I’m on a ferry again!! Who’d a thought a journey on a motorcycle would include that many ferries! Now this one will need a bit of explanation.. I am on my way to an island in north Turkey called Gokceada
.. I have heard so much about this island from many years ago as it’s the place my Greek friend Captain Georgios Apistolas comes from (here is a reminder photo of my friend who I speak of from my earlier post on Athens).. I used to hear so many stories about “HIS” island, but never thought I’d actually go there!
At the time George’s family lived there, it was a Greek Island
.. well not technically.. it’s a bit confusing, but I’ll do my best. (And I am really worried that I get this right as there is a lot of passion about this story from the Greek side as you can imagine)
When it was Greek territory, the island is called Imvros
. (spelled a couple different ways) During the Greco-Turkish war
, a treaty made the island part of the Turkish Republic
in 1923.. If I understand correctly, the Greek population remained and was allowed to retain their Greek citizenship.
However, in the 1970’s, the Turkish government decided they wanted the Greeks off the island.. Which will explain most of the upset and what I show in the rest of this post.
This is my natural pretend Greek flag
photo, I made in honor of my friend.. 😉
Going to this island was 350 km (700 km total) off my track and I was to and fro about going this far out of the way. Then I selfishly decided I just really didn’t want to go, but George was insistent and explained how much he wanted me to see.. When you have a good friend, and something is important to them, then it’s important to me too…
He sent me very clear instructions of everything I need to see and the importance of it from the Greek culture. Sorry the image is so blurry, I couldn’t get to transfer onto the blog, but just to show my list of instructions of things to accomplish in 2 days!
My first job was to find his friend Stratos.. who does not speak ANY English, and I do not speak ANY Greek (apart from Kalimera and Kalispera) so I understand that George has organized another friend (also a George, I will call George #2) who may be here to help with translation. I am to go to a super small village to find Stratos at the cultural center.. He is not there and the one man who is also didn’t speak English and couldn’t help.. So I decide to just wander the village asking the name of Stratos and see where it gets me.
Found this lovely guy! No English here either, but he wanted me to follow him! Isn’t he cute!
He pointed my way down a steep hill at some point and before I knew it he had turned back on his own way.. I asked the next person I saw again for Stratos.. wasn’t here either the bugger! But at least the man I asked speaks some English.. this is good! (I know it’s my responsibility to speak Greek, but I didn’t get too far learning that one.. 😉 Here is the Zorlos family who helped me, Maria his wife also pretty good with English.. I mentioned I am a friend of Capt. George Apistolas and they knew him too..of coarse! Maria was quite keen to show me some of the areas herself..! I just got a kick that I am lost in a Greek village on a Turkish island and get invited into the home of a great family. You might be able to tell the boy can’t smile as there’s no way to peel his eyes away from the football.. ha! In every country.. the boys are the same! 😉
Maria showed me the house where my friend was born… several years before me, I might add.. ha!
Not long ago, the Greek people were allowed to return to the island.. most did not. But for tradition, I am lucky to meet the ones that are here as they have come to celebrate Easter on their island.
I also learned that since the island became part of Turkey, the Greek population now tend to paint their houses in the Greek colors of blue and white.. just to be clear who lives where!
As for the Turkish houses.. the flag is displayed in each of them including the shops.
Maria shows me her Grandfathers house, still abandoned.
Being Easter weekend, George #2 takes me around the first village on my list.. Zeytinlekoy. Have a look at the streets.. so old… very very quiet with only a handful of people here since most is abandoned. The majority of the families moved to either Athens Greece or Istanbul Turkey.
These buildings are empty, but he explains to me his memory as a child, this is the center of the village where they would have dances on summer nights, markets, etc.
Next he takes to show me the wash houses.. which are scattered around on different streets. I would imagine it would more rightly be called the gossip house? 😉 Very important meeting place for the women to wash clothes.. and a fireplace inside to make the warm water rinse cycle. 😉 I like it!
This is Friday night and the finish of Lent for Greek Orthodox Easter.. I was invited to watch the festivities at the very tiny village church. I don’t understand a dag gone word of it, however I know about Easter and I’ve got a good idea what they’re saying.
After this most interesting Greek Midnight resurrection service for an Aussie/American to watch ;), they invited me back to the house where George’s mother has prepared the traditional “break the lent fast” soup called Mayiritsa.. Lamb and all it’s pieces and parts. (Not for me, but I appreciate the tradition) And… it’s after 2 AM!! (I am not hungry, nor was I fasting for the last 7 days)
But I did love the gorgeous eggs!! That I can eat! And with the traditional cracking of them against each other, I am proud to say my egg was the strongest.. good luck!
Really fun and unique experience for me.. time seems to stand still here, so this was truly a look at how things really used to be.. and the dedication of these people to carry on their culture here on this now Turkish island.
The following day, I set off to explore the rest of the island alone, using George #1’s handy list.
First up is Karekoy, and the Saint Nicholas Church. This is the location of the old port where the greek inhabitants were thrown out of their houses over night.. with St. Nicholas Church being their last sight. ;-( I still don’t understand why the Greeks were then taken to Istanbul Turkey (why not to mainland Greece?)
Next stop is Tepekoy..here I visit the old Greek school. My new Greek friends tell me this is one of the main reasons that families don’t return permanently to the island is due to no school and too hard/expensive to rebuild one now..
Moving on to Schinoudi you can see behind the bike and the largest town of around 3,500 people completely abandoned. The Turkish people who were sent to live on the island did not take over these houses for some reason.
I peaked into some of the houses.. still with old clothes, stoves, etc scattered about the floors. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in my own home one day and the next day somebody from another country sends me away forever..
It’s now my last day, and a final Easter Service at the Greek Church in the main town Gockeada where I’ve been staying.
Capt. George’s cousin Anna from Athens
Maria’s daughter on the left and George #2’s daughter on the right. I hate to admit, but I did not attend this second Greek service. However the girls wanted to make sure I got my lucky Easter egg!
These people were all so kind to invite me into their lives and spend a lot of their time explaining to me their island history.
I do not want to leave out my Turkish experience on this island. Here’s a view of my wander around town to take in a bit of this culture as well.
The boys at the small hotel I stay were really enthusiastic about my trip and blog and served me a fun Turkish meal.
Quick trip, but much accomplished.. thanks George for insisting I go to ‘your’ island. Was such an honor to experience!
Now I have a 7:30 AM ferry ride back to the mainland of Turkey so I can resume my original route plan to Bulgaria.
For Australians, take note: This is my ‘DAWN’ photo.. BECAUSE…. it turned out that on the other side of the pond where my ferry takes me is……. Gallipoli! And at this moment I had no idea that the ANZAC day dawn services are happening.. (I knew it was coming up, but I could have sworn this took place the following weekend. ) You can imagine my surprise to get off the ferry to find so many Aussies!! After a whole weekend of history lessons on Turkish and Greek relations, now I’m heading into MORE history of my own kind! For NON-Australians, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is a tribute to those who died fighting at Gallipoli during World War I.
This does not even begin to show how many tourists buses on this road.. it went on for many many kilometers.. they must have booked every bus in Turkey for this!
By time the ferry dropped us off, the actual service was finished. But I was proud to find this guy! For those who love Aussie Rules Football, it’s Michael O’Laughlin who used to play for the Sydney Swans. (sorry again for another fuzzy photo.. not doing too well in this post! My non-interested photo helper and I forgot to check afterwards)
One late morning view of the Cove before I head up the road! How funny and what a coincidence to find myself here.. didn’t have the slightest plan to do so, especially on a motorcycle!.. Even though I’d like to lie and say that I had always planned to be here on this day in honor of my own country. But respect to all the ANZAC’s..better late than never? 😉
… What a great day already and it’s only 9 AM..!