Yesterday I went to one of the islands of Istanbul, Büyükada and I found something really interesting. On the top of a hill. Hiding behind some trees: A wooden building that is considered to be the second largest one of the world. So I did some research and to my surprise this building has a really impressive story. But let me start from the beginning:


It was constructed in 1898 by a French architect as a luxury hotel and casino with the name Prinkipo Palace. However, the sultan at that time didn’t like the plan and eventually did not give the permission to operate a casino and hotel there. So it was sold in 1903 and bought by the wife of a prominent Greek banker, Eleni Zarifi. She donated the house to the orthodox church which operated it as an orphanage for Greek children.

The house was built entirely using wooden materials and has 206 rooms, a large kitchen, a grand library, a primary school and various vocational schools.
15 people were employed in the orphanage and During the 60 years it catered to the needs of more than 5000 orphans.

In 1964 during the Cyprus issue, the orphanage was forcefully closed and since then it’s decaying and abandoned. There are some legal disputes regarding the building and a lot of money is involved, but the condition of the building is already really really bad and it is to be hoped that the reconstruction will start before it’s too late.


People say that there was a fire when the building served as an orphanage, And it is also told that some children burned during the fire. So there was a child that tried to escape and jumped into the well in the garden. In the searches that were made after the fire nobody was thinking about looking into the well and the child had no other choice than dying. Nowadays the people of the island are still telling ghost stories about this place and they even claim that they occasionally hear children scream from the orphanage at night.


It Is possible to visit the building from the outside but not permitted to get inside. However, getting there is quite easy when you are on the island anyway. As it’s located on a hill in the center of the island you can just walk there within 30 minutes from the harbour or take the bike or one of the horse carriages if you are really lazy. Once you’re there, there is a huge barb wire fence. It is not allowed to get inside of the building or the property as it’s falling apart and it’d be really dangerous. Anyway it’s already breathtaking to walk around the fence and look from the outside. I heard that it might be possible to get on the property by asking the people that actually live there and taking care of the building. But I haven’t tried it myself.

It’s a really mystical place and the view of these wooden houses is pretty impressive. It’s a shame that legal disputes and ownership fights are in the way of rebuilding this unique place. It is just to be hoped that there will be a solution before the house will be destroyed forever.