A Turkish holiday
In the summer of 2006 my dear friend Saille & I decided we needed a holiday, somewhere well off the beaten track and away from all the usual touristy destinations. After some internet searching Saille found a tiny pension on Turkey's southern coast while I booked seats on a cheap, package tour flight to the nearest airport. Armed with a travel guide we figured we'd work the rest out as we went.
From our little northern Scottish (Moray) town we took a series of trains to get us to Glasgow Airport, the departure gate for our flight. I'd planned on stocking up with film for my camera before boarding but it soon became clear that I was many years too late for that - the world had gone completely digital while my back was turned. So it was going to be down to the few rolls in my bag and my phone to record our adventures.
As we weren't part of a package holiday the in-flight meals were not included, which came as a bit of a surprise. Arriving at Dalaman airport we quickly found transport to Göcek, our first overnight stop, where we chose one of the bayside restaurants and dined heartily.
Next morning we caught a minibus which was the first step in getting to Kaleüçagiz, a tiny village on the coast. However this wasn't our tiny village, from here we had to phone the pension and, a few minutes later, a small dinghy with an outboard came buzzing up to the jetty and we (& our luggage) were loaded aboard. We headed out, rounded the headland, and made our way along the rocky coastline.
It wasn't long before our final destination came into view, a cluster of red-tiled roofs on the slopes leading up to a small but impressive looking castle, and beyond that the scrub-covered mountains. This was Kale Köyü (or just Kale to the locals), our base for the next week or so. The boat drew up to a pier and we found our guest house right there. A few minutes later we were checked in, showered & changed, and ready to soak up the sun, sea, & local atmosphere.
Our 'hotel' was a very small operation, a handful of rooms sitting above the office, kitchen, & restaurant / dining room. We never actually dined indoors - breakfast was served on a covered pier, shaded from the sun, while evening meals were taken out at the end with the waves lapping underneath. It seemed to be a popular choice for short breaks, all of our fellow guests were Turkish and most only stayed for a night or two.
It didn't take long to explore the village. There were a handful of places to eat (we sampled all of them), a steep walk up to the castle and it's splendid views, and not much more. Going further out led to rocky, uneven ground with scrubby bushes and gnarled trees, with the occasional small flock of goats who viewed us with suspicious curiosity. On one hike we discovered a tiny tortoise slowly crossing our track (which was delightful) but generally there wasn't much to see. This would be a holiday of ease & relaxation, lost in books between dips in the sea. Quite an inviting prospect.
Our hosts told us of one walkable excursion, a hike along the coast to a small bay with a freshwater spring. The route took us past huge cisterns carved into the ground, presumably to catch & store rainwater (although we never saw a drop during our entire stay in Turkey). The bay was warm & calm with the spring barely visible but making itself felt as a cool current while swimming. It felt like our own private little lagoon until one day we arrived to find a tour boat anchored in the middle with people splashing around it and music blaring. Luckily this never happened again.
Another trip out was by dinghy to the big island sheltering this part of the coast. The island was dotted by ruins and was off limits to visitors but we could view them from the boat - some had been submerged and we looked down at them through the crystal clear waters as if flying overhead.
There weren't many (if any) other foreign tourists in the village but we were regularly visited by tour boats who would sometimes stop for a meal break at one of the waterside cafés but more often pause offshore. From there an amplified voice would boom out for a few minutes before the engine would start up again and they'd be off to the next stop on the itinerary. Although it wasn't loud enough to make out the words it became a game to see who could spot the language first - most were German or Italian but there were French, English, and even one Japanese group.
On one afternoon my leisurely reading was interrupted by a strange, high-pitched sound coming from somewhere out at sea. This slowly resolved into music - a zurna (a sort of wild oboe) accompanied by dramatic drumming but with the drone of an outboard motor added to the mix. Eventually a nautical procession came into view, a newly married couple with musicians and driver in the first dinghy, canopied from the sun and bedecked with flowers, followed by a flotilla of other small boats, their massed outboards like an insect swarm chasing the music. Our hosts explained that this was the coastal equivalent of newlyweds being ceremonially escorted to their new home, an unexpected glimpse into a living tradition.
Although Kale was an idyllic place to linger we thought we'd try to see a bit more of Turkey while we were here. We discovered there was a regular boat service along the coast that would take us to Kaş, the nearest (relatively) large town, in a few hours and decided that a leisurely cruise would be preferable to another long bus journey. So we waved farewell to Kale, stowed our gear, and were soon cruising through the gently lapping waters heading westwards.
An unexpected break came when the boat anchored in a small bay. Soon lots of the travellers were out in the water so after a quick rummage through my case for my cossie (no skinny dipping in Turkey!) I took the plunge, diving off the boat into the sapphire-blue waters.
Kaş turned out to be a great place for our last few days in Turkey and provided an opportunity for some holiday shopping. Notable acquisitions included a set of silk/cotton bedlinen (which I still possess!) and a giant box of lokum (Turkish Delight) in a huge variety of flavours, but the highpoint was a wonderful carpet that Saille bought. This came after a protracted but almost formalised process - explaining what we were looking for, being shown dozens of carpets, drinking tea, narrowing the choices down, leaving to 'think about it', returning the next day, more tea, and gently, politely haggling over the price. A deal was finally struck and, many months later, the carpet was personally delivered to Saille's Scottish home.
The days were ticking down and we decided to take a taxi back to the airport rather than finding our way on buses. This led to one unexpected interruption where the driver pulled over in the middle of nowhere and produced a small mat for midday prayers (the only time I saw any overt Islamic display) but we arrived at Dalaman well in time for our flight home.
Sadly the aircraft was less punctual than we were. After waiting in the airport we were told that there would be 'a delay' and that in the meantime we'd be relocated to a nearby hotel. Not a good sign. The hotel itself was fine, if bland, but the supplied food had clearly been catered for a group of Scottish tourists and consisted of burgers, fried fish, & chips, all very processed and generic. Once it became clear that we'd be here overnight Saille & I ventured out to the nearby small town and indulged ourselves in a splendid Turkish dinner.
Over 24 hours after our scheduled time we finally boarded our return flight and headed back towards Scotland. It had been a great holiday - a chance to immerse ourselves in 'real' Turkey while still having a relaxing break and being simple tourists as well. Sadly I've never been back but who knows what the future holds?