Bozcaada: an unspoilt island paradise in the Aegean Sea


(CNN) — It takes around half an hour to reach Bozcaada Island from the port of Geyikli on the Turkish mainland, with the vast, shimmering expanse of the Aegean Sea a constant visual companion.

As this idyllic island appears, one of the first things that catches your eye is Bozcaada Castle, a bold protagonist that represents the island’s long history dating back to classical antiquity.

The Romans were there. So were the Byzantines, the Venetian Republic and the Ottomans. He also gets a mention, under his alternate name Tenedos, in Homer’s “Iliad”.

And in many ways it hasn’t changed over the centuries, especially when it comes to serving quiet escapes relatively untouched by modern life.

Strolling through the island’s cobblestone downtown, it’s hard to avoid the remaining influences of its ancient Greek inhabitants. Everywhere there are old stone houses and taverns with wooden tables and chairs where fresh seafood, meze, rakı (aniseed alcohol) or wine are served every evening.

The bell tower of the 19th-century St. Mary’s Church, one of the island’s two remaining Orthodox churches, juts out among the leveled orange tiled roofs.

In the main square, people sit and enjoy their coffee and sweet or savory pastries at Small coffeewhile some streets on others browse books and magazines inside Bozcaada Kitapçısı (Bozcaada Bookshop).

wine aroma

The sleepy streets of Bozcaada come alive at night.

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In the evening, people gather in bars such as Salhanea former slaughterhouse painted in lemon yellow which faces both the sea and the castle, to enjoy glasses of local wine or a few cocktails.

Speaking of local wine, it’s the other protagonist of Bozcaada, with a winemaking history that dates back almost 3,000 years. Both old and new winemakers are successfully carrying on the tradition, especially the endemic grape varieties such as Çavuş, Vasilaki, Kuntra and Karalahna.

On Lale Street, the aroma of wine is distinct. It is here that the talay There is a wine shop and a production plant, in operation since 1948.
A few streets further, Amedeerun by Austrian winemaker Oliver Gareis, also offers wine tastings, while the Çamlıbag The family winery exists since 1925 and is now operated by the fourth generation.
However, the island’s most famous vineyard continues to be Corvuscreated by architect Reşit Soley in 2002, successfully revived the island’s winemaking tradition and brought it to an internationally recognized and award-winning status.

It was Soley’s tenacity and Bozcaada’s long history in viticulture that inspired and brought aspiring winemaker İlke Yasa to Corvus Vineyards in 2021, located just off Tuzburnu Bay, one of many beautiful bathing spots on the island.

“For me, the best time on the island is in April, May, September and October,” she says. “The busiest time is August, which coincides with the hustle and bustle of the harvest. During the day you spend hours in the sun among the vines and at night you find yourself on beaches inaccessible by car, bonfires are lit and people dance the night away.

“Especially in the year Bozcaada Jazz Festivalthe whole island turns into an outdoor concert hall, so many lovely people are coming, so many good conversations, rakı and wine.”

Stellar Sunsets

The island lies in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of mainland Turkey.

The island lies in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of mainland Turkey.

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On one of the highest peaks of the island, the Sunset Houses vacation homes overlook the sea between the valley and the twilight that paints everything with its orange glow every day.

At night, the sky is full of stars and only the changing winds remind us that this is an island in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

During the day, the many hiking trails on the island wind through vineyards and orchards where fig, pomegranate and olive trees flourish. The scents of rosemary, wild oregano and sage are omnipresent.

For all these reasons and more, Bozcaada remains one of the most unspoilt islands in the Aegean Sea. When the pandemic arrived in 2020, it became an escape point for many city dwellers who longed for more space and a connection to nature.

It was around this time that Sinan Sökmen – founder and CEO of award-winning travel agency Istanbul Tour Studio – and his wife Seda Domaniç, founding editor of Vogue Turkey, decided to buy a house on the island. .

Having met and married on the island, a strong emotional connection to Bozcaada made their decision easier, along with its pristine beaches and fresh culinary offerings.

“We especially love Sulubahçe Beach in the morning, where it feels like landing on a secluded beach in the Maldives,” says Domaniç. She recommends following that with a long Turkish breakfast at Rengulwhere chef Türkan Çim Işık prepares special salads, pastries and jams from the island according to the best products of the month.

street parties

Bozcaada has a long tradition of wine production.

Bozcaada has a long tradition of wine production.

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She adds, “We also like a late seafood lunch or an early dinner at Yalova Restaurant; homemade Turkish specialties such as mantı, çiğ börek and zeytinyağlı dolma, at Hanımeli; a complete chef’s menu in the vineyards of Maya; cocktails at sapa; and late night music and DJ shows at 49 Polentawhich often turns into a fun street party.”
Inside a stone house built in 1876, one of the most fascinating collections on the island is hidden behind a bright red door. The Bozcaada Museum is filled with over 15,000 photographs, documents, maps, prints and artifacts that tell the long history of the island.

After coming across a black-and-white Tenedos etching and four postcards in a second-hand bookstore in Istanbul in 1988, antiquarian Hakan Gürüney embarked on an intensive and systematic journey to collect everything he could find out about the history of the island.

He founded the museum in 2005 to display the amassed collection of artifacts and donations from Islanders who recognized the importance of sharing their own personal family stories.

Upstairs, each bedroom recounts the historical events that have shaped the island. Downstairs, glass display cases are filled with island artifacts from the past, from vintage groceries to toys to wine bottles and more.

Once the ferry heads back to the mainland, the islanders are once again separated from the visitors.

And at the end of summer, all but a few shops and taverns close as locals take to their streets, minding their own business, perhaps thinking of the past or looking to the future. , when the island will be filled again with those who want to share their lives. isolation, just for a few days.


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