Exploring Beyond Istanbul
Istanbul, the only place in the world where East really does meet West offers endless delights for every traveller to explore. As one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations it provides a host of cultural and recreational activities both within the metropolis itself as well as the surrounding area. If you are holidaying in Istanbul, then it is worth getting out of the city and exploring the delights of the neighbouring areas.
The Black Sea Coast
When the city heat gets too much it’s worth heading out of the urban jungle to relax and unwind on the Black Sea coast. One place to head for is the village of Kilyos, half an hour’s drive from the city by car or dolmus. This beautiful village bordering the Black Sea is a beach lover’s paradise with over 10 well kept private and public beaches. Nature lovers should take the hour’s drive to the Living Tree Museum known as the Ataturk Arboretum near Bahcekoy close to the Black Sea coast. Ataturk’s Arboretum lies in an old oak forest where there are many varieties of trees, which provide a rainbow of colours throughout spring, summer and autumn. The park also has a duck pond and wooden observation tower where you can observe the local wildlife and look out over the vast forestland and the magnificent Bosporus.
The Asian Side
Anadolu Kavagi often known as Kavak on the Asian side of the Bosporus city can be reached via a scenic drive through the winding forest road or by ferry from Eminonu. It is really worth seeing, the climb to the ancient citadel of Yoros, which dominates the hillside offers spectacular views of the Istanbul skyline, the Bosporus and the Black Sea. The village of Polonezkoy 20 km away from Istanbul was founded by 19th century Polish immigrants. It’s historic and cultural differences provide interest for those interested in European heritage. The Memorial House of Zofia Rizi is home to old souvenirs, photos, books and documents, as well as being architecturally significant. The Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa is also very beautiful ad there are some interesting graves to see in the Polish Cemetery. The coastal town of Sile an hour’s drive out of the city is also worth taking in. The town is famed for its fish and special cotton material known as Sile Bezi. Many of Istanbul’s richer residents have summer homes here and during the summer many holidaymakers choose this destination rather than travel further to the Med or Aegean. Sile consists of a small, sandy beach, a small fishing harbour and a dense forest enveloping the town. There are several bars and restaurants on the shoreline, a small park and a lighthouse. This is not a place for swimming as the undercurrents in the sea are extremely dangerous.
The group of islands on the Anatolian side of the city are well worth exploring. They are known as the Princes’ Islands because many Turkish royalty were exiled here over the centuries. Traffic is forbidden on the islands bar bicycles and horse and carts of which there are many. The beauty here is incredible and each island has something unique to offer. The largest island is Büyükada and it is home to several historical buildings including the 6th century Ayia Yorgi Church and Monastery, the Ayios Dimitrios Church, and the Hamidiye Mosque. The island landscape is dominated by two hilly peaks and on top of one of them is a huge wooden, former Greek Orphanage. The church and monastery of Ayios Nikolaos nestle in the valley between the two hills. The second largest island, Heybeliada is home to a large Naval Cadet School, which is located near to the ferry in its own impressive grounds. The grounds house the Byzantine church known as Kamariotissa, which was the last church to be built before the conquest of Constantinople and the grave of the second English Ambassador to be sent to Constantinople by Elizabeth I. The island is full of impressive wooden architecture, plenty of café’s and bars and an 11th century Greek Orthodox monastery. Burgazada Island is home to an ancient Macedonian fort and a museum to the famous writer Sait Faik Abasiyanik. His favourite restaurant, in Kalpazankaya (the counterfeiter's rock) there is a bronze statue of him enjoying the view with a real glass of raki, which the owners top up every day. Kinaliada or Henna Island was used as a place of exile during Byzantine times. It is one of the least forested islands, and the land has a reddish colour from the iron and copper that has been mined here. Sedef Island or Mother-of-Pearl Island is one of the smallest islands and is actually owned by Şehsuvar Menemencioğlu, who purchased the island in 1956 and also played an important role in the imposition of a strict building code to make sure that the island's nature and environment will be protected. You can still visit it and see the 108 private homes. Yassiada comprises of the remains of four underground prison cells from the Byzantine era when this island was also used for exiles. Another noteworthy site is the mansion of former British ambassador and previous owner of the island, Henry Bulwer. This island is a popular location for scuba diving. The island of Sivriada is deserted although it was once used by the governor of Istanbul to provide a home for the city’s stray dogs. The plan, which was carried out in 1911 soon backfired when a severe earthquake occurred and was perceived as "a punishment by God for abandoning the dogs" and they were transported back to the city.