Turkey: Istanbul – Heybeliada and Asia

Motor vehicles shunned on the islandMorning and Mark is feeling less miserable, still some symptoms but feeling good enough for a bit of an adventure. We broke off as a small group and took off across the Marmara Sea on a ferry to the Prince’s Island of Heybeliada. These islands where motorized vehicles are shunned and transport is by horse and donkey drawn carriages. This was also the place where I first encountered the traditional Turkish toilet which amounts to a hole on the ground over which you squat and is well advised to have tissues with you as they don’t usually have toilet paper in them.

We really had no plan coming to the island and once we solved the problem of finding a map at a bike rental place, we decided on renting bicycles for the day and circumnavigating the island. It was a particularly mountainous place, it seemed more than half the time we were walking our bikes up the steep hills. Although the downhill bits sure were refreshing. The map also turned out to be misleading and we ended up doing a bit of off roading to make it to the small protected sandy beach. The water was clear and warm and full of small jellyfish. I just needed a little more time to buff my feet in the sand.

Pine tree of Heybeliada IslandThe entire island is covered with the same species of pine tree and while peddling around I started noticing Lindgren funnel traps hanging in the trees. I shouted out to the others ahead of me, “Hey! Entomology is being done here!” I’m sure with a mono culture pine island there would be great concern for and need to monitor native and invasive bark beetle populations.

Taking a break on the hillLunch included a smattering of mezes, small shared plates of roasted eggplant, yogurt salad, sea bass in lemon and bread. Other than breakfast, we haven’t had a repeat of menu items at meals yet. All the food has been wonderful. I’ve also become a huge fan of Vişne Suyu, it’s sour cherry juice that is tart like cranberry. Discussions on how to market and import this juice unanimously agreed that anything with the word “Sour” in it would not sell well. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff while there. Breakfasts involved Vişne Receli, sour cherry jam which was awesome on breads and even better over the feta, it made the feta rather like having cottage cheese with fruit. It’s on my list of what to buy before heading home.

Today I added a new continent to my places I’ve been list. After the island visit, we met up on the Asian Side of Instanbul with everyone else where we walked through the area where our friend grew up and hung out. Along the long avenue of shops and restaurants we stopped for ice cream, it was only our first dessert for the day, but for everyone else, apparently this was their third. I ordered the Kesme which is a type of ice cream that has such a texture you eat it with a knife and fork. Three slabs on my plate, chocolate, vanilla and pistachio served with a variety of sauces and more pistachios. I missed out on the sahlep that was on the menu which I had read about and was definitely intrigued. But it’s a warm beverage usually only served in winter made from orchid roots. I’ve read it’s milky and sort of like hot chocolate but not chocolaty and often served with cinnamon.

Deb pushing the bike uphill