Subtitle: The Cats of Ayvalik
Continuing down south along the Aegean coast, I made my way by Ayvalik, a relatively small and quiet fishing town, only an hour and half by bus from Cannakale. The bus dropped me off at the nearby bus depot just a few kilometres out-of-town. The driver told me to ‘wait’ as the bus pulled away. I wasn’t clear what I was waiting for, nor for how long, but I just hoped for the best. After another 30 minutes of sitting there on my own, another 2 buses pulled up and dropped off a handful of passengers. Then I understood what was going on – they were waiting for these other buses before running a shuttle into Ayvalik town. Again, the inability to communicate was frustrating – all they could tell me was to wait. But if there is one thing I’ve learned while travelling over the last few years, there is no point in stressing as it all works out. There is always someone around who will help look after you, and so far, I haven’t been abandoned anywhere.
The waterfront in Ayvalik was bustling with waterside restaurants and large dive boats were getting prepared for the summer onslaught. But for now, there were relatively few tourists other than Turkish holiday makers around. There wasn’t a lot to see and do in terms of historical sites – it was just the perfect place to relax for a few days.
What I loved about Ayvalik is that 30m back from the main road, it was like taking a step back in time. An old but charmingly quaint Aegean village in all its elegant decrepit glory was just waiting to be explored.
I had organised to stay at a small family run pension (B&B) run by the ever-so friendly Cicek and her father. My room was small and basic but the highlight was enjoying a leisurely sumptuous Turkish breakfast in the sunny green courtyard.
The spring mornings were crisp, but as long as I bundled up and scored a spot in the sun, it was all wonderful. And I got to catch up with some other independent travellers who were also staying there – some Americans, Turkish and a girl from Korea.
I really can’t say that I did anything particularly newsworthy here. It was just a few days of mindlessly wandering the streets of the Ayvalik village and enjoying endless tea and coffees on the waterfront. But I did to try be a bit arty-farty and took a zillion photos of doorways, alleys, courtyards and old houses oozing with charm and decrepitude. And cats. I’ll come to those soon.
It’s a cat’s life
It wasn’t until reviewing my photos that I realised just how many cats featured! There were a lot of cats in Ayvalik. All strays, but cared for and fed by the wider community. I can’t help but think that there was a ploy by the town to plant cats in all the photogenic locations.
A cat’s buffet lunch.
There’s plenty more cat photos in the slideshow below. And here’s one for the dogs.
I discovered an awesome little cafe, Caramel Cafe, down an alleyway, Yasmin, the owner was so lovely, and first off, brought me a big glass of her freshly made lemonade. Nice!
Whilst I enjoyed the lemonade, it was the lunch that she made that was out of this world. It’s Turkish dish that I hadn’t tried before – manti. It has small pieces of ravioli in a yoghurt sauce made with garlic, paprika, drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with dried mint. So simple – but absolutely devine.
It’s a celebration
On Saturday morning I could hear what sounded like canon blasts. Cicek’s father, from the B&B, explained that there was a ceremony in town. I never did find out exactly what it was for, but there was a few speeches, a bunch of bored-looking dignitary-looking men, and performing school kids dressed in Turkish costume. It was near impossible to get a good spot to take some photos without being elbowed out of the way of proud, doting parents!
These dignitaries didn’t look overly impressed. I watched a guy further along get told off by his superior during the performance – I think he had dozed off! I thought the dancing was worth watching!
I wasn’t the only one taking time out in Ayvalik. Sitting around with a cup of tea seems to be the favourite past time of most of the men of the village. Well, actually, everywhere else in Turkey, too, to be fair. I just grabbed photos this time.
I didn’t find any women’s coffee groups, but I did catch a glimpse of this woman poking her head out the window. I did a sneaky paparazzi zoom shot from around the corner. I think she knew, though.
The woman below was out doing her shopping on a particularly warm and sunny day. Rather than removing a layer or three of clothes, she just pulled the umbrella out to keep the sun off.
One day, I jumped into a dolmus (mini-taxi-bus) and headed over to Alibey Island (aka Cunda Island) via the causeway. This was a slightly more touristy town with plenty of waterfront restaurants, ice cream vendors and coffee shops. It was a perfect spot to enjoy a coffee in the sun and people watch. And I did.
And lest you think I might be starving myself while in Turkey (ha! fat chance of that happening) – here is one more meal photo. Chicken sis kebab o pite and pilaf rice – so good!.
Ayvalik is very much how I pictured a coastal village of Turkey and the sort of place I enjoy. As interesting as the historical sites are in other areas of Turkey, it’s this kind of relatively quiet and tourist-free place that I enjoy. It was a wonderful spot to chill for a 3-4 days without feeling the need to rush around a see the sites. Slow morning wake-ups, leisurely breakfasts, coffees in the sun, people watching and wandering the maze of cobblestone streets – it was a perfect way to slow things down for a few days.
PS Happy Easter everyone! No Easter eggs for me, I’m afraid (it’s a Muslim country!) – but I did treat myself to some pistachio dondurma today – thick, gooey ice cream made from goat’s milk. Who needs Easter eggs?