Wilco van Herpen
Hürriyet Daily News
‘Bozcaada appeared in the distance and got bigger and bigger. For such an apparently small island I was initially struck by its size. The funny thing is that once you are on the island it seems small again’
Photo by Wilco van Herpen
As a boy, while watching films the sea planes always impressed me. They looked much more adventurous than the ordinary planes that take off from the tarmac. This week, my childhood dream finally came true and I flew in such a plane.
Years ago, flying to places like Mardin, Gaziantep or Çanakkale was difficult. If you were lucky one or two planes per week would fly to one of those destinations, and there was not a single plane that would fly to places like Ayvalık or Bozcaada. However, a company started this year that has filled in this blank and now several times a week a seaplane takes off from the Haliç (Golden Horn) for destinations such as Ayvalık, Bodrum and Bozcaada.
The driver who was supposed to bring me to the place where the plane was set to take off left me near the Kadir Has University campus. I crossed the street, walked toward the Golden Horn and looked around. There was no sign whatsoever that told me that this would be the place where the plane would take off. I asked a fisherman repairing his nets whether he knew where the place was and he told me it was near the old Galata Bridge. I looked in the direction he pointed to and was shocked - the bridge was about three kilometers away. I cursed the driver, why did he not bring me to the exact place? As there was nothing else to do I started walking along the Golden Horn and with every step I became happier. It had been such a long time since I last walked here and I suddenly became aware of the differences between now and then. The water seemed to be much cleaner - that was my first observation and it was one that made me very happy. I wondered: Would it soon be possible for people to swim in the Golden Horn again without the risk of becoming sick?
The other side of Golden Horn
Photo by Wilco van Herpen
I looked at the other side of the Golden Horn and saw the old shipyards. I was thinking about a project to make the area of the Golden Horn a more attractive area for tourists. I think a kind of copy of the Waterfront in Cape Town should be established on the Golden Horn. In 1993 I stayed in Cape Town for one year and saw the Waterfront created from scratch. It was a nice combination of a shipyard and a lot of bars, restaurants and some museums. The project became a great success and I think it would be very nice if we were to do something like that here in Istanbul - a recreation place in combination with a working place.
When I got to the place where the plane was supposed to take off I was welcomed by one of the crewmembers. “The plane will arrive in half an hour,” he told me, so I sat down and looked around a bit. Suddenly I heard the sound of a plane. Excited, I looked up and saw a small dot in the sky that rapidly got bigger and bigger. The dot became a plane and it flew over the bridge on the Golden Horn, approaching the water like a swan that wants to land. The plane landing on the water was elegant, and once it touched the water it left a big white foamy trail behind it and quickly lost speed. Then, like a normal boat, it sailed to its anchor place.
I boarded the plane. The captain started the engines and with an overwhelming sound we started taxiing to the open water. Then the pilot put his foot on the gas and we went faster and faster, and the windows got covered with water drops. As suddenly as this started, it stopped. I looked outside and saw the Galata Bridge and the Galata Tower, before we made a sharp turn to the right. Then it was there: to the left Topkapı Palace, to the right Hagia Sophia. I did not have enough time to see or enjoy everything because we went faster and faster and soon enough there they were: Haydarpaşa Train Station, Kadıköy, the Princes’ Islands…
Taking off was cool, now the boring part would start, it was still one hour before we would arrive in Bozcaada. The sound of the motor was making me almost deaf and I looked around to see if there were any earplugs. Fortunately, the crew had placed earplugs in every little pocket in front of the chairs, so I put them in my ears and relaxed. I took a magazine and read a bit, looking out through the window every now and then. Once we flew over the Kaz Mountains some turbulence started and the plane jumped around. In the background I could see the Bosphorus, but this time it was the Bosphorus near Çannakale, and then… Pleasant surprises
Bozcaada appeared in the distance and got bigger and bigger. For such an apparently small island I was initially struck by its size. The funny thing is that once you are on the island it seems small again. There are only two big roads, so getting lost is almost impossible, but from the sky it looked big. We made a tour over the island and I could see the highest top of the island in the island’s center. It had taken me just over an hour to arrive at Bozcaada. If I had gone by car it would have taken at least six hours, but this time all together it only took me two hours to arrive at the island. After five years away I finally set foot on the island again. I had missed this cute little island and was wondering how it was going to surprise me this time. One thing is for sure: Bozcaada may be small, but it always has some pleasant surprises for visitors.