Its name sounds very German, but is actually Turkish – Ören. When I began my trip to Ören, I had no idea what to expect. Should I be thrilled and how I’ll get in there? I left the rest in the hands of my Turkish hosts, who promised me an unforgettable journey, so I finally stopped asking questions. And it definitely was.
Where should I start from? Let’s go back to the name – Ören. There are several spots named Ören in Turkey. The one, I bear in mind, is right on the Aegean Sea, Balikesir province. The pronunciation is “Yoren”. It’s about 35 km away from Ayvalik – the famous Turkish town, where the ferry to the Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos) is running from. Ören is beautifully located at the edge of a splendid bay of Edremit (the central city of the province).
The journey from Istanbul to Ören is quite time consuming, but full of surprises, adventures and delicious food along the road. When my Istanbul friends told me we are going on a trip, which will make me sing and dance, will make me laugh, will make me dream to stay over forever…I was in doubt. Being an addicted traveler, having visited 60 different countries, I did not believe something is able to surprise me in Turkey. As a neighbouring country, Turkey is a widely open door for all Bulgarians. We are used to go on vacation and weekend escapes there pretty often and we definitely love it. But being used to Turkey and everything Turkish, no matter how much I love it, I was still suspicious about its ability to astonish me.
We jumped in a quite old Opel, happy to go on adventure, having the hunch it’s going to be memorable. The route – we took the ferry from Istanbul to Yalova. The ferry is allowed both, for passengers and vehicles. It’s about an hour ride. The ferry completely crosses the Sea of Marmara, that is an outstanding place to be in.
The biggest attraction during the ferry cruise was the seagulls. I swear, I thought the Marmara seagulls were trained in a circus. They were so used to the passengers that flew extremely low over the ferry, literally begging for food. I couldn’t believe it, but the vessel’s staff was encouraging me to throw some pieces of bread in the air. My Turkish friends were laughing at my surprised face.
And here I am, no clue what’s going to happen, but already feeling the blow. I bought a muffin from the ferry’s cafe, went out at the deck and started throwing crumbs over. An amazing show began. The seagulls were swooping as bullets, fighting for my crumbs, catching them right in the air. It’s a pity, I was not able to take photos, at the time I was throwing the lure over my head. The birds had zero fear from the humans. That’s why I thought they were fully trained for catching food right in the air. They never missed it out, just a great spectacle to witness.
The rest of the passengers were inspired and began doing the same. In a while, the space over the ferry was overcrowded by hungry seagulls. The cherry on the top of the cake was another wonderful performance. Me, standing up, with an arm, risen straight over my head and a big loaf in my fingers. The seagull flew over and pecked it shamelessly out of my hand. All the passengers did the same exercise. It was like a horror movie with a sky full of birds. Surrounded by laughter, I should admit for being completely entertained.
Getting off the ferry at the port of Yalova, we headed to Bursa, one of the biggest cities in Turkey, very green, with an ancient atmosphere. It was obvious we were already out of Europe. The environment became quite oriental and gave us kind of a sense of warmth. I won’t share much about Bursa, while on the way to Ören. You can find lots of information about the city online here.
What extremely impressed me in Bursa, was its cuisine. You can’t just visit Bursa and never taste the local pride – Iskender kebab. I am already drooling. This meal can’t be compared with anything else, so delicious it was. It’s melting in mouth, must be eaten while is hot and freshly cooked, otherwise the taste changes for worse. Iskender kebab is a calorie bomb, but yummy. I have no idea how to cook it. The only I know – it contains tiny grilled lamb meat, served over a pita bread, garnished by yoghurt and vegetables. The secret is the hot butter, pouered on the top.
Bursa is the right place to taste it, as the meal was invented here in the 19th century. I was hesitant if I should order an extra portion, because I got really bewitched by its taste. My local friends warned me my new Iskender kebab addiction could be dangerous, by adding extra weight invisibly, but surely. Anyway, don’t miss Iskender kebab in Bursa! It’s a MUST. Also visit the variety of shops, offering soaps, made of natural local herbs. Those soaps from olive oil, bay leaves, lavender and other unknown to me spices are miraculous for both, the skin and the soul.
Let us go already out of Bursa, in direction South. We reached Balikesir after a long drive. It looked as an endless trip in the middle of nowhere, but not a tiring one, because the road is not that busy and the drive could be fully enjoyed. I swapped the passenger seat for the driver’s one, singing with the radio (I can’t sing in Turkish, but somehow I sang my lungs out). We stopped at a roadside bar to drink fresh made lemonade and to buy a jar of local honey, what the area is popular with.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the small village, called Ören. The baggage was dropped in the hotel and we ran straight to the beach, just a foot away. I would never forget my first thought at the moment I stepped on Ören’s beach:
“I want to get retired in here”.
Ören possess one of the most peaceful beaches I have ever seen. The sea is gentle, transparent and quiet. The sand is thin and clean. Even the sea bottom is entirely covered by thin sand, with no rocks and seaweed. It’s funny, but I was the only foreigner in there. My Turkish friends said this spot is a well kept secret for the foreign tourists, but very popular among the locals. Ören is treated as a precious pearl, that is not supposed to be shared, otherwise is going to lose its charm.
Everything was natural. No sun beds and umbrellas on the beach. You want to sunbath, then bring your towel and enjoy the sand. An enormous number of friendly, warm hearted people in here. We just dropped our towels and right away our sunbathing neighbours invited us to join them for a game of beach volley. They were open to the guests, not judgmental at all. Then we played frisbee, dived into the transparent water and tried some local dances right on the beach, taught by strangers.
Tired of that old fashioned fun? Wait, the fun is just around the corner. Nearby were plenty of gin joints designed in fisherman style and stunning view to the bay. They welcome visitors whole day. Don’t miss the local Raki. It’s an anise flavoured alcohol drink, well cooled. The dinner usually starts with it. Could be a bit strong, if the customer is not used to, but later on gives wings 🙂 In my case, it gave me some courage to dance and sing together with the Turkish guests. I used to appreciate the power of a glass of Raki. Without it, I would be totally embarrassed at the dance floor.
By the way in Ören you can move everywhere on foot. It’s quite small and very pleasant to walk through. By chance, wandering the village, we found a nice park with cedar pine trees. There were cleverly arranged benches in that park for sitting on and enjoying the breathtaking view to Edremit bay. Just 200 m away there were archeological excavations. Seems like the area was rich of historical artefacts.
Whatever path you take, it leads to the beach. Beautiful houses around, natural bushes of oleander surround the streets. The homes are unbelievably charming, but expensive for the local standards. Because of my retirement plan, I made a research for the home prices. The offers get started from about 300 000 TL.( 80 000 USD) for properties away from the beach. Going sea closer, getting price higher.
The most of the house buyers were Turkish immigrants, who relocated decades ago to Germany. I met some of them and they consider Ören a great place to invest in. Sure it is. A peaceful, not overcrowded spot, with fantastic weather all year round, delicious food, dream beaches, warm hearted neighbours and beautiful nature. What else could I dream of? I mean in regard to my future retirement. Lots of time ahead till I become a pensioner, but Ören somehow inspired and challenged those future plans of mine.
In addition, Ören is perfectly located. City of Izmir is only 200 km away. The ancient city of Bergama is about 80 km away. The Greek islands Lesvos and Chios are pretty close and Ayvalik itself as a vocational spot is just around the corner. The atmosphere in Ören is very romantic and makes you dreaming.
To be honest, I was mainly fascinated by the people in Ören. I don’t know how many of them consider Ören their birthplace or were visitors just like me, but it seemed to me a place that attracts and gathers only warm hearted people. I am looking forward for the moment to choose the right spot, where I’d get happily retired. Why not this dream spot to be the small village in Asian Turkey, called Ören.