Innes means ‘island’ in Gaelic. Perhaps it’s little wonder, then, that I find myself drawn to islands. I know of some people who feel trapped on an island, but I feel different. Like I have smuggled myself to a new reality. That’s even more true with Burgazada. Despite being within the jurisdiction of the Istanbul megacity in which we live, it’s something of a strange wrinkle in time and space. Plonked in the Marmara between Kınalıada and Heybeliada, Burgaz is nowhere nearly as touristic as its big brother, Büyükada. With no traffic noise other than the clop of hoofs and the clang of the coachman’s bells, the occasional whirr of electric scooters that the locals sometimes use, Burgaz is well removed from the city’s infernal traffic chaos. It’s quite amazing what removing automobiles does for stress levels.
Mornings are a real boon. An uphill walk from the harbour side of the island, dawn light warm on your back, lungs filling with a cool draught of pine-scrubbed air, western vistas tugging the mind towards the kind of calm with which it’s good to begin every day. You’ll meet few people early in the morning. A nod here. A softly uttered greeting elsewhere. There is space. Ocasionally you might encounter an untethered horse nosing around in the grass and weeds roadside. The watchful gaze of a crow. You’re not exactly alone, just temporarily untroubled. Back down in the harbour, an early morning coffee at Burgaz Cafe, or a tea at the patisserie, watching a handful of people hasten to the ferry or seabus is a gentle reminder to you that the fuming city is still there, and how fortunate you are that you don’t have to hustle, at least for today.
In fact, with the exception of Sedefadası, Burgaz must be the most overlooked of the Islands. Therein lies its charm. There is just enough to make this a functioning Island, but no more. There are no chain stores. No big brands visible. A couple of good local tavernas, one solid coffee shop and roastery, Four Letter Word. Faintly, in the distance, looms a large sky and the shadowy tones of newly erected skyscrapers on the Anatolian side, the memory of a city still traumatised by the summer’s events. You can forget you’re in Istanbul for a while. Something most, if not all of us, have needed for a while.
For the smaller ones among us, there are many simple delights. Swimming at the local beach club. The occasional ice cream. New friends made poolside. A tour around the island on a horse drawn carriage. Screen time diminished. Outdoor fun augmented. The echoes of old school summer bliss still seem to resonate here among the youth. I can only imagine and envy the euphoric days spent here by friends in previous decades when school let out and their families empty their city houses and decamp, refrigerators and all, to Burgaz for the span of a summer.
Of course not every day is perfect. There’s a heaviness on the last day. Waiting to cram oneself on the ferry and sail off back to reality, you wonder when, or if, you will return to the same place. Will it remain as untouched and charmed as it is? A place that seems serenely outside the current circumstances that surround us? You hope so. Long live Burgazada.