Published: October 8th 2004October 8th 2004
Monastery on an Island
This is the monastery as seen from the road. The sensation was amazing: the wind, the waves, the cold, the barren landscape, and the island.
I ended up really liking Ayvalik so I'm still here. I think I'll leave tomorrow and head down to Izmir. Note I still claim to be on my way to Canakkale (even though I'm heading south instead of north).
My first daytime assault on Cunda failed miserably, as I realized I was getting sick as soon as I arrived, and after a short face-saving walk around the town I was forced to head back and spend the rest of the day in bed. I was feeling much better the next morning.
My second attack started in the early afternoon. I am having difficulty finding a decent map of the area, so I apologize in advance for meaningless prepositions. I had heard that apart from the town area there was a "natural reserve" in the back of the island (named "Patricia") housing a monastery, so I was determined to check it out. I was on foot and figured I wouldn't have a hard time getting there and back before sunset. The walk from Cunda starts off amidst the usual tasteless multi-cloned concrete abominations people prefer to call "villas", which eventually give way to olive groves. At that point you're surrounded
What a life...
Here's an ideal life. A small, simple, but well-kept house. The open area in the right side of the picture has the remnants of eggplant and tomato plants. Lovely views, a fishing boat, a hammock or bed under a shade of grapevine... what else could one ask for?
on both sides by olive trees, and walking down a road paved with some kind of white rock (apparently done by the greeks). It's quite picturesque. After that I found myself fighting against the fierce gales which swept over the open landscape to my left and the sea with a small island housing the ruins of a monastery to my right. I haven't been to Scotland but it was something I'd expect to see somewhere there. There weren't any trees at this point. The island widened out to the right ahead so two smallish clusters of houses were visible in the distance. Apparently it's possible to camp in this area in the summer (it certainly wasn't when I was there).
I finally arrived at the first cluster of houses. There were two small piers with a copule small rowboat-style fishing boats. One building was an old windmill apparently (tastefully) converted to a house or hotel/restaurant of sorts. There were no more than 5-6 houses in the first group. Gonig inland from there all I could see were olive groves and more olive groves. Further to the left there were large openish areas presumably conducive to grazing goats and/or other
Beautiful, yet in disrepair
The houses to the right of the picture are literally falling apart, which is both unfortunate and surprising.
livestock, especially in the spring. There were a couple of locals in the first cluster, one feeding his dog, the others tending their fishing nets. There was a largish house, either recently built or converted from an existing greek house, complete with fence, large lights and a basketball hoop. Yup, I don't think it belongs to the locals.
I forgot to mention that I didn't see any telephone poles or electric cabling. Which means that the place doesn't receive any electricity or phone service (I'm not sure if it has cellphone reception or not).
The second cluster was a short ways away, along a path through olive groves. This one had over a dozen houses, but only a few of them seemed to be in use and good repair. The vast majority was either falling to ruins or housing animals or both.
That's when my imagination ran wild and I started taking pictures like there's no tomorrow. The place seemed too good to be true: you have your olive groves in the back, your cows and goats and whatever which you graze on the hills, a small garden by your small one-room stone house right by the
Other houses in the neighborhood. The road itself is made of some kind of white stone (not obvious in the photo).
sea with a fishing boat out front and a view of an island with a ruined monastery. It was the most ideal spot for such daydreaming that I've seen so far. The odd part seems to be that the place seems ignored or unknown for the most part... Otherwise I'm assuming those Greek houses would be put to good use and not left to fall to ruins. I didn't ask about the cost of land over there, but I'm assuming I'm not rich enough. I'm also assuming that since the place is within a preservation of sorts one can't build any new houses but can only "repair" (a term open to liberal interpretation) existing ones. I don't think I am able to express the pure exctasy I experienced while walking through those streets and daydreaming about what life could
The next day I decided to walk to a spot of here (Seytan Sofrasi
, lit. "Satan's Table") famous for its views at sunset. This on a day completely overcast and clouded. I thought the sun might shine out right before it set, and I'd walk away with some pretty cool pictures. Having no idea of how far it
A fig tree, a stone house, olive groves and the path to the sea.
was, I decided to walk and catch any transportation I found going in that direction. In practice I didn't see anything going that way and ended up walking the whole way and arriving at the hilltop shortly before (or was it after?) sunset. Apart from a sliver of gold, there was no sunset and no exquisite coloring. The view, however, was impressive. In the distance you see what looks like a mountain range. In fact it's the Greek island Lesvos
in Turkish). I had a hard time taking in its size. The term "island" conjures up images of small, low places in my mind. This thing was enormous and had what appeared to be a full mountain range on it as well. Immediately below were interspersed small islands, and one could clearly see both Ayvalik and Cunda (increasingly so as the place started to light up). Further to the north are visible the Kazdagi range which stretches from Balikesir to Canakkale. You're basically at a point where you can see a bunch of stuff in all directions, and it was pretty cool.
I asked a local about the term "Satan's Table" and he said it used to be
Tired of a 9-5 job (sometimes much much more) and paying $1000/mo for a crummy dark little hole they call a "studio", eating food that tastes like paper and costs a fortune, wasting away and working on that fluorescent tan? We can help! Come on in...
called "Bell Hill" (tr. Canak Tepe
) but they came up with this sexy name when the place opened up to tourism. There's also a depression shaped roughly like a foot in the rock which is supposed to be Satan's footprint. It's full of coins from those making wishes, and the branches of the bushes flanking it are covered with small knotted pieces of cloth (again, a form of making a wish). I'm not sure what they are wishing for from Satan; needless to say I didn't throw any money in.
And today, on the 8th of October, the weather was magnificent, and I headed to the beach for some swimming. The beach and the water were excellent, as was the luxury of being able to sleep under the sun without the fear of waking up a burnt crisp.
I really did like Ayvalik. The only problem is that nearly everyone staying at my hostel is old or a couple, which kinda sucks for me. Apparently there's another hostel possibly more popular with the young traveler crowd; thank you Lonely Planet.
There are more photos below