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Island of a thousand faces Gökçeada

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Posted 20 March 2005 - 21:32

W hat do you think of when you hear the name Gökçeada? I can almost hear the replies: "A quiet island in Çanakkale province, with lots of old Greek villages and matchless sand beaches..." The Greek lady's famous cafe where the coffee is hand ground in a mortar, and Barba Yorgo at Zeytinliköy are the first places that come to mind. To be perfectly honest, that's all I knew about Gökçeada myself... until I started going there. Every time I went, I discovered something new. But before I share my discoveries with you, let me briefly discuss Gökçeada for those who have never been there.

The island's history goes back 5 thousand years. Archaeological excavations have shown that the Achaeans were the first tribe to set foot here. A key point at the entrance to the Dardanelles , Gökçeada has always held an appeal for civilized peoples. Naval wars were fought over the island, which has been ruled in turn by the Mycenaeans, Persians, Athenians, Spartans, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese and, now, the Turks.

Many things can be said about Gökçeada, also known as Imroz. Oxygen capital of the world, where the four winds vie for dominion. Exclusive habitat of the jujube tree whose fruit is a cross between the wild olive and cornelian cherry. An emerald green paradise pervaded by pine, cedar and beech. Turkey 's largest island, and the world's fourth most water abundant island... A treasure-house harbouring numerous attractions from Roman graves and castles whose past is shrouded in mystery to modern buildings and a Bronze Age mound. There are pure sand beaches, each one more beautiful than the last, on Gökçeada, which is a haven for city dwellers seeking refuge from the urban rat race. On the south side of the island is the Aydincik coast, known as the Patara of the northern Aegean . Marmaros Beach on the northwest side is another ideal spot for swimming. More coves just made for swimmers are Yildiz Koyu and Mavi Koy near the village of Kaleköy . And plunging into the waters at Laz Koyu or Gizli Liman at Ince Burun, Turkey's westernmost point, affords a pleasure all its own.

Olives and olive oil are the staples of the island cuisine, which is famous for its wines, thyme honey, almonds and endless varieties of fish. It's impossible not to work up an appetite on Gökçeada, where Greek appetizers share the table with traditional Turkish dishes. Gökçeada is frequently mentioned in myths and legends. See, for example, how Homer describes the island in Book 13 of The Iliad: "There is a cave, broad and deep down in the gloom of the water / Lying midway between Tenedos and Imbros of the high cliffs. / There Poseidon the shaker of the earth reined in his horses."

And now for Gökçeada's lesser known spots... If you say you're tired of swimming and sun bathing and you enjoy walking, the island's many undiscovered attractions await you. Jump in a car and go to Aydincik. If it's high summer, the little lake will have dried up and become a salt pond. When you get there, you'll find black figures buried up to
their necks in the organic sludge around the lake shore, which is believed to have emollient properties. On the way from Aydincik to the gendarmerie station, there are two Roman graves about a hundred meters off the road. Getting to them will involve a bit of a hike. One day when you go from the island center to Kuzu Limani, leave the sea on your left after passing Çamlibel Restaurant and start walking. As you climb, water will gradually begin to flow in the dry stream bed, and before long you will come across a very old mill with a staircase of 30-40 steps. When you reach the top you'll soon see a waterfall about 20 m high. You can continue climbing next to the waterfall, but you'll need to watch your step.
If you have time, go one day to the valley near the village of Sahinkaya, which conceals surprises in its depths that will transport you to another world. First you will encounter a natural aquapark. Then a giant pool about 4-5 meters in diameter, carved out by the rock fragments carried by the
water. You will have difficulty tearing yourself away from this valley, where the air is refreshingly cool even in the blistering heat of summer. If you take one of the paths leading down from Tepeköy, you will find yourself at one of the island's formerly plentiful natural springs. And if you follow the road that passes below the spring, some 15-20 minutes later you'll come upon two big mulberry trees. Later you'll reach the tiny settlement of Çavuslu, most of whose houses are in ruins. Deserted now, it still preserves all its beauty, offering the best examples of typical Gökçeada architecture.
As you proceed from Kaleköy to the town of Gökçeada , turn left after about a kilometer and a half. Some 250-300 meters further on you will come upon one of the island's most recent discoveries, a partially excavated Bronze Age tumulus hidden among the trees. The fragments unearthed from the mound, which have been dated to 3,500 years ago, will soon go on display in Gökçeada.

Now we are at Dereköyü, abandoned at present, but once said to have been Turkey 's wealthiest and largest village with 1900 households. A day tour around the village will allow you to discover the old windmills and the castle, part of which still stands like an historic monument with its laundry and market full of shops. If you head for Marmaros from Dereköy, you will soon see a path-like road forking off to the right. Twenty minutes down this path, when you are least expecting it, Marmaros waterfall will suddenly rise before you, cascading from a height of 30 meters. A car is a must for going to 'Gizli Liman', the coastline near the village of Ugurlu . Here on this shore, the 'hidden harbour', so named because it lies secluded between two hills, is Gökçeada's most beautiful beach. The limestone at the end of the beach is also completely permeated with fossils-of plankton as well as various shellfish and sea urchins. Almost every village on the island, which is still untouched by the hubbub of the modern world, has pensions for overnight lodging. With its spots of natural beauty both hidden and familiar, Gökçeada awaits visitors.

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