Urla and Alaçatı: Jewels of the Turkish West Coast

At the end of May, we escaped to the Aegean for a long weekend. Our destination was the small coastal town of Urla, located on a peninsula 30 kilometers west of Turkey's coastal metropolis, Izmir.

Urla is a popular holiday resort for the laid-back inhabitants of Izmir. It's neighbours with the ever-so-popular Çeşme as well as the lazy little village of Sigacik -- Turkey's first Cittaslow (Slow City). Urla is famous for its ancient olive oil press and daily fish auction, and has been home to quite a few high caliber musicians and poets such as Tanju Okan, Necati Cumali and the Nobel laureate Giorgos Seferis.

Our weekend in Urla started with a long morning walk from Aylin's aunt's house to the harbour. The 2-hour walk took us through olive and pomegranate orchards, vineyards, old Greek homes and the ancient olive press.

At 10:00 am sharp, we made it to Urla's traditional morning fish auction at the harbour. We were fascinated by the variety of fresh seafood available.

After the auction, we strolled to the harbour to see the yachts getting ready for the "Tanju Okan Yacht Race".

After a quick tea in the harbour, we took a taxi back to the house for a scrumptuous breakfast prepared by aunt Cazibe. In the afternoon, we all drove to Alaçatı, a seaside town which used to be a sleepy fishing village up until 2 summers ago. Over one short winter, it miraculously turned into one of the most expensive, chic and "European" resorts of Turkey!

Today it is almost exclusively frequented by wealthy Istanbulites and Izmiris. The town is basically one long bougainvillea-lined street of quaint cafes, fine-dining restaurants, eccentric shops and charming (and criminally expensive!) boutique hotels.

Taş Hotel
 Although there is a lively street market that sells handcrafts, clothes and organic food, the "real" community in Alaçatı is shrinking fast. With its dining and windsurfing scene, it's hardly an off-the-track destination any more, but it may be worth a visit for those who want to see Turkey at its finest. One other reason to visit Alaçatı is its beautiful stone buildings, most of which have been restored nicely. The local white stone turns yellow as it ages and reveals how old the building really is. Some buildings are white-washed and sport blue paint on their window surrounds, similar to Greek island homes.

Back to our weekend...The popular windsurfing center was already full of happy surfers although it was literally the first day of the summer season. We went to the sheltered end of the beach and as we dipped into the cool waters of the Aegean, we declared summer officially open!

We ended the day with a barbecue dinner back in Urla. As we clinked our glasses under the stars, a poem by Seferis sprang to our minds:

Stoop if you can to the dark sea forgetting
The sound of a flute to naked feet
That trod in your sleep in the other the sunken life
Write if you can on your last shell
The day, the name, the place
And cast it to sink in the sea.

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