I wake early and step onto the small balcony outside my bedroom. The view that greets me is so Mediterranean. The blue swimming pool contrasts starkly against the white walled building. There’s deck chairs that were occupied by tourists yesterday afternoon and a breakfast room that looks like it has come straight out of a movie set. I guess I am definitely in Turkey.
I head out for a morning run. There’s few better ways to become familiar with a new environment than a morning run. It’s a joy I have been rediscovering through the Couch to 5km challenge that I’ve been doing the past six weeks. The streets around the hotel are narrow and lined with blocky white and cream buildings. The architecture and urban style are as foreign to me as any I’ve experienced this past fifteen months.
Down the road a man is spraying smoke into drains and gardens. Dad later tells me this is common in Europe and is an attempt to reduce the pesky insects that otherwise breed in moist warm places. He probably finds it amusing that I would want to take a photo of the smoke he has left behind.
My run takes me through quiet city streets with shops still closed before the shopping rush begins. And then I pop out at the seaside. The water here is amazingly clear. I have seen clear water before but not with this deep blue sea colour. Always clear water I’ve seen has been light coloured with white sand underneath. But here there are rocks under the water and they give a different atmosphere than does white sand. I will later learn that this harbour I am running around was first established 2,300 years BCE. That makes it some 4,500 years old. No wonder the water feels old.
There is a sad side to this scene too. One that I wasn’t quite prepared for, having lived all my life far away from the world in Australia. There are many Syrian refugees sleeping in parks and on the beaches. Some hold signs begging for money. All look ragged and tired. At first I think they have come here by sea but later it becomes apparent that they have come overland to this jumping off point to Greece. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be there sleeping rough trying to beg enough money to pay for a ferry or a life ring or whatever I could to make the long sea crossing from Bodrum to Kos. A local man drops off a 24 pack of water to a family. Others ignore what they cannot help or change. The human need immense but the people of Bodrum don’t look wealthy themselves and are probably afraid the influx of refugees and beggars might affect tourists and cause them. I mean, the average wage in Turkey is about $AU700 (445 euros) a month and the unemployment rate is over 9%. Given that this wage includes the wealthy and the poor, I would hazard a guess that the average Turk working in a tourist shop in Bodrum is having to work hard to pay their own bills and rent.
There’s absolutely no doubting that we are in Turkey though. The flag flies proudly everywhere. I don’t just mean that there are a few flags around. Nope. Wherever you are out on the street you will see a flag. Some are huge. Others are small. All are hung with pride. It strikes me and I know that this is one flag I will always recognise in future.
I make my way back to the hotel and stop to take some photos of the early morning sunlight over the minaret. There are many minarets here. They make a beautiful structure on the skyline.
I get a bit lost heading back to the hotel. Taking just one wrong street means that I end up in unfamiliar alleyways. But it also means I can explore. I like the pretty flowers and whitewashed walls. Housing – we all need it but it’s amazing how differently we have all adapted it to our various local environments and sense of style.
Mum and Dad are up when I return. We breakfast at the hotel before heading out for a walk through Bodrum. Mum wants to buy a dress because she hasn’t got enough summer clothes with her after her cold week in Holland. We wander through busy tourist streets that make me feel a bit queezy. I don’t like this game of tourist dollar transfer. It doesn’t feel natural and makes me feel far removed from reality. It’s not an unpleasant town with its pretty Turkish buildings.
And yacht-dotted bay.
We have a sailing boat booked from Yalikakav. We will be taking it out on the Agean for a week. I noticed a fresh fruit and vegetable market when I got geographically embarrassed on my run so I suggest we go there. The guys are typical of the way I am noticing the Turkish people sell their wares. They tell us to walk slowly. Give me a taste of a yellow fig (OMG! Heaven in my mouth) and casually let us select our produce, helping by insisting we put the fruit down and telling us what flavour the fruits have. I love buying produce this way. It’s much more rewarding than the supermarket experience.
The boat hire company drives us across the peninsula to the Parla Marina in Yalikakav. Apparently this is one of the most exclusive marinas in Europe. The drive in the mini bus is uneventful but arriving at the sailing boat (a 37′ Beneteau Oceanis for the sailing fans out there) is wonderful. The only time I get to sail is when my parents invite me on their adventures and they’ve been doing that since I was a young child so it’s familiar territory but still a treat (I certainly cannot afford to rent a bareboat yacht and I never quite kept up on the sailing lessons they gave me as a child).
It’s late afternoon by the time we have been briefed and settled into the boat. Instead of leaving we decide to stay in the marina for the night and set off in the morning. So we walk into Yalikakav village for some food. My parents haven’t eaten lunch and it’s about 4:30pm so they are getting peckish. I am ready for a drink and chill (I was sensible and bought a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket for lunch).
We find the most gorgeous restaurant (Ozmara) on the water. As always the gentlemen working there work hard to talk us into their establishment. They are good-natured and agree to Mum’s bargaining of free drinking water and a free Turkish coffee. They also offer a free flat bread. They aren’t pushy; they just smile and try their luck because they know it’s the best way to advertise their business and stop us going to the next restaurant over.
We start with some entrees and drinks. Then we order a stew cooked in a testi. It comes with flames glowing on the salted plate around it. The waiter expertly cracks the bread on the top and pours out our portions. They serve it with Turkish bread. The stew is lamb, chili peppers, pickling onions and sauce. The flavours are robust and honest.
The sunset from the restaurant is spectacular. As a guide two entrees, main meal for three people, five drinks (3 beers, 1 cola and a sparkling mineral water) cost us 147TL ($AU68). It’s not the cheapest meal you could buy in Turkey but this was not your average cheap restaurant experience either with the views, service and sunset.
We wander through the village before heading back to the marina. I have a bunk under the cockpit but it’s hot weather and a clear night so I throw my sleeping bag and pillow onto a bench in the cockpit, close my eyes and fall asleep under a crescent moon (appropriate given the Turkish flag) feeling the boat bob gently in the marina.