Sep 16, 2011

At Cunda family pansions of 80s turn into boutique hotels

Typical Cunda house in Ayvalık.

Views from Arthur Restaurant in Cunda overlooking the bay.

Sobe Hotel, on the cover of Travel&Leisure in August 2011, recently opened in Cunda island just off Ayvalık. The hotel's combination of old (stone) and new architecture (glass) in common areas as well as bathroom (marble and glass) gives it a sophisticated touch while cute details such as a tray of welcome lemonade served in room gives it a homey feeling. I was also enchanted by the quality of hospitality items such as soap and gel in bathrooms. It is those things that really make the difference for me. It is also why I consider it a perfect spot for a weekend get away. (I must caution that I did not take the hotel's shuttle to the beach so you must find out about that otherwise).

Views from Sobe Hotel, Cunda island, mixing old and new.

Cunda is full of typical Aegean charm and Greek houses. The loneliness of the Taxiarchis church adds to the air of calm in the island while the restaurants on the seaside provide the vividness. Luckily, Cunda is not much known by foreign tourists. Therefore, the mezes and fish in its great restaurants are reasonably priced although the same cannot be said for accommodation. We ate at Arthur and all the mezes including its kroket (potato balls) was yummy! When in Cunda, taste the mastic ice cream sold at the local stores.

Typical streets of Cunda island, Turkey.

The Taxiarchis church on Cunda island is falling apart.

I would say Cunda’s greatest advantage is its closeness to the Greek island of Lesvos in case you want to hop off across the sea. Another is its magnificent olive oil. After the population exchange between Turkey and Greece, Turks from Crete island were settled here so they continued the local tradition of olive oil production. Indeed, the best olive oil in Turkey is produced in the Edremit Bay area nearby and Ayvalik is one of the places that you find it. Just jump into any store that sells it along with soap. You cannot go wrong.

When I was a kid, my parents would make a detour just to spend one night at Cunda. They loved the island but back then I could not understand why. It was a downtrodden place. We would spend the night in a family pansion. While the owner lived in the ground floor, we as a family would share a room in the upper floor. And the worst part for a kid, the toilet was in the corridor. It is now a cute memory as all those houses are renovated and converted into boutique hotels.

In the typical laid back Aegean fashion,
these local men said they considered it
a privilege to live in Cunda island.