The harbour at Bozcaada, a town so relaxed even the dogs and cats get on. Picture: Ray Wilson

Aside from the majestic castle on the northern point of town, colourful small fishing boats bobbing in their pens in a postage-stamp-sized marina and the promise of some excellent red wine to reward my palate after so many false dawns, the first appreciation of the small Turkish island Bozcaada is the comatose pace of life.

Known as Tenedos over the centuries and by the Greeks, who once controlled the 40sqkm island of bays and beaches and vineyards which have operated since antiquity, life on Bozcaada (boz-jar-da) is intoxicatingly slow.

At times, your whole body and mind simply stalls as you watch life in slow motion from the many open- air cafes and restaurants around town. It would cure hyperactive people or drive them nuts.

After a 12-hour coach, minibus and ferry ride to get from Selcuk (Turkey), the home of the ruins of the famous Greek city Ephesus and migrating storks whose elaborate mighty nests take pride of place on aqueducts, Bozcaada offered a welcomed week-long haven for my wife Leonie and myself after seven weeks on the go in Turkey.

The island, which didn't allow international tourists ashore until the mid-1990s, lies in the Aegean Sea 5km off the coast from the small port at Geyikli, about 55km south of Canakkale on the Dardanelles, down the road from Gallipoli, and near to the famous ancient city of Troy.

According to legend, Tenedos was the island where the Greek warriors held up overnight during the Trojan War when the fabled wooden horse was left at the gates of the city of Troy holding 30 of Greece's finest ready to hatch one of the greatest cons in mythology.

So Bozcaada travels through history in good company, and so too did we for a week on the island, which has 2500 permanent inhabitants in the port town of Bozcaada and around the often windswept landscape where vineyards occupy 80 per cent of the agricultural land. Even the cats and dogs appear at ease with each other's company on an island where locally caught calamari and octopus feature high on the many small restaurants, with the best we found not on the water at the marina, but rather in the back alleys in the Greek Quarter.

The Greeks and Turks haven't swapped Christmas cards over the years and the Greeks ceded control to the new Republic of Turkey in 1925, though it was populated largely by Greeks until the 1960s.

Once, the sole main road out from the small port was the dividing line between the Turks and Greeks but now only 16 old Greeks remain and the Greek Quarter consists predominately of restaurants, pensions, quaint hotels and small buildings in narrow cobblestone laneways often brightened with cascading purple wisterias and climbing red roses.

During summer, buses carry tourists, about 80 per cent of whom are Turks, to the bays and coves where the water is crystal clear.

While Bozcaada town remains largely unaffected by modern architecture, more affluent Turks from Istanbul and Izmir have holiday villas at the back of the island near Ayazma Beach, one of the popular swimming spots during summer when the island swells significantly with Turkish tourists and the average maximum is 31C.

It's not a place which would bust the holiday budget. The ferry ride, for example, was $3 return. And a meal for two featuring locally fried calamari and grilled octopus with a horse-trough sized green salad with a beer and glass of wine was $30.

Now, there's a novel idea. A cheap ferry ride (in a country where petrol is $2.50 a litre and diesel is about $2.20) and a capacity for the island restaurants to serve the fruits of the sea caught by boats which moor in a charming little marina.

There are four or five wine shops in town which carry only the island's stocks, and one especially wicked bakery which stares straight at your belt buckle when you walk in.

And while history tells us that Bozcaada, because of its strategic position near the mouth of the Dardanelles, was the love child of various empires, not to mention Alexander the Great, one of our greatest conquests was the exquisite jams, most notable tomato, poppyseed, green fig and grape.

Some people on the island might tell you that the Greek historian Herodotus (known as the Father of History) was moved to write: "God created Bozcaada (Tenedos) for those who visited there, to have a long life."

Regardless, the old fella got it right.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West