As the ferry crossed the short stretch of water between the mainland and Bozcaada, Alper, my former work colleague, said people either love or hate the island. It didn’t take long to decide which category we fell into..
What was there not to love; the deep blue of the sea, the lovely little beaches, the vineyards and olive groves dotting the hillsides, the cool breeze while watching the sun set into the ocean. Or was it the lovely fresh sea food, the slow cooked lamb or the locally produced wines. Maybe it was just the pace of life, yes it was busy in parts with tourists enjoying the beauty but it was easy to get away from it all. Maybe it was just the islanders themselves. We met a number of them during our short stay, all wonderfully hospitable, some had been living there for years others returned to the island each year being pulled back by its beauty.
In particular Nejat and Umit who ran the Baghane guesthouse where Alper was staying could not have been more gracious hosts. Each morning we were invited for breakfast. As we traveled through Turkey we had seen Turkish breakfasts advertised and were keen to try one. Here we were spoilt for choice; freshly baked bread, local olives, juicy plump tomatoes and homemade jams together with an assortment of cheeses and local delicacies. All washed down with great conversation and company. We were fuelled for the day.
We would never have gone to Bozcaada if it hadn’t been for Alper. I had worked with Alper for a number of years in Central and Eastern Europe and he had just retired. He had been visiting Bozcaada for years and had recently bought some land on the island where he had planted olive trees. As he had seen we were passing close by he had invited us to stay. We were a little concerned that the truck might prove too big for the small island but the ferry was a breeze and once we had negotiated the narrow street of the only town on the island we easily navigated the country lanes. And Alper had the perfect place for us to stay, on his land with the tiny olive plantations. It was just perfect. We parked on a ridge with views down to the sea. There was a lovely breeze to cool the hot sun and we had the perfect view of the sun setting into the the blue Aegean Sea.
We spent a wonderful few days on the island with Alper, swimming in the clear but cool sea, tasting some of the local wines, meeting many of the locals and enjoying some wonderful Turkish seafood at the local restaurants. It was great to catch up with Alper, to hear what he had been up to and what his plans were now he was “retired”.
It was a perfect end to a wonderful week in Turkey. The beginning of the week had been quite different and was all about the Romans. We had travelled from Sagalassos to Pamukkale. Pamukkale is famous for its gleaming white calcite travertines over which spill warm mineral waters. The waters have been bathed in for centuries as can be seen from the wonderful ruins of Hierapolis just above the travertines.
It was here that we started our tour wandering around the ruins and the spectacular roman theatre.
But it was to the travertines that we gravitated as thousands of people had before and the day we went was no exception. Who could resist paddling or bathing on the waters on the glistening bright white terraces especially as it was baking hot.
After enjoying a nice soak, we had a choice to make. Should we head on a short distance to some more Roman ruins or should we head up the hill away from the crowds to a campsite with a swimming pool? The baking sun overhead sealed the decision, it was up to the campsite we headed for a relaxing afternoon by the pool.
The next day we headed to one of the largest Roman cities, the fabled city of Ephesus. Ephesus is close to the sea so we looked at camping right on the beach but decided we just couldn’t face the crowds so instead camped underneath the castle in the nearby town of Selcuk. From here it was only a short walk to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis. Unfortunately only one of the 127 columns is still standing.
It did though wet our appetite for the main show, the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. The ruins here were on a grand scale and certainly were the best Roman ruins I have seen outside of Rome. The Great Theatre once held 25,000 people and you could not fail to be impressed by it.
At the end we entered a separate section, the terraced houses where the houses of wealthy families had been preserved and restored. Inside here you could see mosaics on the floors and paintings still on the walls. It was a wonderful insight into ancient Roman life.
While we were in Ephesus there was another special event we had to celebrate. Alisha’s 12th birthday. It was the 5th Birthday that she has celebrated on the road and we are really proud how she has developed into a delightful young lady. She has celebrated birthdays on this trip in Canada, Bolivia, Botswana, Malaysia and now Turkey.
The campsite where we were staying was an ideal spot for a birthday celebration. It was a cross between a campsite and a farmyard so Alisha shared her birthday with the geese, goats, sheep, chickens and a particularly friendly cat. As is customary, Gilly and Lucy baked a delicious birthday cake.
It was then a long drive up the coast to meet Alper for him to take us to the idyllic island just a short ferry crossing across the Aegean. A delightful end to a fantastic week. Perhaps we should just stay!