Travels to Turkey

My incredible travels to Turkey in 2007

Archive for the ‘Fethiye’ Category

Boating on the Mediterranean Sea – Day 10 in Fethiye

Posted by Mardee on May 14, 2007

Island off FethiyeBecause of my late night, I slept in a bit on Sunday morning, then headed down after breakfast to wait for the driver. When I’d booked my 12 island cruise the night before, the hotel manager told me a car would pick me up at 10 am. Price for boat cruise, round-trip transport and lunch – 30 lira (around $23). The actual boat was pretty large with two decks. The bottom deck had tables for lunch – the top deck had padded vinyl seats running along the sides and also had about 30 mats for laying out. It wasn’t crowded at all – there were probably 25 people at the most on board.

As we got underway, I began chatting with some of my companions. A mother and daughter who were sitting next to me were from Bristol, England – the daughter had recently built a house here and was talking about how cheap everything was here compared to the UK. Another woman from Liverpool and I were discussing place names and she was raving over the names of U.S. cities like “Cincinnati” and “Minneapolis.” Hmmmm….. I guess I don’t appreciate our names. On the other hand, I like the English names like Blubbermouth and Tissington.

One woman from Europe evidently assumed the boat allowed topless sunbathing and immediately pulled off her bikini top before laying on the mat. The rest of the Europeans took it in stride although no one followed her example. Our first stop was Gocek, a market town about 30 minutes from Fethiye across the water. About half the passengers got off to shop and we would pick them up later in the afternoon. I chose to stay on board.

The rest of the day was heaven – serenity in a tropical paradise! The boat stopped at a number of small islands in the sea. A few had beaches and we got off and strolled on the sand, then waded out to sea. Several islands had no beach and contained only rocky ledges – there we just swam off the boat. The water was glorious – deep blue, cold and clear, but warming up almost instantly once you were immersed. Just about everyone swam and had a wonderful time. One Turkish man who spoke very good English (he proudly informed me that he learned “American” English) told me to watch out for the sea urchins on the rocks underneath the water. Sure enough, I could see the little devils clustered under the water. Those needles would be painful so I made sure to wear my sandals when I was around the rocks.

Lunch was fresh fish (with the head on), green salad and bread. I sat with my Turkish acquaintance and a German couple (well, she’s Dutch but lives in Germany). They were heading to Cappadocia soon so I told them some of the highlights of my stay. After lunch, we lazed around on board for a bit before swimming again – this time on a beach that contained some old Roman ruins. Soon we were headed back to Gocek to pick up the rest of the passengers who informed us that the market there was not worth going to! There was one more swimming stop after that, but most of us were content by this time to just relax on the deck and sleep in the afternoon sun.

After getting back to Fethiye around 6 pm, I walked to a little travel agency near the tourist information center to buy my bus ticket. The prices still continue to amaze me – 17 lira ($13) for a 4.5 hour luxury bus trip (including refreshments) plus a pickup from my hotel. Next I stopped off for a quick cheese and sausage pide then went for my nightly foray to Özsüt (which is a Turkish pastry chain) for a pastry and cappucino. Did I mention coffee in Turkey? Sadly, this country has one drawback – lack of good coffee. Of course, the Turks invented Turkish coffee, which is something special in itself. But sometimes I just want a cup of good strong black coffee – and it’s just about impossible to find here. The closest most places come is Nescafe – and that’s just not close enough. So I’m constantly hunting down coffee shops and Özsüt makes a great cappucino (and wonderful pastries – better than the Bon Bonerie!).

After heading back to the hotel to pack, I ran into Burkhard and Ulle and invited them for a drink on the terrace where we had one last chat. Finally I headed for bed. However, as I got ready I realized that I had a pretty serious sunburn from my 2 days on the beach and the boat. I DID use sunscreen – LOTS of it! This sun is just so bright and hot, though, and my skin so light that it must have been an open invitation. Hopefully it won’t be too bad tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow – I leave Fethiye and head to Ephesus…

Mother and daughter from England

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Posted in Blue Cruise, Fethiye, Gocek, The Blue Voyage, Turkey | 4 Comments »

A Day at the Beach – Day 9 in Fethiye

Posted by Mardee on May 13, 2007

This morning, the sun was beating a path through my window and the breeze was cool and crisp. I keep waiting for bad weather to appear in Turkey but there has been no sign of anything but perfect weather. After eating breakfast on the terrace (typical Turkish breakfast of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cukes, bread and fruit), I headed down into town to catch the bus for Oludeniz. A day at the beach was today’s plan (or part of it).

Oludeniz beachFirst I had to find the dolmus station – I knew the general area but could not find the actual place. Finally, I stopped a man walking with his son and asked him. He not only told me – he reversed his direction and guided me 3 blocks away to the station, then made sure I could find the right minibus. The Turks are the most agreeable people – I have never had anyone turn me down when I asked for help. Three lira later, I was heading down the road to the beaches at Oludeniz, which is about 15-20 minutes away.

Part of this area is extremely built up – a lot of Germans and Brits are buying up vacation property because the area is relatively inexpensive compared to their own countries. Consequently, the main beach is packed with pale bodies baking in the sun. However, there is an area off to the rıght that is a bit more secluded – a lagoon that is reached by way of a stone pathway through a small park. There is a charge of a couple of lira to get in, so many people don’t bother.

Thıs lagoon was my destination. Once I got there, I found a spot on the beach for my stuff (I decided to forego the vinyl lounge chairs as I didn’t feel like paying 10 lira for the chair and umbrella) and plopped myself down. The lagoon was breathtakingly beautiful – a circle of deep blue water surrounded by a pebbly beach and a mountain backdrop. Most of the bathers in this area were Turks – in fact, I could see only one other body as white as mine.

The water was a bit brisk when I first jumped in, but quickly warmed up and I swam and splashed and had a great time playing in the ocean. I’m not much for laying out in the sun so after about an hour of sun and water, I packed up my gear and headed out. Before I left, I stopped at the free showers and washed the salt off (and all the tiny pebbles from the beach that had gotten inside my suit).

I managed to get a dolmus back to Fethiye fairly quickly – I was hungry but most of the restaurants in the Oludeniz area looked pretty touristy (I’m assuming that a restaurant that advertises “spaghetti” and “american burger” isn’t going to have authentic Turkish cuisine). As I was sitting in the minibus on my way back to Fethiye, a young teenage boy got on and sat down beside me. A few stops later, an elderly man got on the bus. The young teenager immediately got up and offered his seat to the older man. Again, it’s not a sight you would often see in this country.

Fethiye fish marketAfter I got back to town, I had a quick lunch at the fish market. This is a large market where fisherman bring their catch in and sell it. You pick out a fish then take it to one of the nearby restaurants. The restaurant will then cook it for you and serve it, adding bread, salad and a drink – all for about $3. There’s nothing like fresh-caught fish. I must admit that I’m not wild about it being served with the head on, but it’s not that big a deal to cut it off and toss it to one of the nearby cats hovering around.

For my afternoon trek, I headed for another nearby town. The intent was to get to a nearby scenic area that contains a gorge. However, I got on the wrong minibus – then when I realized my error, got off at the wrong stop to go back to Fethiye. I wound up walking about 3 km. trying to find the right stop. I never did find it but I did find a Migros, the Turkish version of Kroger’s, so I decided to stop in and check it out (flexible is my middle name).

At first glance, it appears to be a regular supermarket – many of the brands are different of course, but I saw Lipton, Nescafe and Cascade, along with other familiar faces. Although the store seemed smallish by American standards, it had one aisle devoted to women’s and men’s clothing. I picked up a hat for my boat excursion planned for Sunday for around 2 lira, and a large tote bag for about 10. As I was preparing to leave, I passed by the pastry section – lo and behold, I spotted kunefe! Trying hard to restrain my drooling, I rushed over and bought a square – only 2.5 lira! A yummy treat for after dinner…

I still had the problem of how to figure out how to get back to town. The gods were with me that day, though – as I exited onto the street from the Migros parking lot, a bus pulled up for Fethiye and I jumped on board before it could get away. Unfortunately, although the dolmus was destined for Fethiye, its destination was not the part of town I knew. When I was the only passenger left, the driver made a motion that I should disembark. I frantically looked around for a familiar landmark and spotted nothing. There was no arguing with the driver (difficult to do when you do not share a common language) so I got off and starting walking towards what I thought might be the harbor.

Bougainvillea cascading over a balconyThree blocks later, I was still in unfamiliar territory so I stopped a Turkish woman who steered me in the right direction to my hotel. Once I got there, I unloaded all my beach stuff and headed for the bar. As I sat at the bar with my glass of wine, a man next to me struck up a conversation. Burkhard was from Germany but has lived in Sweden for the last 15 years. I told him about my German ancestry and then relayed the story of “Over-the-Rhine,” the area of Cincinnati that has a connection to Germany. His wife, Ulli, came up shortly and the 3 of us chatted about Germany, the US and politics. They told me that they didn’t blame me for Bush (joke here – no political digs intended).

They invited me to dine with them at the hotel so we headed onto the terrace and had a wonderful meal and conversation. They have been to Turkey many many times and hope to retire here (for part of the year) in a few years. They introduced me to raki (the Turkish alcohol of choice – similar to ouzo but served in a tall glass with water) and Turkish coffee. I had drunk Turkish coffee before and couldn’t get past the first sip – however, I discovered the key is to add az şekerli (a “little sugar”) to the coffee. I never thought I’d be adding sugar to coffee, but in this case, it certainly makes Turkish coffee drinkable.

Burkhard told me stories of Germany when he was young (he apparently is in his early 60’s). His parents emigrated from east Germany after WWII and he was treated as a pariah in the western part of the country. He was forced to attend a refugee school rather than being taught with the other children and his family suffered poverty for many years. His wife is from the Cologne area, which is the other area where they plan to live after retirement. They also told me stories of Sweden and the horrors of the national health system run amuck.

My contribution consisted of stories of the American legal system, which seemed to interest them. They were amused to hear that many divorces take months and even years to settle – evidently in Sweden, the couple gets divorced first and then settles the property and custody issues. All in all, it was a fascinating evening and I enjoyed meeting them very much. We finally finished up around 1 am and all headed off to bed.

Tomorrow – a mini Blue Cruise where I head out for a day of island hopping.

Posted in Fethiye, Oludeniz, Turkey | 3 Comments »

Onward to the Turquoise Riviera – Day 8 in Fethiye

Posted by Mardee on May 12, 2007

At the end of the day on Thursday, I was sitting in the back of a large bus heading to Antalya, which was my first stop. Seated next to me was a Turkish woman with a small baby about 8 months old (who I was drooling over, of course). At the first rest stop, she indicated that she had to run in and proceeded to hand the baby over to me. I had no problem watching him – he was adorable with huge dark brown eyes and a little bowl-shaped haircut – but it kind of threw me that she would entrust her child to a total stranger. Again, it was such a cultural difference.

She evidently thought I did a good job because every stop after that I was in charge of the baby. Neither I nor the baby could sleep so we just made faces at each other and looked out the window. The bus system is very strange in Turkey – there are many overnight buses but at every stop, the driver turns on all the lights. It’s like he’s trying to wake everyone up. They would also decide that 2 am was a good time to pass out tea and coffee – because I’m sure everyone was looking to ingest some caffeine at that time…

FethiyeAt any rate, we finally reached Antalya about 6 am. This was the crucial moment in my decision-making. I had been trying to decide whether to go to the Olympus/Cirali area and stay there a day or two before heading for Fethiye. However, in the end I decided that I didn’t want to be schlepping my luggage more than I had to, so I went ahead and got a ticket to Fethiye (as did the two Korean girls I was riding with) and planned to stay there 3 nights. We found a company selling tickets on a bus that was leaving at 7 am, so we headed back with the driver to put our luggage aboard.

We should have realized right away that this was not the typical luxury bus we had been on – the windshield had several cracks and newspaper lined the aisles. However, we gamely got on and sat down and were soon on our way. The bus was fairly empty at first but as it wound its way through the scenic mountains and valleys, it made periodic stops at small villages. This was obviously not an express bus. The local villagers continued to pile on bringing an array of assorted belongings with them. One man had 2 huge bags of oranges that must have weighed 50 lbs. each. At any minute, I expected to see someone get on with livestock.

Roman ruins on Fethiye hillsideThe empty seat next to me was soon taken by a shriveled old woman wearing the typical cotton scarf, sweater, cardigan and Turkish pants. She told me (via pointing to her teeth) that she was going to the dentist in Fethiye, a distance of some 80 km. away. She grinned at my feeble attempts to speak Turkish and then started rooting around in her purse, a large beat-up red leather bag stamped “Gucci.” Eventually, she pulled out a plastic bag containing a mixture of unknown nuts and golden raisins. She forced open my hand and dumped a pile into it, indicating that I was to eat them.

Ignoring the thoughts of wanton bacteria running amuck, I gamely ate the mixture, which was actually pretty good. We were pals after that and she would occasionally chatter away to me, notwithstanding the fact that I had no idea what she was saying. I just smiled away, which seemed to be enough of a response for her.

Although the local bus was a far cry from the comfortable express I was used to, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for the world. I saw scenes that were priceless – at one stop, a woman pulled a wooden cart laden high with huge bundles tied in cloth. She was followed by a flock of sheep and then a herd of goats. A man, presumably her husband, brought up the rear.

The scenery was as incredible as the picturesque villages – mountains, some snow-capped, loomed all around together with pine trees and the occasional green valleys. Soon, the bus began letting off people so I assumed we were nearing Fethiye. Around 10:30 am, we got off at the small otogar on the outskirts of town, which meant I had 2 things to accomplish. Find a hotel. Figure out how to get there.

They both turned out easier than I thought. My Korean pals went off to a hostel someplace and I tried to find a phone to call one of the places listed in Lonely Planet. The shopkeeper who sells phonecards happened to be out of them, so he indicated that I could just use his phone. I called and made a reservation with the Villa Daffodil, then grabbed a taxi. It was worth the 7 lira not to have to deal with finding the correct dolmus to take into town.

Hotel Villa DaffodilThe taxi drove down a street right along the harbor and let me off at the hotel. This place is beautiful – the hotel terrace directly overlooks the bay and mountains. Palm trees line the street, interspersed with lush colorful bougainvillea and azaleas. I checked in and decided to take a shower, then head into town. It’s a lovely walk from the hotel to town but the town also has a dolmus that does nothing but go back and forth along the harbor. It’s nice to have the option of riding, especially for only 1 lira.

I pretty much took it easy the rest of the day – I wandered around town and stopped at the ruins from ancient Roman times. Unfortunately, it’s not in very good shape and is further marred by the occasional graffiti. After a quick late lunch next to the water, I walked along the harbor and looked at all the beautiful yachts and boats scattered throughout the bay. The town is rather largish but has a wonderful relaxed atmosphere. Everyone is in low gear here and no one rushes to do anything.

The lack of sleep soon got to me and I made my way back to the hotel. However, I noticed some people up on the terrace talking and drinking, so I decided to have a glass of wine before going to bed. By this time, the sun had set and I sat and peacefully sipped my wine while gazing out onto the flickering lights and dark waters below.

Onward to bed – tomorrow, the beach!

Posted in Fethiye, Turkey, Turquoise Riviera, Villa Daffodil | 3 Comments »