CHASING THE WIND
GÖKÇEADA

Article & Photography for OnAir Magazine of Onur Airlines, August 2019.​

Moving forward, I greet the seagulls flying over the heaving sea like the sprinkles chasing after the whistling winds in the middle of the sea. At the end of the journey, I will reach hidden bays, unspoiled villages and the island of fairy tales that will always put a smile on your face. Gökçeada is abundant, the sea is vast, and its songs resonate in its villages in two different languages.

Going to an island in summertime gives a feeling of happiness and peace, just as poet Orhan Veli described it in his lines: “There are days when I pack up and leave in the smell of the nets pulled out of the sea. Drifting from this island to that in the trail of the shearwaters.” With its blue waters that invoke the feeling of freedom, villages of modest beauty established on the hills and breeze that quenches the burning heat of the sun, Gökçeada welcomes the island’s visitors with huge cliffs that look like giant arms waiting to embrace everyone. I am ready to listen to Gökçeada whispering stories from Homer’s Iliad as I climb up the hills following the trail of relentless winds and Poseidon and then descend into the narrow-cobbled streets.

Carrying the Past to Present: Zeytinliköy and Tepeköy

I explore the island starting from Zeytinliköy which is surrounded by olive trees. The oldest church on the island, located at the entrance of the village, is crowded with people for a ritual. The village square welcomes cheerful crowds at its cafes owned by Greek residents of the island. I order a Frappe enjoying the Mediterranean melodies they play in Arassia Cafe and look at the black and white pictures on its walls. The barber supplies, which are displayed in a corner, belonged to the father of the Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomeos, who was born and raised in Gökçeada. He once run this coffeehouse and used this corner as a barbershop. I pass through the houses with striped umbrellas, colorful wooden chairs lined up on the streets, and geranium pots on the window sills; and as I near the sign that reads Barba Hristo Desserts, my mouth starts to water. The smell of gum pudding lined up on a shelf fills the street. After having a taste of the famous dibek coffee, homemade jams and cookies of the village, I enjoy this dessert, too. In Tepeköy, located near Zeytinliköy, the preparations for the annual Virgin Mary Fair, which is held on August 14-16, seem to be in progress. Tables are brought to the square and meals are cooked in huge pots. There is still a couple of hours to the arrival of crowds singing through the streets with darbukas, and a few more for the syrtos where plates will be broken as the music plays at the Barba Yorgo Tavern. On the way back, I watch the endless blue that becomes more apparent in desolation from the historic Tepeköy Çınaraltı. This is one of the best spots to enjoy the island’s views.

The Jewel of the Island: Eski Bademli Village

Settled on top of a high hill, Eski Bademli Village (Gliki) is one of the villages that the islanders love so much that they preserved it the way it was built. With a perfect view of the Samothrace Island that rises from the middle of the sea like an eye and birds singing all day perched on the almond trees, the warm atmosphere of the village square is enough to make one happy by itself. I come across an old plane tree and a historic laundry next to it that immediately takes me back in time. The laundry, to which village women came to do their laundry on certain days, has a stove, water canals, stones to beat clothes on and a fountain. After a walk, pause for a coffee and dessert break at the coffeehouse in the square or at Cafe Sten Ada just a little away and enjoy the simple beauties around and you will easily fall for this village.

Ode to the Sun: Kaleköy

Kaleköy, one of the oldest settlements on the island, is situated on a hill at the furthermost point among the ruins of a castle. It is positioned like a sunset viewing spot. Therefore, after having breakfast at Mustafa’nın Kayfesi in the center of the village, with the taste of “acuka” still on my palate, I feel like I can’t wait for the sun to set. When the time comes, I sit at a table among the blue and white colors of the Poseidon Restaurant and order appetizers. It is impossible not to admire the dance of the sun. In every moment, the sky turns into a different shade of orange. Following the Genoese path (Queen Valentina Road), I walk down to the harbor and see Yıldızkoy hidden in an indentation on the right side. As I approach the harbor, large and small fishing boats appear on the sea. Every scene that Kaleköy has to offer is like a scene of a film that you watch to feel good. My last stop is Gökçeada Kent Museum. Here, I find the traces of the old island days when islanders ate aniseed bread, made coffee from chickpea-barley flour in hard times, fishermen caught sardine and bonito in the sea, streets were illuminated with kerosene lamps and lovers met on the “lovers’ road” in Zeytinliköy. I say goodbye to the island with the famous flour cookie of the island “efibadem” cookie in my hand and a Rembetiko melody in my lips that I’ve been mumbling as I don’t know the lyrics. Leaving this peaceful haven is difficult, but knowing that I can come back anytime gives me comfort.

© 2023 by Deniz Yılmaz Akman

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