- What’s On
A score of islands are scattered off the coast around Ayvalık, though only Cunda (Alivey Adası) is inhabited, reached across a causeway. “With its magnificent views and scented breezes blowing down from from Mt Ida, it has always been a popular retreat,” writes Berrin Torolsan in Cornucopia 41, after visiting an antiquarian’s “deliciously distressed house” on the island.
This is a resort of many flavours, renowned for its olive oil, sold beside the surrounding groves. The town can be savoured for its name, derived from ayva, Turkish for quince, and its white beach, Sarımsaklı, meaning garlic. This is one of two extensive sandy stretches that make the resort popular with local families. In summer visitors fill Ayvalık’s cobbled lanes between the stone and timber houses. Many are from Lesbos (Midilli) just across the bay, and in The Aegean Coast, John Freely tells how, recalling the diaspora of 1923, they sometimes sing nostalgic songs:
My eyes have never seen a village like Ayvali
Ask me about it, for I have been there.
It has silver doors, golden keys,
And beautiful girls as fresh as cool water
The island of Cunda was once sacred to Apollo, and it has a hauntingly dilapidated Greek Orthodox cathedral. It also has eight impressive monasteries. Several are being lavishly restored, not as monasteries but as private ‘museum’ homes, including the seashore Monastery of Agios Dimitrios ta Salina, or Ayışıği Manastırı (Moonlit Monastery), which Suzan Sabancı, CEO of Akbank, has taken in hand. The Komilis, for many years were the leading olive oil producers (since bought up by Unilever), rescued the spectacular Leka Panaya, the Monastery of Mary the Saviour. As Berrin Torolsan explains in At Home in Turkey: ‘In 1820 the Metropolitan of Izmir reputedly sold it for 1800 kuruş (pennies) to one Dionisius, who rented out the rooms to families in the summer months. When the Komilis bought the property, it was a complete ruin.’
Ayvalık is midway between Çanakkale (170km) and Izmir (150km) on the coastal road, both about three hours’ away.