Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quiet Coves on Turkey's Bozcaada Island

In the Aegean Sea a short distance off the western coast of Turkey, Bozcaada Island seems to inspire disparate opinions. You can imagine my surprise when I met a couple at breakfast on my first morning and they told me they planned to spend four days and were leaving early because there was nothing to do. Then a few hours later, I met another couple who thought the island was a perfect locale for a summer house. Certainly odd but it all depends on your expectations.
I fall into the "wished I had more time" category of visitor. The best way to get around is by bicycle. Here's what I found while cycling:

1. First, I rented a good mountain bike along the waterfront at Haluk and was surprised when the owner said he'd offer me a complementary glass of wine once I returned the bicycle. (It turned out to be a good glass of wine and, returning the back in the early evening was perfect to sit along the waterfront with the setting sun playing off the waters.)

2. Pedaling west, I found a narrow unsigned lane. This led to a super steep uphill to the top of Goztepe, a 630-foot-high hill with sweeping views of the island and the turquoise waters. I cycled up the first half and then walked the bike the rest of the way up. All along, I was treated to the panoramic views of the patchwork of green landscape, steep sided limestone cliffs and Greek island of Lemnos. (Those who thrive on hair-raising downhills will love the return trip.)

3. Back on the road which saw little traffic, I passed old stone farmhouses with scarecrows standing in the fields.

4. I made a brief detour along a narrow side road that sliced through vineyards. (Bozcaada is noted for its wines. There are six wineries on the island.) This atmospheric path wandered to Cayir, a desolate stretch of sandy beach on the north shore where I could've hung out for hours.

5. The highlight of biking on Bozcaada for me was pedaling through a thick pine forest that seemed to spring out of the blue and then opened up to a long row of wind turbines on the western edge of the island. These produce a whopping 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Unbelievable, but expected especially when you visit the island and feel first-hand that the strong winds never seem to stop blowing.

6. Everyone on the island flocks to Ayazmar Beach but I found two lovely slivers of sand, Sulubahce and Hubbele. Both of these beaches have no facilities but I brought a picnic lunch and enjoyed the low-key vibe with just a couple of other sun bathers in the vicinity at both of these. (Ayazmar, on the other hand, is lined with cafes across the road while the sands couldn't be more overcrowded with lounge chairs, beach blankets and beach umbrellas.)

7. Wherever I biked, I found an abundance of nature, whether limestone cliffs and hills covered in fragrant macchia shrubs, quiet coves or tall

8. My favorite accommodation was Hotel Kaikias where the white-on-white breakfast room offering a sumptuous buffet had the decor of a wedding reception. (There were wild flowers adorning the tables, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the sea and an antique chandelier.) Every morning, I'd sample the more than a dozen items -- including five kinds of candied fruits, sesame and lemon cakes, olives, apricots, cherries and plenty more -- and then I'd bring my plates to the outdoor patio and chat with the other guests.

9. Whenever I wanted to know about anything about Bozcaada or if I had a craving for a piece of homemade chocolate cake, I knew where to go: the Cafe at Lisa's. Lisa cooks everything on the menu except the mayonnaise (as she said to me). Whether it's local wines, tasty sandwiches, authentic stir fry, superb coffee frappe, delicious desserts as well as an interesting array of local artwork, this cafe has something for everyone. During the day, I sat under an umbrella outside while at night I settled into a chair in the homey interior with its open kitchen. Lisa, an Australian transplant, is a journalist who write the local newspaper so you can imagine that if you are desperate to know something about Bozcaada, she may be able to help out.


Alexandra Grabbe said...

My daughter was fortunate enough to visit the southern coast of Turkey and really enjoyed it. Sounds like you found a great island to explore, further west. Thanks for posting the photo of windmills!

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Alexandra, Glad your daughter enjoyed Turkey's south coast. Yes, Bozcaada is an amazing place. I truly wished I had several more days to enjoy the low-key setting. Maybe next time.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely visit. But I wanted to know about the windmills when I saw the photo - maybe because I see a lot of them in Kansas!

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks so much for you question about the wind turbines. I just included some additional information on that in my post. Apparently the island's wind turbines produces so much electricity that it meets 30 times the island's yearly needs! Amazing.

About the book said...

The bike riding sounds amazing. There is so much to discover in a foreign country (or at home) when you ride a bicycle. It's faster than walking and so much better than driving in a car!

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Oh what a beautiful place.I want to go there! But what is "authentic stir fry" in Turkey??

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Vera Marie, Good point. What I was referring to when I said "authentic stir fry" is that it's authentically Asian. (Lisa is Chinese of East Timor descent and an ex-pat from Perth, Australia.) Hope you get to visit Bozcaada some time. You'll adore it.

Donna Hull said...

This sounds like one of those off-the-beaten-path experiences that I treasure. Now I want to go there.

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Donna, When I was in Turkey, I was surprised by the number of tourists who never heard of Bozcaada. You'll totally enjoy it.

Cheap hotels in Derby said...

was wondering where to spend my summer vacation this year. Guess that answers it - thanks for the destination given :) great blogging!