At first glance, Ayvalık might seem to be just another town along the coast. However, it does have some interesting architecture and history. There are many Greek buildings with ornate windows and soors and the antique quarter is well worth a visit. Many of the houses on the hillside have been turned into small guest houses and some of the mosques here were originally Greek Orthodox churches.
We are still in the land of olive production which is why you will see many shops selling olive oils and soaps. This seaside town with its offshore islands and nearby Lesbos have been the home of settlements since ancient times. This part of the Aegean coast is surrounded by low lying hills and pine trees and olive groves. After this we will soon leave Balikesir and move on towards the province of Izmir.
This whole region has a rich history as you will have seen from our previous videos. There is evidence of human settlers having been here since prehistoric times.
Until the population exchange of Greeks and Turks in 1922 almost the entire population of this area would have been Greek. Following the Turkish War of Independence the 1923 agreement for the exchange of populations saw Muslim Turks from Mitilene and Crete replace the Greeks and likewise Greeks from Ayvalik replace the Turks in those locations which would have included Lesbos.
Ayvalik is heaving with tourists during June, July and August. Hotel prices are pretty expensive here and parking and traffic jams can be a problem. May, early June and September are the best times to visit.
Ayvalik has over 2.5 million olive trees covering some 33,000 acres. Many of these trees are very mature with some over 500 years old.
When you walk along the sea front in the city centre you will see a host of small yachts and pleasure craft all wanting to whisk you off on a boat tour around the islands. You are spoiled for choice here there are so many. There are also a couple of diving boats with tours and diving equipment for hire.
This seafront area of Ayvalik is the perfect place to grab a beer and chill out.
Up on the hill overlooking Ayvalik there is a stone tower. Some sort of folly or vantage point it is fairly modern and not anything of any historical significance but use it as a marker to head on up for some beautiful scenic views of the town.
At night as we look over the illuminated bridge that joins Cunda to the mainland it might be worth mentioning the Cunda Uygulama Hotel which sits on a rock with a commanding view of the bridge and Ayvalik beyond. There are many government run Uygulama Hotels in Turkey and this is the flagship hotel. They are placement training centres for students studying the hospitality industry and it is students who run and operate the hotel under instruction from their teachers. They provide a very good service at a reasonable price. Whenever we are in Ayvalik we always try to book this hotel. The evening buffet meal is particularly good. For more details visit their website at: www.uygulamaotel.com
From Ayvalik you can catch the ferry to Lesbos, the neighbouring Greek Island. The crossing takes between 50 minutes with a high speed ferry and around an hour and 15 minutes with the slow ferry. The crossing operates regularly during the week and there are plenty of tour operators opposite the main road by the ferry terminal. If you prefer to book online try www.bilet.com or www.feribot.net.
Ayvalik has been around for centuries. From the Hittite, Lydian and Phrygian periods to the Romans and Greeks of the Middle ages it finally fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks rioted in 1821 as they sought alignment with the Greek mainland and the Greek forces invaded Turkey during the The Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922. The Ottoman Empire had been partitioned after World War I and the Greek Forces landed at Smyrna, now Izmir, on the 15th May 1919.
the Greeks pushed deep into Anatolia, hoping to capture the capital city of Ankara. However the Turks fought bravely and resisted the advance. Under the leadership of the Ottoman Empires most famous general, Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish army, supplied with military equipment by the Russians and the Italians, began to regain ground.
The Greeks made a fatal mistake in trying to over extend their reach in pushing towards Ankara. It gave the Turkish forces time to re group. In 1922 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk launched his great offensive. The allies had all but abandoned the Greeks and the Turkish forces managed to push the Greeks back to Izmir where the remnants of the defeated Greek army left on September 16th. The terms of the Treaty of Lausanne and the great exchange of Turks and Greeks ended the Greek presence in Asia Minor.
Every year the town of Ayvalik celebrates the liberation of the town from enemy occupation. This video shows you the start of the procession of government workers as they head for the town centre ceremonies in the main square.
Poems are read out and the meaning and importance of this day in history is explained to a captive audience of townsfolk and visitors alike. There is a presentation of wreaths at the Ataturk monument and the National Anthem is sung by all.
Ayvalik was freed from occupation on the 14th September 1922 and the ceremony and parade takes place on this date every year. Today the ferryboat terminal in Ayvalik is full of Greeks coming to the town on shopping trips and the tourist industry in Lesbos is heavily dependent on its Turkish tourists. How times have changed. Yesterday’s Enemy is Today’s Friend.