15.04.2012 - 17.04.2012
We arrived last night after an easy crossing despite warnings about high seas. The whole trip took about nine hours with the bus to Balikisir and then Ayvalik. After a lukewarm reception at nine in the evening, we moved from Taksiyaris Guest House to a newly renovated place around the corner which we seem to have to ourselves. Ayvalik is a cute, if somewhat disheveled old town of stone houses and tile roofs, many of which are in various states of disrepair, though a number of them are slowly being renovated by Istanbulis. They are buying up old places for a summer seaside getaway. By car you could probably make it in about four hours.
The seaside promenade is a nice place to stroll,
while the narrow cobblestone streets run up a steep hill to a wooded grassy area with goats and chickens roaming freely.
There is a small expat community here, mostly Brits, and we gave Ahmed's, wife, Kathleen, a call. He apparently had already spoken to her, and she seemed quite happy to hear from us. We had lunch, and then she took us to her house. It was quite a large place, about 130 years old, and she is still working on parts of it. We shared travel stories with her, and she told us about her time teaching English in China in the 90's, quite different than our experience. She also told us a fair bit about her relationship with Ahmed, who it turns out, is Bipolar. The meds he takes only control it partially. Perhaps that is why he has had so many different jobs. Kathleen spends part of the summer in England since Ayvalik gets too hot for her, but she worries about leaving Ahmed alone. It seemed to us that her relationship with him is quite rocky, understandable, given his mental health problems. She is encouraging him to spend time with his family in Pakistan, which is where his doctor is.
It was enjoyable to spend the better part of an afternoon with a fellow English speaker, but it was hard for us to understand exactly why she settled in Ayvalik. It seems a lonely existence in a town with marginal infrastructure, and a small number of foreigners. Now, she says, it is impossible for foreigners to buy property as a law was passed preventing them from doing so. She is concerned as to how this will affect property values, as a good deal of her money is tied up in the house.