The Greek island of Lesbos (Lesvos) loomed into view as our catamaran “Sunday” slid gracefully though the water. Ah Greece!
Tantalisingly close but Greece was not our destination just yet. Turkey still has a hold on us with many treasures and experiences in store.
We were actually on our way to an anchorage in Bademli, a tiny Turkish fishing harbour just a few hours by boat from the northern Aegean town of Çandarlı.
Our journey there took us along the sea border in the narrow Mytilini strait between Lesbos, the third largest Greek island and Turkey. Anchored in Bademli we were literally only 4.8 nm from Greece. So near and yet so far.
Bademli was a very quiet backwater and when the crew of S/V Sunday (Jonathan, our guest Jackie and I) went ashore to explore it struck us as being very ramshackle and down at heel.
As we wandered along the foreshore we noticed the rough track we were on joined a road ahead and beyond the junction we thought we could see a restaurant! It seemed an unlikely spot for one but then, the road was probably one used quite a bit by tourists so hopefully this wasn’t just a mirage!
A few minutes later we found that the restaurant was real and had a delightful lunch in its pretty garden. It even served Jackie’s favourite Turkish white wine!
Off again the following day we were enchanted by a couple of dolphins who stayed only briefly. Dolphins seem shy here in Turkey as they generally don’t play around in the bow wave for very long, if at all. It’s still a treat to see them though!
Sailing once again very close to the border with Greece we encountered a large Customs vessel and thought we might be up for having our papers checked. Quickly trying to calculate when we had out last pump out (thankfully quite recently) we prepared to be boarded but then saw that there was going to be no Customs visit that day.
Of course not. We soon realised that the reason for their presence was because this narrow strait is frequently used by illegal boats carrying refugees trying to reach Greece with the aim of seeking asylum in Europe.
As one of the islands closest to Turkey, Lesbos has borne much of the brunt of the European migrant crisis that began in 2015. In that year alone, over a million migrants and asylum seekers, fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in Greece.
Lesbos has been one of the islands where refugees have been kept in camps for endless months in terrible conditions. Fortunately, the number of refugees has eased but conditions for those who remain there are still simply awful.
We pressed on to Ayvalik but in the meantime the wind had started to increase and the white horses were dashing over the waves so after a quick look round a few of the lovely anchorages of the Ayvalik archipelago we decided to head for the spot that was most sheltered from a northerly blow.
We found the perfect spot – an almost landlocked bay called Çamlik Koyu (Paşa Koyu) where there was excellent holding in mud and beautifully sheltered by steep wooded slopes. We had to go through a narrow gap with jagged rocks either side to enter the bay which looked a little hair-raising but was actually fine.
Once again we found that we had chosen the same anchorage as our friends Liz and Steve from Liberte.
Liz told us it was market day in Ayvalik so we went off for a look and to restock with fruit and vegetables.
The old town of Ayvalik was a maze of narrow lanes and finding the market was easier said than done but eventually we made it and were amazed by its size and the variety of goods for sale – everything from clothes to household items as well as wonderful cheeses, fruit and vegetables.
The following day the girls (Our guest Jackie, Sue from Catabella and I) splashed out on a beach club experience and drank cocktails on the beach while lying on sun beds. It made a nice change!
Later on we had an excellent “pot luck dinner” aboard Sunday with the crews of Catabella, Liberte and new friends Barbara and James from Complexity.
The high winds and choppy seas persisted so the following day we decided to enjoy a land based day and visit the wonderful ancient site of Pergamon.
The settlement can be traced to prehistoric times and by the time the 1st Century BC rolled round it was described as “the most famous and respected city of Asia Minor”.
This once magnificent city sits high up on a 335 metre (1,100 feet) hill with commanding views to the vast plains below.
It was captured by Alexander the Great in 334 BC and established as the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom around the third century BC. It was in this period that buildings such as the palaces, temples and amphitheatre were built.
The views from the hill were breathtaking and it was easy to understand why this majestic city was so important for such a long period.
The amphitheatre was just spectacular. Capable of seating 10,000 people, the theatre is literally perched on the hillside at an incredibly steep and alarming angle. As a theatre goer in ancient times you would have had to have a strong stomach and not be affected by vertigo!
Another highlight were the remains of the library which was renowned for housing more than 200 thousand books during the Hellenistic period.
We were amazed to learn that during the same period the Greeks constructed a very effective high-pressure water pipeline which rose up to a height of 900 metres, and was 45 km long. The 240,000 ceramic pipes laid up the hillside supplied the city at the top with fresh water from its source below – a miraculous feat!
The taxi driver who drove us to Pergamon suggested that we take the inland hill-side route home which was absolutely lovely. We went through thickly forested areas with many varieties of pine trees and past mile after mile of wonderful olive groves.
We were told that the best olive oil comes from this district so we asked the driver if he could stop at an olive oil shop which he did, so we bought oil, olives and a few other goodies to take home.
Sadly, the time had come for Jackie, our temporary crew member from Sydney Australia, to leave Sunday and embark on the next leg of her world trip. On her last day we took a taxi across the connecting road bridge to Alibey Adasi (also known as Cunda Island) where we had a wonderful lunch (thanks Jackie) in a waterfront restaurant.
Waking up the next morning we all felt a bit muggy after a farewell to Jackie night on board Catabella.
Fortunately Jackie’s flight from Izmir to Istanbul wasn’t too early so there was plenty of time to drink cups of tea before she stepped sedately into our dinghy for the last time this trip.
Hopefully she will be back again one of these days!