Rakı, Balık, Ayvalık

We did enjoy Ayvalık.  There is very little to do there.

There is some excellent scenery at Şeytan Sofrası – a huge volcanic bay with blue sea, blue sky and little islands.  So many islands, so many bays.  We think it ranks as some of the best scenery in the world.

Our favourite bar in Ayvalık was shut for renovations so we found another one, the seafront views were not quite as spectacular but it was pleasant enough.  We had two excellent meals –one in Ayvalık and one across the bay in Cunda.  More expensive than back in Selçuk, but the food was, frankly, much better, and we had a couple of very good reasons for splashing out.   Foodwise it is very Turkish.  That’s both the menu and the manner of service.  Very relaxed – people sit for hours over seafood and rakı.

We enjoyed the market too – Hilary ended up with two new pairs of combats – one was supposed to be for Ashley but they were too small for him.  Hilary got a couple of plain t-shirts and we bought some hand towels (needed for the house – we only had one previously which was a bit awkward).  We also ended up buying souvenirs in Cunda…  A clock and a little bowl, both made from olive wood by a local artisan.  The clock is silent in operation which is a good thing and it looks nice on the wall in the back house.

So, why do we like Ayvalık so much more than any of the other resorts here?  Well, so much more than any of the others we have visited.  It does have an ex pat population (some of them were in the same bar as us on Thursday, whingeing in English), but mostly it is a Turkish resort, set up for Turks on holiday.  Not many people speak English.  It is low on the pounding nightclubs.  You do get hunted for restaurants but it’s people showing you what they have, it’s not hassle.  There was a little hassle on the market but not enough to be seriously irritating and it’s normal market hassle, not tourist rip off market hassle.  That said, the town does seem to be getting more foreign tourists than it did.  We saw small groups being shipped in for the market.  We’re not sure where from, possibly Foca or Dikili.  What we did not see was any trace of package tourists.  We didn’t see people on the market who looked as though they had got lost whilst walking on the beach.  We didn’t hear loud foreign voices.

It’s a pretty enough town but not prissy or pimped up.  There are real working parts to it.  It’s bigger than Selçuk (about half as big again) and lacks the village feel but it does have a proper town centre with proper town centre shops in it.  The old Greek stone houses are truly lovely.  They have some Ottoman stylistic elements (the wooden balconies in particular).  We did once have an urge to live in one but they are beyond our budget – the cheaper ones require expensive renovation.

We’ll certainly be going there again.

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9 responses to “Rakı, Balık, Ayvalık

  1. . . by coincidence, we are there next week. Thanks for the preview!

    • We hope the renovations to the bar on the pier are done by then. It really is a lovely place to sit and watch the fish go by. We would also recommend the Boncuk restaurant if you’re eating on Cunda. You do need to phone early to book a table by the water but our food was excellent even though we didn’t get a seaside seat.

  2. Another interesting entry…….

  3. Frances in Ayvalik

    The foreign groups doing market shopping may well have been Greeks from Midili/Lesbos. There are usually a couple of boat loads each Thursday for the market – so much better and cheaper than what they can get at home.

    Another very good restaurant on Cunda is “Deniz”, on the sea front but not as pricey as some, excellent seasonal mezes, good choice of fish. They also have an open fire inside in the winter months.

    After a quick look at a Selcuk emlak website, I think Ayvalik house prices compare very favourably – you can find old Greek houses here in reasonable (habitable) condition from about 160k TL. Unfortunately there is a block on foreigners buying at present but that is thought to be changing soon.

    I’m glad you like Ayvalik, I am very happy living here, largely for the reasons you outlined – the beauty, the history, the quality of the local food/produce and, overall, the fact that Ayvalik is still a proper Turkish market town without the hassle of the more touristy coastal towns.

    • We do like Ayvalik.
      We have two weekly markets here in Selcuk, both very good – at least for food. There was more choice of clothing at Ayvalik though not much more than there is at Tire (where they also have wonderful hand-crafted fabrics). It was a tough choice for us but, in the end, we went for the ‘village feel’. There are a couple of quite touristy streets in Selcuk but here, on the other side of the railway tracks, a lot of village atmosphere has been retained.
      Asking prices on property are rising fast in Selcuk – we’re getting a new University, we’re getting the metro from Izmir. But, when we agreed to buy this place, 160K Lira would get you a brand new luxury apartment or fully renovated good sized property. The other side of the tracks is more expensive. Whilst the cost of day to day living is probably pretty similar (and you have a Migros whereas we have to go into Kusadasi for that), nights out are definitely cheaper here.
      Despite the proximity of Ephesus, cruise ships docking in Kusadasi, the basilica and everything else, mass tourism hardly touches Selcuk. The cruise ships offer almost nothing to the town, they bus masses to Ephesus, whisk them around the museum and/or basilica, drive them to a leather outlet, and back to the ship. We doubt the cruise ships offer much more to Kusadasi. Saturday market sees tourists from the all inclusive hotels at Pamucak and a few from Kusadasi, beyond this the small hotels and pensions in town cater to the independent tourists. We like it this way but sometimes think it would be nice if the cruise ships invested a little more in the the local area, guess it does not fit their demographic.
      All said, Ayvalik is a wonderful town, one we will return to on a regular basis.

  4. As the Bodrum tourist season hots up, places like Ayvalik become very tempting.

  5. I love this phrase: Rakı, Balık, Ayvalık! Our Turkish friend and his wife met us on Cunda Adasi last summer and taught us it. And it was true! We stayed at a cute konak called Cundahan Konuk Evi. The area here is beautiful esp. when the lush olive trees are bursting with olives. We really enjoyed exploring this area and were practically the only yabancilar, which made it even better. Definitely would go back here in a heartbeat!

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