Destination: Ayvalik, Turkey
Number of Days Spent: 2 days
Where we stayed: Kelebek Pension - 36 Euros/night ($50 including breakfast & wifi, we thought it was a bit spendy for what we got but the place was spotless and the breakfast good)
Best restaurant: Nothing really stood out but if you visit you must try the Ayvalik Tost (usually 3 lira - $2) from the restaurant at the farthest end of the waterfront (or anywhere in town really). It's a toastie (like a grilled cheese to Americans) but it's filled with a cut up beef hot dog, pickles, tomatoes, onions with squirts of ketcup and mayo (we asked for ours sans mayo). It sounds disgusting but it's actually quite tasty, not to mention famous all over Turkey!
Best of: Sipping a beer after a hot day and taking in the view of the city from our pension!
Worst of: Ayvalik is a nice enough town but we came to see the market which is reputed to be the largest in the region. We expected cows trailing through streets, farmers hawking fresh fruit but what we really got was a regular market. Tons of vendors selling second hand and knock off clothes and not much else. It was a bit of a disappointment.
After making our way by bus and ferry to the Aegean coast from Istanbul (10 hours - 55 lira) we arrived in Ayvalik. The city was almost completely inhabited by Greeks until 1923 when the governments mandated a population swap at the conclusion of WWI. The locals at that time were sent to Crete and the Turks living in Crete were sent to Ayvalik. It's obvious walking through town and admiring the white washed buildings that the Greek influence is still quite strong. During the exchange people uprooted their families, swapped houses and converted the churches into mosques. The skinny cobblestone roads throughout town curve this way and that creating a maze like feeling. There are even a few odd goats roaming about the town and the odd farmer with a horse to spice things up. Today the town is known for its olive oil production and its growing tourism trade with mostly Turkish, and oddly, German travelers.
The first thing on our agenda was a day of relaxation at the beach! We rented ourselves a couple of chairs and an umbrella (10 lira total - $6) and hung out for the day getting far too much sun. The next day we planned to attend the town's weekly market. The Lonely Planet guide psyched us up for a traditional market and we were pretty disappointed to discover that it was just a regular market with clothes, shoes, food, etc. While we hoped to see a representation from the rural population it just wasn't in the cards for us. Not every stop can be exciting and we were due for a let down. We decided then to cut our time a bit short and to head for Selcuk, but not before getting one last Ayvalik Tost!