A wine festival during Ramadan?! Seeing as though it’s the time of the year when Muslims normally abstain from drinking alcohol, I was surprised to hear it. Ramadan isn’t exactly a prime time for wine-guzzling Turks to make the journey to Bozcaada’s annual harvest celebration. But judging from the crowds mingling by the vino merchants, it doesn’t seem that the observance fazes the residents of Bozcaada.

The journey from Bursa took me about 6 hours–2 bus rides, plus the ferry trip. Coming across from the mainland the site of Bozcaada wasn’t too impressive. The first (and only) thing you can really see is the castle that sits along its shoreline. The rest of the island wasn’t exactly bursting with natural beauty…from the initial view anyways.

My company didn’t arrive until the evening, so I had plenty of time to explore the city center just off the harbor. Lined with cafes and fish restaurants, the center was quietly teeming with charm. I stumbled upon a particularly lovely cafe owned by an Australian woman called Cafe at Lisa’s. I sat for a few hours to eat lunch and people-watch. Even though it was festival time, the town was still pretty laid back and unassuming. Walking back through town I came across a man that was dishing out free bundles of grapes from the baskets strapped to his donkey. Geez. That was great.

I brought with me a tent and sleeping bag with the intention of “bush camping” somewhere on the island. So I decided to walk along the road that cuts through the middle of the island to the western edge–a neighborhood inhabited mostly by Greeks. The walk takes about 1.5 hours and gives you the opportunity to get a closer peek at a handful of the vineyards found throughout the island. I had walked for about an hour when a nice elderly gentleman picked me up on his motorbike and dropped me off at a place called Ada Camping (which I had no idea existed…so much for guidebooks). Turns out the place is a campers paradise: nice shower and kitchen facilities, on-site cafe with homemade goodies, and only a 10 minute stroll from a secluded beach and some of the most stunning views on the island. So I set up my tent and headed off to the beach while awaiting my company…stopping along the way for a bottle of Bozcaada’s best and a few items for dinner at the camp.

My company arrived early and so we treated ourselves to a Turkish breakfast at the campsite and set out for a day at the beach. After frying ourselves in the sun for a few hours, we showered and hitched our way to the other side of the island for a fish and wine dinner. Turkey has a great fish called the Chupra (I’m not actually sure what this is in English) and is traditionally eaten with Raki…but we opted for some more red vino! By this time, the center Bozcaada was pretty lively–restaurants were packed, the icecream shop was equally as busy, and a nearby cafe was pumping out some decent music while people sat and sipped on their beverage of choice.

The final day in Bozcaada was spent shopping and strolling the streets of the city. My friend Salih and I played Cribbage (my new favorite card game) for a bit and I drank my weight in coffee trying to alleviate the pain of the previous nights wine tasting.

And soon it was time to catch the ferry back….

My guidebook said that Bozcaada was “the kind of place that you go for a couple of days then end up wishing you could stay forever.” He wasn’t kidding. The simple charm and ease of the place really made you feel at home. Bozcaada is definitely a place I will visit again….next time I think I’ll do it by bike!

Originally written for My Travel Log–Turkey Edition