Büyükada was my last day in Istanbul. I went spur of the moment that morning (early afternoon, if I remember correctly, we had all been up until 4am the night before for no good reason) with two of the guys I had met at the hostel. It was, quite possibly, a perfect last day. Istanbul, at nearly 15 million people, was starting to feel crowded.
We caught a ferry from Kabataş in the early afternoon, having stayed up till 4 am for no discernible reason other than to talk and, on my part, get re-taught tavla (backgammon). The ferry ride, however, was gorgeous and just long enough for our conversation to cover Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Firefly. Finding people just as nerdy as myself, possibly more than, was surreal, but I feel very lucky to have meshed so well with both of them.
Büyükada is a dream if you are a fan of hiking, horses, and/or old, period-piece, semi-haunted looking architecture. The roads twisted back and forth and we tended to take turns pointing out which houses we liked, with all of us agreeing an a quite abandoned, but gorgeous stone mansion built out of what looked like pale orange limestone. As it was part of Turkey, there were cats and dogs everywhere, but hardly any cars and quite a lot of bicycles and horse drawn carts. We made particular friends with a large, fluffy cat who purred when we petted her, and whose kittens hissed adorably at the large humans who had interrupted their nap. There were dogs as well, one of whom led us through the rolling, foresty hills, past couples of horses and a large, definitely haunted looking and abandoned hotel (we named him Daahg for Brad Pits dialect in “Snatch”).
As we weren’t overtly concerned with doing anything else with our day or getting back to Istanbul before dark, we took a couple hours to climb and explore the largest hill, on top of which is a 6th century church, though we were climbing more for the view it promised. It was long, steep, and unevenly cobble stoned, but the view was just as good, if not better than we had expected. The night previous had been foggy like I had never seen Istanbul before, and there was still a smoggy smudge of cloud on the horizon, making the water and sky seem to be more the same thing than two meeting entities. There were sand colored rocks we climbed over to get better views and found a thousand nights worth of beer bottle caps and cigarette butts in the pine trees between them.
Climbing down was faster and we took a different road back to the main town with the ferry boat, following the infallible logic I learned when studying abroad there of “well, if we know the ferry is lower than the hill, and we just keep going sort of vaguely downward, we should reach it, right?” It sounds like a joke but it has never not worked, and it worked this time as well. The sun was just setting when we got on the ferry, and managed to find seats inside, not wanting to be out in the wind that had gotten very cold.
They had found a place a few blocks from our hostel that had chicken durums for 3 lira. I had my backpack with me, planning on going to the bus station immediately afterwards to catch a 9pm bus to Bergama to see the Pergamum acropolis. They were leaving in few days to explore Cappadocia. I like to think this happens often on the road, that you meet people whom you feel you really connect with, and are doing really cool things, so you get to hang out and become friends for a couple days. It’s like a breather in the stream of strangers you meet, and even if strangers can be pretty nice sometimes, I think it’s humanizing and character-building in the best way to make friends on the road. We parted ways the way I like to think everyone parts on the road: by promising that if you’re ever in each other’s neck of the woods, they can stay the night, the weekend, the week, or, really, what’s a month between friends?