Ayvalık, an authentic village of your dreams
Wilco Van Herpen
'I can really lose myself in places like this; I spend hours sniffing through all the things I see in the beautiful and creative shops here.'In Ayvalık, you can find many artistic workshops or flea markets and therefore this place is like heaven to me. I can really lose myself in places like this; I spend hours sniffing through all the things I see in the beautiful and creative shops here.
One surprising meeting I had was with a Spanish woman called Ana Gomez de Pablos. While working for TV 8 in 2003, I interviewed a woman, Ana, who had a Spanish restaurant near the Galata Tower in Istanbul. Therefore, I was really surprised to find Ana in Ayvalık, where she has a remodeling furniture shop. Life in Istanbul was too hectic for Ana and therefore she decided to move to a quieter place somewhere in Turkey. She found Ayvalık and decided to live there. Ana either finds her materials on the streets or people give her interesting things that she uses to transform into interior decoration ornaments. Her shop is filled with mirrors, tables, chairs and pottery. All of them have a very happy and colorful-looking. As material, she uses old chests, tables, and chairs or (for me this was very interesting) material that bakeries use. “The sky is the limit” is her motto and with her creativity she can add an original and colorful touch to your house.
It was around 12 p.m. and it got too hot in the narrow streets of Ayvalık.
While I had my breakfast at the Ferahi Evler hotel, my friend Ferzan served me pişi, a specialty of the Ayvalık region. Pişi is fried dough that people eat during breakfast. We started talking about the rich Ayvalık cuisine, with its many appetizers that go very well with Rakı. Ferzan suggested I go and visit a patisserie in town where they make some things that would surely surprise me.
Ice cream, a living legend
I decided to follow Ferzan’s advice and eat an ice cream at Güler Tatlıhanesi to cool down a bit. To tell you the truth, I had never liked any ice cream in Turkey until this time. Ice cream in Turkey is sticky and too sweet, but the people here make such a nice ice cream: it is a living legend. I really can recommend everybody to have a small break and eat their legendary sakıslı dondurması (mastic ice-cream). Do not hesitate and try some of their wonderful cookies. They are excellent and are made according to a special recipe. I do not want to write about this because those cookies will give me enough inspiration for another article later…
While being on holiday, the best thing that can happen to you is that you can put the world upside down. I generally will not eat ice cream before I have lunch or dinner, but here it happened. After this fabulous ice cream, I went to Paşa Restaurant (do NOT go to any other place for your lunch) that is famous for its local food. Generally, they serve food until 7 p.m., but if you really want to enjoy their kitchen, I advise you to go around noon. The chance is quite big that after 4 p.m. you cannot find the assortment of food you might like. Noon is show off time and it is amazing what they serve. It is here that I drank (as said in Turkish) the best brain (beyin) soup I ever had in Turkey. Besides that, they have an impressive assortment of food consisiting of olive oil. This restaurant uses tons of olive oil for their food every year. According to some food specialists, this is the best kind of oil for the human body. (The only problem being, of course, that if you are not used to olive oil this might lead to some serious diarrhea problems for a couple of days., a problem I always used to have before I started living in Turkey, but now, since I am used to these kinds of foods it gives me a better feeling, taste and… I do not have any problems with diarrhea anymore…)
Ayvalık is a very lively place, especially during summertime. There are, especially during the summer months, concerts in Ayvalık or the Cunda Peninsula near Ayvalık. People can join many workshops and one street is filled with second-hand shops that sell whatever one may imagine. It ranges from old plates, toys, painting cloths, fabric, furniture, cameras etc. There is a big difference with the antique shops of Çukurcuma in Istanbul. In the vitrine of the shops in Çukurcuma, everything is very nicely displayed. But here, in Ayvalık it is a mess; a pretty nice mess I have to say. I love to walk around in such messy shops trying to find something that can be an addition to the decoration of my house.
A good cup of coffee
For me, it was time to call it a day and as a closure, I decided to have a nice cup of coffee in a newly opened coffee shop. After working for many years in a big Turkish multinational, Aydın Böke wanted to have some time for himself. He had always loved Ayvalık and its energy and his dream was to open a nice place where people could drink a good cup of coffee. So this year, the time was ripe for Aydın to quit his job and open his coffee shop called Kahveci on a corner in the center of Ayvalık. What I saw was a smiling man who loved what he was doing. With passion, he was talking about how a special company is burning the coffee beans in small portions and then sells them to their customers on demand. No big stock of coffee that will lose its taste. On the contrary, every one or two day’s fresh burned coffee is delivered and grinded in his shop to get the best out of the beans. It was a real treat to have a nice cup of coffee after such an intensive day.