Holiday 2012: Bozcaada

Well, after interesting and enjoyable experiences in Troy and Çanakkale, it was time for the pièce de résistance, the destination around which we planned the rest of the holiday: Bozcaada!

This lovely island is the third largest of Turkey’s islands and is located in the Aegean Sea not far from Çanakkale. As with ever place in Turkey, it has a long and diverse past. The island is mentioned in the Iliad by its Greek name Tenedos, and it is mentioned in the Aeneid as well, in the famous episode with the Trojan horse. The Greeks all left Troy in their ships and hid on the far side of Bozcaada so that the Trojans would think they’d left for good and sailed home. The wooden horse was left behind by the Greeks under the guise of being an offering to Poseidon, god of the sea, in order to gain safe passage home. Then, as just about everyone knows, the Trojans took the horse into their city and when everyone fell asleep, out popped the Greeks and that was the end for the Trojans!

The island came under the control of many different powers, including the Persian Empire, the Delian League, Alexander the Great, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, the Republic of Venice, and then eventually, the Ottoman Empire. Now of course, it is part of Turkey, although the island traditionally had a large Greek population which has dwindled over the years.

Nowadays, Bozcaada is a popular holiday getaway for people escaping from Istanbul for some sun and sea. Unlike other sun holiday locations we’ve visited in Turkey, the vast majority of visitors were Turks, and their weren’t many foreigners at all. We stayed in the main village in a lovely hotel just about 10 minutes walk from the ferry port.

Our hotel room was wonderful, with dark hardwood floors, simple decor and an amazing view of the village and the sea. We could see the island’s castle, and view of the whitewash of the houses, the red-tiled roofs and the sparkling blue sea was truly picturesque. Our hotel had a nice garden/courtyard area where we had our breakfast each morning with lovely fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, pastries, olives, about ten kinds of fruit jam, and a selection of the absolutely delicious Turkish cheeses! We enjoyed strolling around the cobbled streets of the village, ate some delicious seafood in a couple of the local restaurants and had tea under a giant leafy tree in the middle of the village. Bozcaada is famous for its wines, so we had a few glasses throughout our stay, although with Liam we didn’t sample quite as many as we might have otherwise!

One night we shared a wild sea bream in a restaurant right on the marina. When you arrive at the restaurant you can pick out the fish you want from a refrigerated display case. A student of Richie’s had recommended having sea bream on Bozcaada, but I wanted to try something new. However, when we asked about the prices, the fish I wanted to try was nearly 100TL, but the wild sea bream was ‘only’ 50TL. I had a change of heart and decided to trust the recommendation Richie had got! The fish was gorgeous, and I always love the simplicity of the way it’s prepared and served in Turkey; grilled whole, served just as it is with a bit of fresh rocket, rings of red onion and a slice of lemon. Nothing to distract from the delicious taste of the fish. It was great and worth the somewhat extravagant price!

Another night we had dinner at a meyhane in the village. We had a very light dinner of fried calamari and a dish with aubergine (eggplant) and garlic. Liam, as he so often does, attracted lots of attention from the staff. In particular, a girl working there, who I guess was probably college-age, had a great time holding and playing with Liam. She then called over one of her workmates, a guy maybe in his mid-twenties. Liam practically dove right at him and for whatever reason, took a real liking to him. The girl was a bit jealous! The guy did have a beard and curly hair, so maybe Liam liked him because of the similar features to Richie. Who knows!? The whims of babies are very mysterious indeed! On a side note, I have to say one thing I love about Turkish people is how much they love children. When we have Liam out and about EVERYONE talks to him and people in general are so kind and playful with babies and children. In shops and restaurants the staff will hold him and take him around the place to show everyone. People you pass on the street always smile and say maşallah to him. And everyone is also so accommodating, even when he makes a mess or cries, or whatever, you never feel unwelcome or like you’re annoying people. It’s such a nice place to be with a small child! But I digress…

So apart from eating and drinking good wine, trips to the beach were the other main events. From the village we took a dolmuş (a minibus) to the nearest beach, maybe a 15 minute drive away. On the way, the dolmuş would pick up people flagging it down from the side of the road, some locals going about their business and some holiday-goers staying in more out-of-the-way places. The roads on the island were pretty quiet, and we enjoyed zipping along past vineyards and fields of sunflowers. The beach itself was lovely as well, the sandy shore covered with beach chairs and sun umbrellas. The water was such a lovely blue, it was just gorgeous.

Now, I had been warned by many Turkish people that the waters of Bozcaada are very cold, but having swum in the Atlantic and Irish Sea, I wasn’t too concerned. It certainly was noticeably colder than the water nearby at Eceabat and other places I’ve swum in the Aegean Sea, but not too shocking for all that! What was remarkable was how still the water was. Hardly a ripple in the sea; you could just swim peacefully and watch the small fish swimming around your feet in the crystal clear water. Richie and I took turns swimming and playing with Liam. The sun was so bright and scorching we took extra care to make sure Liam was protected as much as possible and we didn’t stay at the beach too long just to be on the safe side. He had a great time playing in the sand though!

Finally, on our last evening on the island, we took a stroll around the quiet cobbled streets and enjoyed hearing the chatter of old ladies conversing with neighbours from their doorsteps, kids playing football or riding bikes in the narrow streets, the sounds of birds and general feeling of calm and warmth. The houses here are so lovely, just what you’d picture on a Greek island, white with blue shutters and red-tiled roofs, and a Greek church too, with its bell tower and cross in contrast to the now-normal sight of mosques and minarets.

So, to sum it all up, the place was gorgeous and I wish we could have stayed longer! And once again, Sea, thank you for the lovely time and the great memories. We shall meet again!

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