A Tale of Time
Gülten prepares breakfast. Her husband sits in the corner reading a newspaper, the date January 1990 is imprinted in the corner. Out the kitchen window she waves good morning to the Greek couple who live opposite. The cobbled laneways are empty and silent.
Much like a quote Bill Gates once used to describe himself before his rise to success, the Turkish island Bozcaada “is in a wonderful position.” It is “unknown, underrated and there’s no where to go but up…”
In that moment a fork clangs to the ground slipping from the hands of a nearby waiter. The noise morphs Gülten’s thoughts from her mind and brings her back to the here and now. She is sitting in the corner reading a magazine dated 2014. Having become weary with time, her helper slices tomato for the mornings breakfast. Her husband has passed away five years earlier and this is the first time she is returning to the island from Istanbul. The Greek couple opposite have since sold and returned to Thesaloniki. A high-end pension is now operating from their Greek style home. The laneways are also now cluttered with chairs, tables, waiters and life.
A success story it seems for both. Bill Gates delivered Microsoft, and Turkey presents Bozcaada.
Bozcaada is a small island just off the Canakkale/Gallipoli peninsula. Foreign tourists rarely find this hidden island gem. The mostly Turkish tourist trade enjoy the still existing Greek influences in the village design. The blend of cultures and time is the island’s blessing.
How to Find this Jewel?!
By car – From Istanbul drive 6 hours to the Galipoli Peninsula. Take a 15 – 30 minute car ferry across the Dardanelles. Drive 45 minutes to Geyikli ferry pier and finally a 30 minute car ferry to Bozcaada.
By bus – Quite a painfully long journey as it is slower than your own car. Companies Kamilkoc, Ulusoy and Metro depart from Istanbul to Geyikli. From there walk onto the car ferry and zoom across to the island.
By plane – Possibly the least painful and quickest. Catch a sea plane from Istanbul’s Golden Horn straight to Bozcaada!!!
What to Do?!
* During the day drive to any beach and spend the day in the sun with the pristine coastline. Pack your own umbrella so you can explore the more secluded beaches that don’t offer sun lounges and umbrellas for rent.
* Walk the cobbled laneways on the Greek side of town and around the castle to the port.
* Get lost in the market stalls in the centre of town.
* Choose a restaurant for raki, fish and meze in the laneways.
* One night, drive to the Polente lighthouse and windmills for the island’s best view of the sunset. Take a bottle of local wine and sit on the cliff face among the oregano fields.
It is approaching midnight. A ten year old girl walks the laneways alone. Her name is Emine. She says she is from Adana and she comes to the island every summer with her family. They live in a car in front of the castle. At night she sells fake flower tiaras that her mum has made so it seems she lives a gypsy summer yet it appears Emine is not a gypsy girl at all. She is well dressed, attends school and can count to ten in English.
Her extent of education baffles me further as she guesses that I am Australian. I pick her brain a little more and she tells me that Australia is known for kangaroos and that the babies live in the mother’s pouch. She has never seen a picture of one which explains her scrolling through the endless google images from my I-phone talking excitedly about how long its tail is. After a quick English lesson on the colours red, blue, yellow and pink and a slice of melon later, she once again disappears among the sea of tables.
Ten minutes later her younger brother sidles up alongside restaurant punters, a bouquet of red roses in his hand. There is also an older boy who Emine describes as her uncle’s son. He is heavy handed with them if her or her brother slacken off or are found asleep at an empty table outside a restaurant. But Emine’s smile never weakens. She is intoxicating. Couples stop grazing on meze to interact with her. They ask her questions and listen to her words that are filled with an energetic youth, wisdom, spirit and innocence.
Later still her father walks past selling hats that are stacked and balanced on top of his head. It is obvious where Emine gets her charisma. He has a genuine smile and energy. He describes his daughter as the rose of the island. And indeed she is.
Island Tips –
* Every restaurant is great. If you are lucky to find an available table, take a seat.
* The buzzing laneways are on the Greek side of town and it is hard to get a table so reserve in advance. Personal judgement, Asmali Meyhane and Batti Balik are the cutest laneway dwellings.
* The island has more to offer if you have your own car. But make sure you pack a beach umbrella for the secluded beaches and a bottle opener and glasses for your sunset wine.
* If you don’t have a car, the local bus departs from town to Ayazma beach where sun lounge beds and umbrellas are available for hire. It also does the journey to the other side of the island for the sunset hour.
Must Buys -
* Local wine. The island is most well known for its red wines.
* Homemade jams. For something a little different try the olive jam, mint jam or the traditional greek tomato jam.
An old woman sits on the corner outside Gülten’s house selling homemade jams. She says she has been making jams for the past 20 years. A group of Turkish friends stroll up to her and buy ten jars. She says a prayer and yells out to me, “Look how great god is. With one sale I am left with only three jars!”
Gülten rests her hand on the door frame as she navigates the one step down to the laneway from her home. As I walk away and head for the midday ferry, she throws a glass of water after me, a Turkish tradition and a gesture of sincerity wishing that I may go and come back as easily as the flow of water.
Insallah, god willing.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Already knew the secret of Bozcaada? Comment below – Why do you love it so much?
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