this post, I realize that there were obviously areas that I had missed to visit. I would have loved to have walked up the hill to the Monastery. Next time. It is truly a beautiful and inspiring Island.

Nevin said...

Yavrukuran, love this post... the only problem is, you are really making me feel home sick!

So nice to know a fellow Islander.... :)

Nevin said...

Yavrukuran, I will tell you something you will totally appreciate....

My kids are totally addicted to "Roma Dondurma"... When we are in Buyukada, everyday they beg for me to take them to "Iskele" for a cone of ice cream....

But when I was a kid, I preferred the old man standing in front of Seferoglu.... I forgot his name, he is deceased unfortunately... I loved the guy... He would joke with all the kids and give to us a little extra because we were kind to him. I think his name was Mehmet amca.... ohhh that was years ago.... Now I like the young guy who sells ice cream in front of "kulup".... his strawberry flavor is amazing!

yuvakuran said...

That new young man in front of "Kulup" is the son of that famous old ice-cream salesman Mehmet amca.

Nevin said...

As for reading Cumhuriyet and sipping coffee....

next time join me at Altin fici in the afternoons sitting with my old friend "Jay" from London, sipping Efes and/or reading Cumhuriyet and watching the islanders go by... Most of the time, the table starts out with 1 or 2 friends and an hour or so latter becomes 6 or 7.... Buyukada is that kind of a place.... everybody just joins your table... :)

Nevin said...

Really??? waw I didn't know that!
Thanks!

super hero said...

many people in istanbul (and perhaps in other turkish citicies too) to to churches and make wish even if they are moslems.

at one particular time when we were in buyukada, we visited the church. my wife who was only a good firend at the time was in the group too.

and my friends started to pray and make wishes. well now, i am not actually a very religious man. in fact, not at all, and that visit for me like a touristic visit. but you see, i said "what do i have to lose" and made a wish.

and it came true. i married her.

marianne said...

What a beautiful description of Buyukada. It took me back to this peaceful place whic I visited several years ago. Maybe it is time to go again,