We had been looking forward to exploring the Marmara Islands but sadly didn’t have nearly enough time to do them justice.
Part of the reason was because we had to get to Istanbul to begin the process of renewing our temporary residency visas but a sudden attack of really painful toothache also hastened the end of our exploration.
There are four inhabited and 17 uninhabited islands in this archipelago which is located in the South of the Sea of Marmara.
Our first stop was Paşalimanı Island which has five small villages and a total permanent population of 962. We anchored in the calm bay at the village of Paşalimanı which has a population of 180 people.
It was a lovely little place, very rural, unspoilt, with really friendly people and a mosque with the the shortest minaret we’ve ever seen, and two small supermarkets.
Walking around the lanes that surround the village it was a pleasure to see all the veggie gardens and delicious fruit growing (especially the cherries and plums.) Along the way we found a farm stall and bought some home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables.
We were just admiring one plum tree groaning with fruit when the owner came along and picked a whole heap of ripe juicy fruit for us. Such kindness!
Like many places in coastal Turkey, the island was once inhabited by people who were members of the Greek Orthodox Church who lived happily side by side with the Turkish Muslim residents. That all changed with population exchange of 1923 when 1.6 million members of Greek Orthodox Church were forced to move to Greek territory and between 450,000-500,000 Muslim people were forcibly moved from their Greek homeland to Turkish territory. The ruins of a Greek Orthodox Church that we came upon as we walked serves as a reminder of this cruel piece of history.
Another remnant from the past that we came across, a windmill, had been converted into a home a while ago but it looked as though it had remained empty in recent times.
Our second and final (for now!) anchorage in the Marmara Archipelago was on Avşa Island.
This fourteen square mile (36 square kilometres) island has a local population of around 2,000 but during the summer season the number of visitors increases to forty or fifty thousand.
Mercifully for us, the place where we anchored was literally deserted! We had found a perfect spot to shelter from the strong prevailing winds at a half built marina that consisted of little more than two breakwaters and quays, with no shore facilities and with only a very few local boats tied up. It was perfect!
Even better there was one lonely restaurant a short walk up the hill with views to die for.
We were taken to the back kitchen to check out the meze selection and with the help of Google translate found out that a meat delivery was expected at any moment.
Minutes later, we heard a motor bike approaching and the meat had arrived! It was brought to the table and we selected our main course!
That night one of my teeth started to ache really badly and by the morning I was in quite a bit of pain. So we decided to head for the town of Erdek on the mainland so that I could see a dentist.
Fortunately I found an excellent dentist who was able to see me that afternoon. He put me on antibiotics which brought immediate relief and in the ensuing days performed root canal work.
Sue and I also took the opportunity to have our hair cut at one of the local salons. We were delighted at the price – wash, cut and blow dry for $7 – but I was less than delighted with the styling!
In the meantime we got to know the lovely little town of Erdek – a low-key popular holiday destination for domestic tourists.
The pace was slow, there was an extensive pedestrian-only section and some pleasant eateries to enjoy.
The peninsula on which Erdek sits used to be the site of the ancient city of Kzykos dating back to the 8th Century BC.
Apparently several earthquakes destroyed the city but from time to time relics are unearthed. Some of these are displayed in a small area on the shore very close to where we parked our dinghies.
One day we noticed a navy frigate anchored behind us in the bay. This isn’t the usual type of vessel with which we tend to share our anchorage!
It turned out that the following day was Seaman’s Day in Turkey and the presence of the frigate was part of the celebrations. The highlight of the day was a swimming carnival which took place in the he fisherman’s harbour – not too far from where we were anchored.
There were many swimming races but the high point of the carnival was the greasy pole competition where young men ran up a narrow and precarious slippery pole set at an alarming angle and tried to grab the flag at the end.
There were many attempts, many near successes and some truly spectacular falls but no one managed to grab the flag! It was hard to watch as the potential for serious injury was self evident!
While we were in Erdek our latest boat guest arrived – Jonathan’s brother Jack from Australia. He had flown into Istanbul from England where he and our sister-in-law Carole had spent several months catching up with family and friends after a prolonged separation due to Covid. Jack was now travelling solo as Carole had returned to “normal life” in Brisbane while he continued to live the nomadic life for a while longer. After a night’s rest in a hotel in Istanbul he caught a long-distance bus to Erdek where we met him at the bus station.
One day while the three of us were walking along the sea front, we came across a lady with a bike loaded down with water bottles and plastic bags. Her carrier was so full that it had come away from the handle bars and she was struggling to keep everything from spilling on to the ground.
We stepped in to help her and discovered that she was one of the wonderful army of Turkish people who keep the thousands of street cats and dogs alive by providing food and water and where appropriate, vet care.
Her name was Nurten and her English was about as good as my Turkish (a few words!) but we had a lovely “chat” while Jonathan and Jack fixed her basket with wire found in a nearby waste bin!
I took a few photos of the nearby cat shelter and when the repair was completed she insisted on stopping a passerby to take a photo of all of us.
We were very impressed with the care and devotion Nurten shows to the animals of Erdek and were glad we could help her in return. As the old saying goes “one good deed deserves another”.