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Heading for Ayvalik
2002 / October

Asude, of whom I will be speaking here, went to Ayvalik dozens of times. Among the things which made her angry were forest fires, fear of growing old, ugly buildings, nuclear power stations and Piri Reis, the sixteenth century Turkish navigator and cartographer. Do not ask how I met her. Everyone has an Asude concealed somewhere; endearing, eccentric and with odd fixations. And I don't know about yours, but every time my Asude went to Ayvalik she came back with new impressions and dreams that drew her to return there once again. She ran a furriesi shop, but only marked time there, thinking of her return to Ayvalik the next summer. In her small business diary she noted with a felt tip pen: 'Will go to Ayvalik. Greet next summer there.' Her dreams centred around the local markets with their displays of broad beans, chicory, black-eyed peas, and artichokes, and the scented breezes blowing sometimes from the sea and sometimes from Mount Kaz, which Asude thought of by its ancient name of Ida, as does Yasar Kemal and everyone who believes in magic.

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Heading for Ayvalik
2002 / October

In short she was always returning, but to a different Ayvalik every time, awaiting to be discovered once again. Nothing is the same when repeated, as those who have tried it will know. Each return reveals a different and new aspect, so long as a single fixed point exists. For Asude that fixed point, even if it shifted slightly, was love, and this love, nurtured by living it, was never unrequited, and may it never be so in future. The requited love between Ayvalik and Asude enjoyed ever greater liberty with each repetition. I must explain. Ayvalik is a town on the Aegean coast. To the west lies the sea, to the north the town of Burhaniye, to the east Bergama and to the south the cheerful Dikili. Wherever Asude went she carried in her heart the smiling face of Ayvalik, arising out of the past and looking towards the future. Now let us leave the map aside for a more sentimental version of this sense of direction.

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Heading for Ayvalik
2002 / October
Here goes again: the Bezirgan River, Gömeç and the road to Gümüslü to the north, the Sazanlik River, the Demirhan gorges, and of course Hisar to the east, the vast golden plain of Altinova to the south, and the Kaplan Mountains to the southwest, which together with the Sarimsak Peninsular means a whole series of villages. So in whatever direction Asude might go she remains within the boundless gravitational field of Ayvalik. Another direction naturally encompasses the island of Cunda, especially towards evening. In Ayvalik all roads and all holiday evenings eventually lead to Cunda; to sunsets, a raki bottle and gilt-head bream, and vegetables glowing in a bed of olive oil. The sun sinks towards the horizon, leaving its evocative reflection on the façade of an old Greek church. Then it strikes the mirrors in a coffee house and is gone in a lick of fire. The past seems ready to awaken at a touch. I think it was by a mill on Cunda that Asude dreamed of an old photograph in which she smiled at Sancho Panza, one of her many travelling companions.
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Heading for Ayvalik
2002 / October

'You will not fight the windmills, but that does not mean that you will never under any circumstances be Don Quixote!' she declared as she looked at the photograph that captured the young smiling face of herself, a mere dream out of the past. Her face is growing faded on Cunda Island in Ayvalik. How quickly youth has passed, but growing old is beautiful too. That is why Asude thinks only of Ayvalik, where time has long since stopped. As glasses rise and fall on the table, Don Quixote's bayonet and mask fall, and with the breezes of evening strains of music are heard from somewhere nearby: 'Old friends forgotten one by one, old friends...' Then confusion sets in. The rhythm becomes carried away and escapes. The oleanders and olive trees on the road from Balýkesir to Ayvalik, the pine woods along the shore, the hills surrounding the town - amongst them that devilish hilltop where the footprint of Satan together with that of Asude look down upon Çamlik Bay - days and summers past, youth and middle age mingle inextricably.

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Heading for Ayvalik
2002 / October
All the memories that had gathered moss come alive again, along with those that are still sparkling fresh.
She will return to Ayvalik, the only place where she will be again, like a compass pointing always to the same point. Asude returns to the pension to gather up her bundles languidly and dejectedly. She is annoyed again with Piri Reis and his Book of Navigation: 'How could you do not mention Ayvalik?'
Probably Piri Reis was unable to enter the harbour here because it is so shallow, just knee deep, and so could not record Ayvalik for posterity. So if you happen to visit Ayvalik and meet Asude, would you tell her?


* Müge Iplikçi is a short story writer.
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