Bel in Turkey: Ayvalik

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Don't look! It's the three Gorgons

After we had had lunch at the Bergama Restaurant, we went on to Ayvalik, which would translate as quince garden, or maybe even quince orchard.

Yekta told us that he had had qualms about bringing tourists to this little village when he had started as a tour guide some 20 years ago.
He had worried about the impact tourism would have on this indigenous Turkish Village, but he said it had turned out well.

Ayvalik is a fishing and olive village. The surrounding country consists of olive plantings – apparently most families own fields where they plant olives. However, Ayvalik has a very picturesque little harbour, too, and we were lucky, because apparently the boats had come back from fishing only shortly before we arrived, and it was very lively there, with people buying fish fresh off the boats.

Yekta had recommended that we should buy olive soap, so I duly obliged and entered a small shop which had various sorts of it in the shop window. I chose two pieces, then the owner showed me a third brand, indicating that this was better than those I had chosen. I told him, I'd buy all three pieces. I hadn't bought any souvenirs yet, so I thought the soaps would serve that purpose just fine.

We hadn't bothered to exchange Euro to Turkish Lira as we had been told people here (in Turkey) would prefer to be paid in Euro as it is a more stable currency than their own currency. I understood the price for my soap was €8, so I handed him a €10 note. Imagine my surprise when he gave me a change of TL11. That meant I had only paid €5 for three pieces of pure olive soap.

We proceeded to have a stroll through the village. It looked colourful and original. The shops had put part of their goods just next to their shops on the street, there were craft shops and even a rooster and a hen in a cage.

We went back to the harbour and my husband took a photo of his mum and me in front of the statue of Ata Türk – which wasn't his real name, btw. Ata means dad, so he is known as 'Dad of the Turks'.

On some boats, the fishermen were busy filling bottles with some orange-white-looking substance. We stopped to watch them, and realised they were cutting open sea urchins. I stopped to take a photo, and just like in Izmir, the moment one of the men got aware that I was about to photograph the scene, he turned round and presented me the sea urchin he had just cut in halves. Unfortunately, I didn't get to photgraph the special scissors they were using for the purpose, but it is still a very nice photo.

We took a few more photos, then it was time to to get on the bus again and drive to our hotel. This hotel was older than the first one we had stayed in, but just as nice. The room was spacious, but the en-suite bathroom was a bit awkward: the toilet was squeezed in the utmost corner and nearly touched the wall to the right and the shower cabin in front of it, so there was no way to use it other than sitting sideways. However, for such a short stay it wasn't too bad. We had still time to explore the area before tea at 7pm, so we dressed warm (it was a sunny but windy day) and went down to the beach which was only a few yards down the road. It was a sandy beach, and it looked desolate: it was empty, for one thing (which was hardly surprising, as it was only March), but it was very dirty, too. We had passed hotels and shops on our way there, closed for renovating purposes, and we wondered what the area would look like in summer, when all the German tourists fall in. Right now, it looked awfully dirty and poor. There were lots of half-feral cats fighting over the contents of bins. We walked around a bit, and the area reminded me of New Addington. Some youths were playing football in the street, and they tried to get my husband involved in their game. They called something, but the only thing we understood was Mesut Özil.

It wasn't a nice area for a walk, so we soon returned to our hotel. The buffet was very nice, staff were very friendly, and I certainly understood why these tours are being sponsored by the Turkish ministry of tourism: those people would be without a job each winter. The scheme is thought to prevent hotels from having to close and sack people. So even if it is relativley cheap for us, it serves a good purpose, and you don't have to feel bad. After dinner we went and wrote some postcards. I had forgotten to take my address book, so we could only send postcards to people whose addresses we knew by heart, ie family. This way, I was left with half the amount of postcards and stamps I had bought.

The next ruins we were going to visit were those of Troy. We had been told that we would leave very early the next morning, and Yekta even arranged that we could have breakfast earlier (at 6.45am), so we had an early night.

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