Some of our friends view J and me with incredulity and amazement; ‘You did what!’ they exclaim. ‘But there is a wonderful new road that would get you there very quickly.’ We shuffle our feet and mumble incoherently. ‘And’, they continue, ‘those village roads are so bad; don’t you care about your car? One day you will disappear along one of those roads and we’ll never see you again!’
The truth is, it’s we who don’t understand them. How can anyone live in this incredibly beautiful country and not want to explore the back roads and trackways through wonderful scenery and photogenic villages? Sometimes, a journey that might take a couple of hours using normal roads turns into a day-long adventure as we divert away from the known and head off into the unknown. There always seems to be another view or flower or forest or stream to stop and explore. Just as well we don’t have to hold down a regular job, I suppose!
Not every back road is a trek over pot-holed forest tracks – often they have a decent asphalt surface and it just requires a bit of care as you negotiate the narrow, winding route. Such is the case on the road that links Sahlili in İzmir Province with Ödemiş in Aydin over the Boz Dağ mountains.
J and I love this area and have returned often over the years, sometimes with friends in tow to introduce them to a different side of Turkey. It has the advantage of offering more than just spectacular scenery – there is the splendid Painted Konak and Ulu Camii in the delightfully unspoilt village of Birgi and the ‘crater’ lake near the top of the mountain at Gölcuk where you can put up at the modest, clean and very reasonably priced Gölcuk Hotel. The hotel looks a bit grim from the road, but don’t let that put you off – go for half-board and enjoy a huge variety of excellent foods, all inclusive! High speed wi-fi, an indoor heated (sometimes) pool and a dining room at the end of the pier add to the pleasure.
J and I were there, again, just a couple of weeks ago as we wandered back from our trip to Bursa and İznik. We’d decided to stay a few days in Gölcuk, relaxing, wandering and feasting on catfish from the lake. It was time very well spent as we added to our pleasure trove of memories!
The village has been ‘discovered’ by Turks from the big cities lower down who have built summer villas there; however, the old centre, near the hotel, is charmingly run-down and dilapidated. It’s a place where J and I would love to live except the winters are seriously cold, the lake seriously frozen and the village seriously cut off by seriously deep snow.
A few years ago we discovered wild hops growing here and the thought of taking up the brewing of fine ales did cross my mind!
Here’re my impressions from Gölcuk.