Face masks replace threads on wish trees on Istanbul island
It’s an ancient tradition that’s gotten a contemporary update, yet many are not happy: In these coronavirus times, visitors to the Azap (Torment) Slope by the Aya Yorgi Church on Büyükada have begun hanging face masks on trees, instead of the more traditional threads, to make a wish.
“Inevitably, our children come into contact [with the masks]. We saw it while coming; I wish it weren’t like this. We’re harming nature,” said Nuray Ekin, a visitor from the northwestern province of Sakarya.
Since pandemic restrictions ended, hundreds of people have been flocking every day to the Aya Yorgi Church on Yüce Hill, Büyükada’s highest point at 204 meters. Those who want to reach the church and the unique view climb the steep and challenging Azap Slope for minutes.
And though they are forbidden from doing so, people have long tied threads and pieces of cloth to the trees along in the belief that their wishes will come true if the threads hanging on the trees do not fall off until their next visit.
These days, however, the threads have given way to medical masks and wet wipes that threaten both the environment and human health.
“I saw that masks that are not very beneficial – or are even harmful to the environment – are being tied along this road and in many parts of the island,” said Murat Bozdemir, a visitor to the island, the largest of Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands.
“Since I am an environmentally friendly person, I didn’t like this,” he added.