Guide to SKOPJE

Princes’ Islands – A realm of natural beauty and historical heritage


Istanbul – home to a variety of people with surroundings composed of different images, a city that lives and breathes with its 20 million inhabitants. The only city in the world that stands on two continents, a city that lets the senses overflow, a city that never sleeps with streets filled with cheerful and smiling people, variety of colors and scents, an ideal blend of culture and religion. For those who want to escape from the city’s traffic jams we recommend a daily trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations – islands for the punished Turkish princes. Prince Adalari, better known as Kizil Adalar (Red Island) or just Adalar as officially named.

During the Byzantine period, princes and other members of the royal families were exiled on these islands, and later family members of the Ottoman sultan were exiled there, too. Princes Islands are a chain of nine islands in the Sea of ​​Marmara, about 20 km off the Asian coast of Istanbul.

The largest and most attractive is the island of Buyukada (Big Island). It is situated between two hills, with a monastery standing on both of them. One is St. George’s monastery with a church dating back to the sixth century.

If you do a small tour of the island with a horse-carriage you can easily climb to a small church, where there is also a bar that serves wine and snacks. The other one is the Monastery of Christ with breathtaking gardens decorated with ornamental shrubs, olive trees and ivy.

Heybeliada is the second largest island. It is also called Copper island because of the mines of copper ore, which gives specific reddish color of the soil. When you get off the ferry a great naval cadet school rises on the left. In the underworld of this attractive building there are two significant architectural works. The first is Kamariotissa, the only remaining Byzantine church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and more importantly, the last church built before the conquest of Constantinople. The second is the grave of the second English ambassador, Edward Burton, who was sent to Constantinople by Elizabeth I, but chose to live on the island in order to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Burgazada meaning “island fortress” is the third largest island. There’s only one hill, surrounded by a dense pine forest, on top of which rises the fortress built by Demetrius I of Macedon one of the successors of Alexander the Great, who named it after his father Antigonus I One-Eyed. As the island’s inhabitants were predominantly Greek, there are many preserved Orthodox churches from that time.

The author Sait Faik Abasiyanik drew inspiration from this island. Now, his residence is a museum, and his favorite restaurant displays a statue of him enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Kinaliada is the closest island to Istanbul and because of that it was mostly used as a place of exile in Byzantine times (the most famous exile from that time of the former emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, after the Battle of Manzikert, 1071).

Sedef Adası or Pearl Island is one of the smallest islands of the archipelago and has 108 private houses. A part of the island open to the public largely consists of Hamlet beach. The pine forests were mostly planted by its owner Şehsuvar Menemencioğlu, who bought the island in 1956, and also played an important role in imposing strict rules for construction work, so as to protect nature and the environment. According to construction regulations, it is not allowed to build houses with more than two floors.

Yassiada (Flat Island) in Byzantine times was usually used for sending prominent people into exile. One of them is the Armenian Patriarch (Catholicos) Narses who was first sent to the island. In the eleventh century AD the island was used by the Byzantines for detention of political prisoners. The remains of four underground prison cells from this period can still be seen. The Byzantines built a monastery and a church on the island.

In 1857 the island was purchased by the British Ambassador Henry Bulwer, brother of the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who built a house and a small castle which exist to this day. With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the island became property of the Turkish state, and in 1947 Yassiada was handed over to the Turkish Navy and several buildings were built for educational purposes. In 1993 the island became property of the University of Istanbul.

The other three islands (Sivriada, Oxeia and Kaşık Island) are abandoned so nobody lives there.

In the 19th century the islands, which are the quietest part of Istanbul, turned into rich people’s holiday resorts. In this paradise on Earth, motor vehicles are banned, so most visitors explore the islands on foot or by bikes that can be rented at many places. The islands offer everything that tourists need: private villas, houses for rent, hotel rooms, day and night bars, attractive places to go for a walk. Rich in foliage and cut off from the outside world, the Princes Islands offer an exotic vacation in an environment that combines modern amenities with historical heritage.

And so, my Istanbul story is coming to an end. I leave it to you to feel and tell it in your own way. Until then, you can enjoy my photographs.

Kristina Angeleska