Organic travel. I suppose it’s just a matter of time before some clever marketer builds a website completely dedicated to the idea of traveling to places that grow organic food. When they do, Gokceada Island in Turkey will certainly be on the list of ‘must see’ destinations.
Ours was just a day trip to Gokceada, mainly because it was the off season, but still, I could easily see the reason why people like to come to this, Turkey’s largest island. Turkey has a number of islands, as would be expected of a country that is bordered by the Aegean Sea, the Marmara Sea, The Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea and which contains the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, however, Turkey doesn’t have as many islands as one would think, mainly due to the ancient conflict with Greece who has managed to keep control of most of the islands that the Turks believe should be theirs.
Gokceada is about 13 by 30 kilometers, a small island when compared with Oahu or Hawaii, but big enough to have some small mountain ranges. Gokceada is strange to visit in that it feels very Greek. In fact, it too, used to be under Greek control and was then called Imbros. We were told by a young man we met and spoke with in Gokceada Town that nearly 60% of the population are Greek Orthodox, hard to believe when you see the mosques, but then, it is one of the only places I’ve seen Christian churches that weren’t ruins in Turkey, so I’ll trust the local on this one.
We took the ferry from Kabatepe on the Gallipolli Peninsula. The dolmus to the ferry was three lira each and the ferry was four lira each with the return trip being free. The weather wasn’t great, but we still stood on the deck and took in the view. It was both of our first trip to an island in Turkey and knowing that the other islands we could see in the distance were Greek made it feel doubly interesting. Plus, we met and made friends with the cutest kids on the boat. The ferry docked in the tiny village of Kuzulimani and rather than getting into the incredibly crowded mini-buses, we decided to walk. A car coming off the ferry offered us a ride into Gokceada Town.
As I said, the weather wasn’t great, but still, Gokceada was gorgeous. Small villages, rolling hills, pine forests, and craggy small mountains along with plenty of goats, sheep, chickens, and cows along the way. Our kindly driver dropped us off, he didn’t speak any English and our Turkish allows for only the barest of conversation, but still, the smiles and waves seemed to be enough.
We picked up a tourist map in Gokceada Town and stopped in a tiny grape vine covered cafe to have coffee and baklava. The owner told us that most of the seaside hotels and pensions had closed for the season and that was the main thing that decided us. Later we had a look at the hotels in landlocked Gokceada town, but the prices were high and the amenities not great. We realized that we could have a day trip, take the ferry back, catch an overnight bus to Izmir, and then be back home in Manisa for the same price and without having to stay in the somewhat stinky rooms of the hotels and it was decided.
We hitchhiked out to Kalekoy, the main seaside village. A nice couple from Aydin picked us up. Again, not much communication, but lots of smiles and a few laughs. It was true, all the pensions in Kalekoy were closed, but still we enjoyed sitting on the jetty, watching the fishermen, and eating a picnic lunch which Hanane had wisely decided to bring with us. There were deserted greek stone houses reminiscent of Kayakoy in the hills, but we didn’t feel particularly like hiking through them, so we simply walked through the regular inhabited village which actually felt just as deserted as the other, though with glass in the window’s still.
Gokceada is trying to become the first 100% organic island in Turkey. To me, that makes it pretty cool. I’d heard that the residents were still keen on offering visitors a room in their houses for 10-20 lira a night, but in our wanderings, no one offered. This is called ev pansiyonu and appears to have disappeared…at least during the off season.
Before leaving on the evening ferry, we hiked around the countryside seeing plenty of ducks, sheep, and picturesque Greek/Turkish houses and farms. We had a not very notable supper in Gokceada Town and then caught the dolmus to the ferry to the dolmus to Eceabat where the great staff at Crowded House Hotel allowed us to chill out in their lounge and stash our bags before we caught the bus which took the ferry to Canakkale and then back to Izmir where we caught the bus to Manisa and enjoyed an early morning walk back to our apartment.
I’m looking forward to the next time we visit Gokceada Island, definitely it will be during ‘the season’ though.