Late afternoon. The sun beginning to descend and properly fortified by the gifted cooks at Club Mavi, it was time to move. Bicycling to the station midpoint of the Island, I locked up my rental bought myself a couple of cold bottles of water and proceeded to climb the hill on foot. Though some people ignore the postings, you can take your feet or hire a donkey to take you to Aya Yorgi (Saint George). This is where it gets a bit touristy again, but to be honest, the ascent is well worth it, whether you want to send a request to the director of the universe, or simply take in another impressive, but perfectly secular, view.
After visiting the church it was time for a refreshment with a bit more of an edge to it than that provided by spring water. I opted for a cold white, which wasn’t amazing, but sufficient for toasting the view. This is my favorite spot for an evening drink. Looking to the west and the falling sun, the Marmara seems to dissolve into a horizon worthy of eternal paradise. You can see why the Byzantines placed a church at the crest of this hill. It’s a heavenly location. I’d love show you more of the church interior, but photography is prohibited, like shorts and short skirts, cell phones and other loud noise. You’ll just have to go quietly and see it for yourself. The church is site where prayers are supposed to be answered, provided you climb the hill in silent contemplation, so if you believe in that sort of thing, remember to obey the rules, lest your wishes be denied —not that I’m superstitious or anything. Though the church was busy with the hopeful, there were plenty of free tables at the cafe.
After a glass or two, it was time to descend the hill and reclaim my bike before the heat and the drink made be too wobbly to stay in the saddle and return the rental. Fortunately the way back to the port and the rental shop was mostly downhill, so it wasn’t much of a slog, though I did pause now and then to admire some of the houses again. I was pleasantly surprised to find the area around the iskele (port) pretty empty. Most of the day-trippers had headed home for a Thursday evening somewhere else.
The iskele building is a fantastic looking place. It’s a shame they couldn’t license the cafe part to someone with slightly more imagination, or if not, at least a meyhane. This would be a prime location for evening dinners looking back at the distant city. Regardless, it’s not for me to get involved in municipal politics.
Still, when it came time for the evening meal, there was no lack of choice. Each of the seaside meyhanes I passed had no more than a few full tables. There were plenty of offers of ‘fresh fish, yes, please?’ But I wanted sardalya (sardines) hot off the grill though, and thought I might be out of luck until I reached the very last meyhane at the end of the long row of restaurants that had some in fresh from Gallipoli.
This time of year my favorite way to start a meal in a meyhane is with the holy trinity of Turkish tastes—white cheese, melon and rakı. The combination of the three flavors is both exquisite and terrifically cooling. The good thing for me about rakı is that I’ve also developed the knowledge to stop at one. Beer or wine are too easy to quaff in the summer heat. Rakı requires more respect. perhaps that’s why the Turk called it lion’s milk.
Pleasantly sated, but not sozzled, it was time to return to the ferry port and catch a vapur back to Kabataş. My day on the island was complete, and while I’d had my fill of great food and drink, I certainly haven’t had my fill of Istanbul’s closest place to paradise. I’ll be back soon, camera-in-hand, to explore deeper.
This post was preceded by Büyükada Day