Raki, Balik, Ayvalik.

The journey to Ayvalik was only two and a bit hours. A city, completely different, from the others we had seen so far on our trip. It is an Aegean coastal town where Turkish nationals flock during the summer break, with mellow, warm evenings in summer are spent eating mezze and balik (fish – it is a seaside town!) with raki, a kind of anise spirit, similar to ouzo. There is even a saying which was cultured in the Aegean about this activity, “Raki, Balik, Ayvalik” If anything, it highlights the pace of this coastal town.

Following, we were there in winter so the town seemed to be in a perpetual state of slumber.

Our accommodation in Ayvalik was a restored Ottoman mansion which has been repurposed into a family-run pension. The rooms were so quaint.

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The hotel was right next door to Taksiyarhis church, a former Greek Orthodox church.

After arriving, Bulant gave us a super short guided tour of the city. Enough, however, to be able to appreciate and fall in love with Ayvalik’s blend of old Ottoman architecture, cobbled streets lined with wonderfully worn, Greek houses and attractive marina.

We had the rest of the afternoon to explore. Each district in Turkey has an köy pazarı (village market), weekly. Ayvalik has theirs on Thursday and low and behold it was Thursday. We had a look of all the things they were selling. The vendors bring and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese, olives and spices. As well as other weird and wonderful stock. One man was just selling sponges, the kitchen variety. It was as if he went to Costco, bought a giant box and was selling them to the rest of his village. Other standouts include a dress with a cute print with giant buttons on it that I bought for my friend, Emily. Emily loves markets and bargains. So it was only fitting that I bought her a dress from a market for 3 Turkish Lira. That’s the equivalent of a beautiful hand made dress for $1.50.

And here she is enjoying it!

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We walked and weaved through the tiny laneways, through to the marina.

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It was here that we saw a small daily fish market takes place on the seafront next to the terminal for the ferry to Cunda.

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We were in search of a restaurant which Trip Advisor had hailed the number 1 eatery in town, Caramel Café. It was unlike anything else we had seen so far in Turkey and really, truly, belonged in Newtown. Down a charming little cobblestoned alley, a wonderful little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the town was this cutie cafe. Beniz, the owner’s husband is an antique dealer and the has moved his store within the cafe which made it quite unique.

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Not only does Yasemin infuse a retro flavour into this place, but like her name, she infuses the sweet smell of jasmin through her store. Jazz music,an extensive cake and dessert menu, home-made lemonade and a menu where she makes whatever she feels like for the day. Specialities include menemem – scrambled eggs with tomato and pepper, chocolate cake with salep and a giant sponge cake with jam and cream that we saw when we arrived. We sat down and I ordered lentil soup, while Dave tried a traditional Turkish meal called Manti, little pasta ravioli served with garlic and yogurt sauce.. Please find a recipe here.
http://www.panningtheglobe.com/2013/11/05/turkish-manti/

David wasn’t the biggest fan and the owner was a little bit upset that Dave didn’t finish his meal. She whipped him out a hot chocolate and then both parties were very happy!

Here I am in the store. We were the only customers that day:
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Yasemin gave us a map called A Walking Tour of Ayvalık with information about sights, including the former Greek Orthodox churches and selected cafes and hotels. It was from here that she guided us to her favourite Turkish delight store, a grocery store and the way back to our hotel.

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