The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (2023)

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (1)

SUMMER TIME:Ayvali is a quieter part of Turkey's Aegean coast.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (2)

Big plans:The Chinarli Mosque is a church conversion from the 18th century.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (3)

True story:Cleto's Italian restaurant is located in an old olive oil factory.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (4)

Farm to table:Ayna Restaurant serves ultra-local food drizzled with the owners' olive oil.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (5)

Grind in the grinder:At Kürşat Ayvalık's oil mill, you can see how the process works.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (7)

Island life:Breezy Cunda Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (8)

Back in Time:Walking in Kunda is a pleasure.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (9)

Wake up:And smell the coffee at Taş Kahve.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (10)

Good digs:Cunda Taksiyarhi's Rahmi M. Koç Museum has antique cars in an old Orthodox church.

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (11)

Up to date:Manzara has carefully restored houses in the center.

Within Ayvali and Cunda, the quieter side of Turkey's Aegean coast

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Turkey's Aegean coast is summer personified. Inhabited by a predominantly Greek community during the Ottoman Empire before the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the historic towns and villages are taking on new life, attracting a new wave of visitors and defining a modern Aegean culture. The dishes are prepared with sunny herbs and local products, olive oil from the many olive groves and seafood directly from the Aegean Sea. The wines from local vineyards are unspoiled, and the cocktails are recreated with local ingredients.

Alongside classic seaside towns like Bodrum and Alaçatı, two of the most beautiful spots on the coast are the little-known seaside town of Ayvalı and the nearby island of Cunda. The pair sits just under 100 miles north of Smyrna, opposite the Greek island of Lesvos.

Ottoman architecture and Greek churches

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Taksiyarhis Memorial Museum is a church from the 19th century.

Once the center of olive oil production during the Ottoman era, the chimneys of Ayvalı's old factories can still be seen as you explore the winding cobbled streets past historic churches and old stone houses with colorful shutters.

The architecture reflects its history, with Greek and Ottoman buildings side by side. Çınarlı Mosque, a former Greek Orthodox church in St. George, built in 1790 with its Ionic columns and sash windows stands out. The Taxiarchis Memorial Museum, meanwhile, isn't a museum per se – it's a Greek Orthodox cathedral, built in 1844. Used as a warehouse in the 20th century and then abandoned, it has been restored to its former glory with decorated marble columns and frescoes domes.

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Shopping with artisans

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (13)

Inhabited by a predominantly Greek community during the Ottoman Empire before the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Aegean shores are taking on new life.

The old houses of Ayvali offer an attractive space for craft studios and workshops, so shopping in the center is primarily about handmade products, whether in wood, ceramics or textiles.

Near the Taksiyarhis Memorial Museum, in a beautifully restored historic house with large arched windows, it is locatedMoyy Laboratorium. Owner Özlem Erol works with local artisans who produce organic clothingferetiko, a traditional handmade hemp fabric from the Black Sea region of Turkey.

Near the waterfront, his porcelain studioCentimeterit is located in a restored neoclassical mansion. Designer Tulya Madra, who has also worked in New York, is known for her handmade, polished tableware in colors ranging from Aegean blue to soft pink, green and sun yellow.

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The modern Aegean sea eats

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Seaside Cletos offers classic Italian food.

Close to the sea and surrounded by green olive groves and orchards, Ayvali's gastronomy is completely Aegean, with dishes focusing on fresh and local ingredients. Inside a renovated old house with blue frames,Sofia AivaliModern Aegean dishes such as coriander and artichoke pilaf, stuffed sun-dried cherry tomatoes and celery soup with sage and rosemary are served here. All accompanied by local wines and there are tables in the alley outside as well as upstairs with sea views.

Located right next to the sea in a renovated olive oil factory,of Cletusis one of the most popular restaurants in Ayvali. Founded by chef Anacleto Salciccia and his wife Funda Kocadağ Salciccia, the exclusive restaurant serves classic Italian fare, from sea bass carpaccio with lemon mayonnaise to linguine with squid ink and prawns.

For a true Aegean dining experience in an olive grove,Karina Aivaliit's worth the 10-minute drive south from Küçükköy village. Run by the couple Özge and Sinan Sabuncu, the menu serves as a declaration of love for fresh, local ingredients from the Aegean Sea – think pasta with seafood or grilled calamari, paired with carefully selected wines from the region.

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Olive oil is still central to the region's identity. Also in Küçükköy,Kursat Ayvali– the region's most respected olive oil producer – recently renovated their mill and added an additional building to house a museum, shop and restaurant. A family business with roots in Crete, brothers Zeynep and Ali Kürşat continue their grandfather's trade, picking olives by hand so as not to crush the fruit.

In their restaurant,Always– 15 minutes northwest of Ayvali, on the nearby island of Cunda – try simple Aegean dishes, from sea bass ceviche with capers and orange peel to rolled pastry with local cheese, oregano and wild honey.

"I feel history as I walk"

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (15)

The old town of Ayvali is full of shops and craft workshops.

based in Istanbulphotographerandpaper sculpture artistDeniz Yılmaz Akman has spent the last 20 summers in her family home in Ayvalı, where she captures the city's locals and its many hidden corners with her lens. The historic houses on 13 Nisan Caddesi (13 April Street) are one of her favorite photo-friendly spots.

"Aivali is a summer getaway that also has the feel of a city," he says. "I can breathe the Aegean air and feel the history when I walk along the old streets with their historic houses. It is a place where I can relax [the hours] in a historic cafe or browse antique shops, but then try modern Aegean tastes at a trendy restaurant and drink cocktails in a cool bar."

"I would recommend visitors to attend a classical music concert atAyvali International Music Academy; Try the famous local black mulberry and sour grape juice at Camlı Kahve. try muhallebi [milk pie] with mastic atMacaron Muhallebicisi, and mastic cookies and ice cream at İmren Pastanesi."

He also recommends Ayvalı's famous toast (with melted cheese, fermented Turkish sausage and pickles) at Şeytanın Kahvesi cafe and fried squid and meze at Hüsnü Babanın Yeri restaurant.

Island life

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (16)

Cunda is a popular summer destination for Turks to live.

Connected to Ayvalı by a causeway, Cunda is a popular summer resort for Turks, who spend their days exploring the small island on foot and their nights in the restaurants and bars around the bustling Hayat Caddesi near the beach. . Some of the favorites here include modern Italian restaurantThe orange, with its Sicilian-inspired decor and third wave caféGodmother, which makes cappuccino and lemon fromage. In the evening, cocktail bars such asOrmanandTastethey are filled with young people drinking craft cocktails made from the best local ingredients such as elderberry, satsuma and linden.

Cups of freshly roasted Turkish coffee are served hereStone brown, a historic cafe, while the smell of fresh bread and pastries wafts down the street, where Cumhuriyet Fırını has been baking since the 1990s.

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Apart from the main attraction, Cunda is more peaceful. Pomegranates hang heavy with fruit in the gardens in the winding alleyways that lead uphill and away from the coast. Residents sweep fallen leaves from their front steps, while stray dogs sleep under flowering vines.

Getting lost in Cunda leads to discoveries – e.gCunda Taksiyarhis Rahmi M. Koç Museuminside a restored Greek Orthodox church with a collection of antique cars, motorcycles and toys. It is another salvaged structure that was once in a state of ruin but, renovated, is now full of life.

And then in bed

The Secret Side of Turkey's Aegean Coast | CNN (17)

Manzara is a collection of designer villas.

So where to live? Ayvalı's most unique holiday home was created by the architect couple Erdoğan Altındiş and Gabriele Kern-Altındiş, who runView, a collection of designer residences in both Istanbul and Ayvali. The properties here consist of five carefully restored stone houses with secluded gardens, sea views and modern interiors, whilst retaining historic architectural details. Otherwise, it's on the city beachHotel Villa Pietra, with its restaurant located over the water.

TheKucukkoy Hotel, in the village of the same name, has beautiful rooms with exposed brick walls and a quiet pool.

And in a quiet side street in Cunda, in a renovated stone house, it is locatedHey Reyes. One of the most tasteful hotels on the island, it has a beach aesthetic, dressed in white linen and wicker furniture.

Feride Yalav-Heckerothis a freelance writer based in Istanbul and Lake Constance and author of his own guidebook, "The 500 Hidden Secrets of Istanbul". Her writing has been published in Kinfolk, Brownbook, The Travel Almanac, Wallpaper* and Travel + Leisure.


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