Thursday, August 20, 2015

Efes and Mezes

DSC03971 (1400x926)Several folks close to me advised that this vacation had to be different.

I couldn’t take another working holiday.  The legal and financial maneuvering echoing through dozens of overnight emails can’t be managed from Turkey. 

I can’t overplan the itinerary.   A determined march through dozens of historical landmarks and notable restaurants was Stress, regardless of the guidebooks reassurances

I wouldn’t be allowed to plan or strategize.  It takes a fresher mind than mine to ask the big questions or to plot the small schemes.

Kalkan helped in setting a good environment.  There was no Internet at the room and data roaming was expensive.  I rationed myself to one restaurant visit for WiFi, one business phone call, each day.

Indeed, the world survived my absence.

Predictably, the complete break did me a world of good.

DSC03991 (1400x1400)We alternated ‘activity days’ with days spent on the beach, reading a book and swimming. It was a different experience on holiday for me, unique in ten years.

I’d look over the top of the book at 9:30 or 10 as the boats queued up to leave the harbour, then again at 4:30 or 5 as they queued up to come in. 

Midday, we’d wander into the village to look for finger food (mezes), and walk back with a market sack of cold beer (Efes) to keep us hydrated through the hottest periods. 

Afternoons, I watched people, dozed in the sun, and read misanthropic spy thrillers.

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Food was wonderful throughout.

Breakfasts were light, melon and fig, egg and cheese, a selection of breads.

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Meze was a constant at midday, although the selection varied at different restaurants.  Somewhat like tapas, meze is a mix of breads and dips, a good light conversational snack.  I particularly liked the Dolmas (meat or veg wrapped in vine leaves), Haydari (dill and herb yogurt), Ciğeri (grilled liver) and Köfte (meatballs).

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Dinners were either fish or lamb dishes: grilled Sea Bream (lighter than Sea Bass) or a slow-cooked lamb shank preferred.  Seasonings were as varied as the view, and the same dish never tasted quite the same at two restaurants on two evenings.

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Late evening, we’d move on to strong clear Raki to drink.  An anise liqueur served with ice and water, it cut through anything that preceded it (DSC04122 (933x1400)and deadened the taste of everything afterwards).

The long climb back up the slopes at the end of the evening was the biggest challenge I set for myself each day.

Uniquely, I kept this vacation simple, clean, and compete.  And, at the conclusion, I called it a success. As Susan Whitbourne suggests

I should get a break from my usual routines, gain perspective on my problems, and relax with my family and friends. I should return refreshed and ready to take on the world again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fethiye markets and Ölüdeniz beaches

DSC04075 (1400x1191)Roads are good, cars are cheap,  people drive on the correct side of the street: I can do this.  The consensus was that I should, however, not do this.

It is, after all, vacation: time for everyone to relax.

Lycian CoastFethiye is built on the ancient ruins of Greek Telmessos, a city where Apollo is said to have disguised himself as a puppy to woo the shy daughter of the Phoenician King.  Alexander the Great later captured the city by infiltrating his warriors into a feast night, weapons hidden in their flute boxes.


DSC04056 (1400x933)There is little of that passionate drama in evidence today: the city has given itself over to tourism.  There is a broad ceremonial promenade and ornamental gardens spread  along the waterfront, and crowded beaches in Ölüdeniz.

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DSC04009 (1400x1042)The best part, for me, was the old market, just in from the harbour. Beneath broad white tents, anchored with ropes over the canals, there were sellers behind tables of figs, aubergines, tomatoes and peppers of every colour and pattern.  there were casks of bright spices, vats of soft white cheeses, and piles of confected Turkish delight.

‘just like Pike Place Market, just older, exotic, traditional, (fewer salmon).

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An alley of restaurants paralleled the canal, everyone selling Turkish pancakes.  These are more like double-layer crepes with sweet and savory fillings: lemon and sugar, spinach and cheese, washed down with strong tea.

I take the pause partly to sample the foods, partly to observe the people.

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OludenizFrom Fethiye, we went to Ölüdeniz resort, famous for the Blue Lagoon and the adjacent mountain-locked coves.  It’s a beautiful location, reminiscent of the Italian Lakes.  Beach filled with umbrellas and lounge chairs. skies dappled with drifting parafoils, its surprisingly languid and peaceful.

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DSC04103 (1400x933)We coaxed the driver to divert to Kayaköy on the way back, a village abandoned by its Greek inhabitants when territory changed hands in 1922 and never inhabited by the Turks.  The village has gradually decayed for almost a century, churches homes and workshops. 

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I’m glad that we got through before a restoration project begins, scheduled to restore a third of the buildings to their original condition with an accompanying hotel and museum.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Guleting along

DSC03835 (1400x933)This week, the New York Times asks what your vacation says about you.  Their world divides into beaches, crowded with extroverts, and mountains, ghosted with introverts.  They note that the pleasure of vacation is mostly in the anticipation, the planning (although people derive no pleasure from over-packed travel that just gets stressful).

DSC03837 (933x1400)For myself, it’s become the happy medium. 

I dedicate my planning to how to get here-to—there and where-to-stay, avoiding much thought about where to eat or what to see until I am on scene.

And, neither mountain nor beach person, I look for a boat.

DSC04205 (1400x932)Emir-1 is a  gulet, a wide wooden sailing boat, twin-masted with a rounded stern, 20 meters in length.  The charter makes day- and overnight trips along the Turquoise Coast between Kas, Kalkan, and Fetiya with a small crew, a limited complement of passengers, and massive Turkish flags top and stern.  It’s heavy and stable, I wouldn’t think of it as nimble, but the captain jockey’s it around in tight pockets like a Venetian gondola driver.

DSC03798 (1400x933)-ANIMATIONWe had only one other couple and the captain’s extended family along for he voyage, ensuring that we went to favorite spots and ate well.  We departed amidst the ‘rush hour’ of boats headed to sea,

DSC03292 (933x1400)We’d joked about chartering the Therapy instead of the Emir, and the smaller boat shadowed us throughout the trip.

The captain, a man who clearly enjoys his work and his daughters, great pride in both, has two houses and the working boat: he’s become my model for life-after-the-startup.

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The cruise meandered from island to cove, soaring cliffs to cascading rockfalls.  At each, we ate, we swam, we dove from the decks and snorkeled among the rocks.  It was absolutely wonderful.

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DSC03850 (1400x933)It  wouldn’t be a sailing voyage without an unexpected problem: this time the anchor chain wrapped around rocks and forced some backing and turning among the other boats to free it. ‘reminds me of how I was forever crossing anchor chains – one too many items to keep track of… 

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Otherwise, the waters were clear and blue, complementing green olive and fir trees along the steep shore.  We briefly had a pod of porpoises arching alongside, dark against the sun-danced surface.

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Lunch was a buffet of chicken and meze; snacks were beer and fruits.  As always, everything tastes better in the open sea air.

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I think I likely spent more time in the water than I have since I was on the swim team.  It was warm and clear and full of fish: we had diving competitions from the decks and lazy paddles around the boat and along the rocky shores (very  sharp basalts, slick with seaweed).

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The time goes too quickly, of course, but lovely to share a boat trip and to coddle the combination of introvert / extrovert that the WSJ notes is at the heart of every expat.