Islands, Horses and Dogs



So there was a Chinese/Swiss, and Arab and a Turk on this boat. No, it’s not a dubiously racist joke, but the scene on board the ferry coming back from the Princes’ Islands – a collection of beautiful outcrops off the coast of Istanbul.

“Beautiful unless you live here in the summer”, says the woman o half Chinese, but comes from Switzerland – yet lives here. I guess she’s got a point, The population of Buyukada (Big Island) increases from around 4,000 to about 20,000 during the height of the tourist season. But you can see why. even with today’s overcast, cold weather, it’s a lovely view.

The Princes' Islands - Istanbul

Buyukada is the last of four islands the ferry stops off at. And it’s another fantastic bit of value for money – just 3.75 Lira each way. The downside is that you can’t hop on and off as you please.

Arrival seems to be a big event for everyone, not least the dozens of cats and dogs that crowd around the gangway, giving passengers the kind of hungry eyes that only animals can. At island number two they’re in a luck. A man gets off briefly and scatters dry food on the dock. The six cats beat the two dogs for the lion’s share. (See what I did there?)

I'm not after food, honestly, I'm definitely not

Apart from the now familiar local businessmen queuing up to offer their “best price” for almost anything you’d like, there’s a real difference in the air. the sound of honking taxi horns, screeching trams and general mechanical mayhem is taken over by the smell of manure. This is Buyukada’s taxi rank.

That's two lira on the meter and some lovely feed for your roses

It’s either a horse or a hire bike. I opt for a coffee and ice cream on the front. Much less stressful. And although vehicles are generally banned from the Island, there are a few diggers and small lorries about as improvement works take place on the waterfront and a couple of nearby hotels.

“Buyukada is Greek,” says the Chinese woman – “One of the other islands is Arminian and another is Jewish”.

“I am from Dubai,” says the young Arab man. “But I love Champions League. Tonight I want to see Manchester and Chelsea but my wife thinks not.” His wife laughs generously and tells him he can go to the pub.

Which is exactly where I end up on my final night in Turkey. At the North Shield bar watching the match. I’m become a British tourist again. But not for long.

“Notts County – they’re a great team. And they had Sven managing them?”

Paul is from Washington DC, but his father is Chilean. It makes for a brash and friendly combination of character. He loves football, women and the BBC. I won’t say in which order. Talking of being reminded of home, I saw this sign as well

Mi Duck Mosque is just round the corner


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