Finding Bliss in Büyükada

 

In Istanbul, the symphony is always playing. The honks of car horns, screeches from worn out break pads, shouts from shopkeepers desperate to sell their goods, all make for a city soundtrack that is on constant ‘replay.’ It’s a lively and energetic urban beat, but sometimes you need to hit the ‘pause’ button.

For a quick escape from the city, I decided to spend the whopping 4 Turkish Lira ($1.34 US) and take the ferry to the Princes’ Islands. As soon as the ferry engines get roaring, the sounds of Istanbul fade and all city living induced stress instantly evaporates.

The hour-long ride to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands, is a big part of this journey to decompress. First off, you get spectacular views of the city you need a break from. As hectic as it is when you’re in the center of this sprawling metropolis, seeing Istanbul from the water in all it’s glory truly is amazing. Then as you get further along the ten-mile route, you start to see individual hills just peak out of the Black Sea. Seeing these small islands is a sign you’ve almost reached Büyükada.

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The megacity Istanbul shrinks as you head out to the Princes’ Islands.

 

Once the ferry docked and I walked passed the Ottoman style boat dock, I grabbed a coffee and rented a bike. I decided for this day trip, there was no need for a map. First off Büyükada may be the largest island in the chain, but it is still too small to get lost. Second and more importantly, exploring with no agenda truly allows the mind to soak in the new sights and splendor of Büyükada. In other words, I gave myself total permission to at least temporally leave all problems on the mainland behind.

Within minutes of peddling away from the main square, I whizzed passed the summer homes of Istanbul’s rich and elite. Turks who can afford to do so, love to spend summers on Büyükada and the surrounding islands. These homes, only used a few months out of the year, are grand architectural gems. But still, they cannot compete with the natural beauty of the island.

Luckily many of the roads on Büyükada are shaded by towering pine trees. The relief from the sun was welcomed, since much of this bike ride was uphill. Also no cars are allowed on the island. I only had to dodge and weave around other bike riders, pedestrians and horse drawn carriages.

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While taking a break from hauling tourists, a horse gets a cooling splash of water.

 

An hour into pushing the pedals, I found it. I found total bliss.

I was all alone on top of a hill, not another soul in sight, staring out into the seemingly endless Black Sea. The water, the wind and my mind were all calm. The only thing in my view other then the perfectly blue sky and the perfectly blue water, was an equally perfect rigid and rocky coast. Mother Nature, and life itself, never looked more beautiful.

This view truly is the handsome reward for a physically challenging bike ride.

 

It is these moments when we hit the ‘pause’ button when we allow gratitude, joy and happiness to all rush in. It’s why we all love to travel because it’s a pause from our daily routine.

But I realized in Büyükada that there is no need to travel to Büyükada to simply hit the pause button and quite my mind. It can be done anywhere, at anytime. All you have to do is stop, focus on the beauty and blessings around you and just soak it in and savor it. I now vow to do this daily, no matter my setting.

So my mission today is a quick walk up to Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue. It is the loudest, most crazy and chaotic street in this behemoth city of 14 million. All I’m going to do once there, is pause.

About Kevin Ozebek

Kevin Ozebek is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Greece. Previously he has reported from Turkey for TIME, FOX News, Canada's CBC News and Ireland's RTE News.

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