Turkey // The North Aegean //


Across the bay from Ayvalık, the island of CUNDA – known as Yonda in Ottoman times, and now officially Alibey Adası, and also accessible via causeway – constitutes either a good day-trip destination or an overnight halt. It’s a marginally quieter, less grand version of Ayvalık old town, with a lively main harbour and cobbled backstreets lined by restored stone houses – remnants of life before 1923, when Cunda was known as Moskhonísi to its Greek Orthodox inhabitants. After the Christians were sent to Greece, the island was resettled with Cretan Muslims from around Haniá, and most older people speak Cretan Greek as a matter of course. Cunda has become popular with affluent İstanbulites bent on owning an Aegean retreat, though the dense ranks of tatty trinket and ice-cream stalls along the quay clash somewhat with its twee image.

Halfway up the slope from the waterfront, the Orthodox Taksiyarhis Cathedral, heavily damaged by a 1944 earthquake, is undergoing a welcome restoration. At the top of the hill, a chapel and adjacent windmill have been converted by the Koç Foundation into a worthwhile café with stunning views.

Northern Cunda, known as Patriça, is supposedly a protected nature reserve – not that villa construction has completely stopped – and holds some relatively deserted beaches. A dirt road goes to them, while boat tours from Ayvalık harbour visit two derelict Greek monasteries, Áyios Yórgis and Áyios Dhimítrios tou Sélina, accessible only by sea.

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