Kazdağları (Mount Ida) with “Thousand springs” is a special region with its clear air, water, summits that radiates positive energy, unique nature, and villages entwined with ancient cultures. Longing for home comes back to life in Mount Ida. Aroma of the herbs, flavor of the cheeses, color of the olive oil, aliveness of the marketplace, and the smooth nature of the North Aegean villagers create an irresistible driving force for one to return to self.
“The sun goes down, yuruk lies down…” Yuruks, Romans, and Turkmens compose the locals and they like to be up early then go home at sunset. Witnessing this unity at the marketplace and enjoying their pleasant chats are inevitable. A marketplace is set everyday in the region, sometimes more than one: in Burhaniye on Mondays, in Edremit on Wednesdays, in Havran, Küçükkuyu, and Ayvacık on Fridays, in Altınoluk on Saturdays, and in Akçay on Sundays. The villagers sell the herbs that they pick from Mount Ida’s summits: champignons, chicory, mustard, wild garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, and parsley and many more. The tastiest of the cottage cheeses, pot cheese that is rested underground for 8-9 months, butter, grape leaves, grapes from Mount Madra during vintage season, grape molasses, fig molasses, pepper and tomato paste, country bread, dried tomatoes, wild thyme, and pine mushrooms…
Legendary beauty of nature and villages
The excitement of the olive harvesting and joy of the Aegean women end the silence of Mount Ida. Flux of creeks in winter creates falls. Sabahattin Ali turned the hopeless love of Hasan from Zeytinli village and Emine from Yüksek Oba village into a story named Hasan Boğuldu. The story takes its name from the lagoon called Hasanboğuldu, which is near the Sutüven Falls located at the border of Mount Ida National Park. Water falls from 17 meters at the Sutüven Falls. The stones that were used to build the houses of Adatepe village, which is settled on a rocky plot, where the Turkish and Greek families who ranch and live in harmony had been quarried and engraved by stonemasons before the Republic. You should see the Adatepe Olive Oil Factory & Museum in Küçükkuyu. Yeşilyurt, which is among the prettiest villages of the Aegean, has kept the characteristics of rural life. It would be a good idea to get warm at one of the thermals in Güre, after a nice walk.
Trekking through the endemics
The Aegean climate, which is warmer than the Marmara’s, dominates Mount Ida. It is easy to access the altitudes where it snows the most. It is possible to do trekking at many areas of the mountain, accompanied by a good guide of course. This route passes by creeks, valleys, stone houses, and local museums. Stops along the route are taken usually at coffee houses surrounded by sycamores. Sausage, cheese, and halvah are the main treats of picnics. Mount Ida is well known with the endemic plants and healing herbs. Picking fresh thyme, sage, and mint is a must. The most significant tree of the region is Ida Fir, which is what the Horse of Troy made of. Mount Ida is the only place in the world that it grows.
Museums of faith and idealism
Between Edremit and Akçay, an interesting olive oil museum takes place next to the fourth generation olive oil factory of Evren Ertür. This is where one can become enlightened about olive and olive oil. You can see many items related to olive and olive oil exhibited at the museum from olive oil production systems from different periods to an imperial order of success given to Evren Bey’s grandfather by the Sultan, and from 120-year-old paper soap to soap molds. Private Ethnographical Gallery of Tahtakuşlar Village is another small museum that is unique to Mount Ida. There are nine Turkmen villages within the borders of Edremit. Villagers are educated and attached to their traditions. Turkmen people who come from Central Asia settle in the Taurus since they cannot live away from forests. Their mastery at woodwork is well recognized. That’s why they are called as ‘Woodworkers.’ This place, which is famous internationally, received a special award from UNESCO and it is also the first private ethnographical gallery of a village.
A story of homecoming and taste
A sharp turn without return might be a life changing event once you come to Mount Ida, just like the life of Erhan Şeker who created Zeytinbağı from a piece of land with only two olive trees whereas he was working in textile sector in Bursa. Erhan had one of his dreams become true in here, his firstcookbook: “A Delicious Story from Mount Ida.” Most important characteristic of Erhan as a chef is that he was able to create a unique cuisine combining unique produce and food culture of the region and his special touch that is inspired by the world cuisines. He grows many seeds from around the world from Mexico to Vietnam in his garden. He also grows over ten different kinds of tomatoes in his garden. He makes his own cheese from raw milk and vinegar from Bayramiç apples. He organizes cooking lessons during spring and fall, sharing not only the secrets to his delicious dishes but also the things that he has learned about food culture, history, and mythology.
The giant sycamore of the Turkish Cinema
A ship’s deck which looks belong to a scrap heap remains in the yard of Zeytinbağı. It has drawings of the painter Muzaffer Akyol. And a poem: “I saw a ship in my dream/ Its branches olive trees/ Its wings are phoenix/ It made fun of waves and flew over the mountain/ I asked what its cargo was/ It gave me a modest answer/ I carry love/ I carry ever blooming roses/ I carry Tuncel Kurtiz.” Tuncel Kurtiz, the actor whom we had lost last year, left İstanbul behind, settled in here, and passed away. He referred to İstanbul with this quote: “My only solution is to leave this city.”
Although nothing much left of the Zeus Altar, watch the sunset there.
Walking fans can join retired lawyer İskender Bey and his son Deniz.
Esen Brothers’ early harvest olive oil, olives, cottage cheese, and blackberry jam at Zeytinli Village are delicious.