Thursday, June 14, 2012

Turkey Day 5: Ayvalik, Cunda and Swimming in the Aegean

The lack of sleep is building up. Others in our party sleep on the bus. I slave away writing blogs.

I last left you, if memory serves (and I am dubious about the quality of its service), on the bus to Ayvalik. Ayvalik is a lovely little town with fishing boats and cobbled alleyways crisscrossing the hill, and not so full of foreign tourists. Our hotel is in a beautiful former French embassy, with a courtyard in which we eat breakfast (by far the best breakfast so far, with spiced eggs and lime jelly mousse slice and filo-feta rolls), shutters, marble steps and painted ceilings. There's also a little alcove full of Turkish cushions where we spent a lot of time.

We walked along the waterfront and chose the boat we wanted to take out the next day, and then took Turkish taxi-buses (dolmus) to Cunda Island (pron. Junda) for dinner. Cunda has lots of restaurants all along the wharf, and we sat under a shade with the sea lapping away just feet from us. Dinner started with mezze: tsatsiki, red chopped-up stuff that was really good, eggplant, salad and bread. Then the fish came out completely whole and the waiter skilfully removed the bones right at the table. The sun set and the stars came out. A few cats wound round legs. Comments were made about this being an eating holiday - we've had a lot of very good food so far.

There was a tea/shisha house down the road, walls open to the elements and benches and cushions laid out. Locals sat and played cards or backgammon or smoked shisha, and we sat cross-legged in a square enclosure and drank tea and bira until the imam in the nearby mosque began the call to prayer at 11 o'clock. On the dolmus ride back to Ayvalik I sat in the boot on a little bench with Glamgirl, the Aqueduchess and Pistachio girl and arrived at the hotel with all bones intact.

There was a bit of free time the next morning so Kiwi Glamgirl and I explored the streets, climbing all the way to the top of the town's hill and their huge flagpole. There are stray cats and dogs everywhere in Turkey, and Ayvalik is no exception. At every corner was another photo opportunity: a beautiful house half in ruins, a young cat posing prettily by a door, the view down the cobbled alleyway to the sea. Ayvalik had a large Greek population that had to leave in the twenties because of a population swap, hence the ruined buildings. We'd stood staring at the view from the top for quite a while and I kept hearing clopping noises, which I didn't think that much of until Glamgirl noticed the horse in the dry-stone building below us. A bit further down the hill we found some goats in a house and a few more dogs happily wandering the streets.

At half past eleven we met everyone at the wharf and boarded 'Bambi', a wide wooden boat with benches and tables below and a deck above. The prow had a sort of plank extension where you could recreate Leonardo Dicaprio's King of the World moment, so we did that. Multiple times. You do actually feel like you're flying, if you can't see the boat below you and the sea is disappearing behind.

Bambi anchored in a small cove with incredibly clear water with a few other boats. This seems to be a popular thing to do for Turkish tourists, though we were the only foreign tourists, and the semi-locals jumped off the top deck into the crystal water. The sea was quite salty and buoyant, though not as warm as I'd expected. This first bay had warm and cold spots, and we spent much of our time finding the warm spots, or standing in the island's beach and spotting little striped fish. I jumped off the top deck, counting in bir, iki, uç (1, 2, 3), and feeling my stomach drop away as the sea rushed up.

When we emerged form the water, lunch was being served: salad, bread and freshly-fried sardines. The only sardines I've experienced were the horrible canned sort, but these were really good. I wasn't sure about swimming after eating, but when we got to the next cove the water was too inviting. You really needed a waterproof camera to capture the beautiful blue sky, the boat serene in the water, the islands with ruined churches atop them and the dark shadows of Greek mountains to the west. At one point Glamgirl got a text welcoming her to Greece and advising her of the roaming charges.

The next stop had much colder water and we didn't stay as long, and though I meant to get in at the stop after that, an icecream boat appeared and I had to get icecream in half a melon. The icecream was interesting and sort of stretchy, but amazing in the sun on a boat among Turkish islands.

Some of the other boats had slides, and one looked like a pirate ship. We advised our guide that, next time, we'd like a slide please. It was a lot of fun jumping off the deck, though, and we had a good time dancing to Turkish music.

Dinner back in Ayvalik was tost, a sort of toasted panini with meat, cheese, pickles and capsicum. There was a beautiful little cat sitting right by my feet with the most upright posture and open, hopeful face (I know I don't deserve anything, but I'm a good little cat, really I am, and very polite too), and quite a bit of my meat was given to the cat. The cat received it with its paws, ate it, and looked hopefully for the next bit. It gave Puss and Boots a run for his money with its sad face, too.

On the way back to the hotel we passed a cake shop and were lured in by the baklava, which was much cheaper than in Istanbul: three pieces for two lira, or the equivalent of about 60p. There was also an amazing chocolate pudding that tasted like chocolate mud cake batter and had profiteroles buried in it and pistachios on top.

The landscape is so much like New Zealand with its hills and sea. So far today I've struggled out of bed and managed to catch the bus which was moving away as we ran towards it, and I think now we've reached our destination. See you at the next wifi hotspot...

Edited to add: Oh! I forgot to mention the electrical fire on the boat! And the girl who had five changes of bikini for the boat ride, and managed to wear them all. There, I've mentioned them now.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds wonderful! both food and places...
    Only epicurean adventure here lately involved a roulette pizza (where the shop squirts hot sauce on a random slice and you can't tell from looking, which slice). Since Ecl likes the occasional chilli, I thought he'd appreciate it. Even though the box came with a large label advising this was the hottest chilli known to man, and disclaiming all legal responsibility for any medical misadventures caused by the pizza, I was still surprised by the reaction. Ecl was horrified that I was trying such an obvious way to kill him, and I had to promise never ever to buy roulette pizza again. Eventually he was hungry enough to attempt a slice, which of course turned out to be the chilli-ed up one. At first he thought it wasn't too bad, but the heat built up quickly and he'd soon drunk all the milk in the house to try to quench the fire. So much milk filled him up enough that he didn't need to eat much more at all lol...


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