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Messing about the Turkish coast

Korfezi Hisaronu, Turkey
June 1, 2003
We left Falls Church three long weeks ago, changing our stimulating urban environment for our annual adventure with the sea, nature and other cultures. We are presently motoring out of an idyllic anchorage, after a swim in a brisk clear sea followed by a hot cup of tea and a thunder and lightening squall which made the rocky shore seem too close for our comfort. The light of this late afternoon provides wondrous effects as the deluge of rain lessens and the dark clouds move quickly overhead. The mountains are still only grey black outlines: as if drawn by small children. There is a Technicolor rainbow from the patch of sun breaking through the clouds and pouring into the sea from the Greek island of Simi to our west, spotlighting a Turkish hill to our east.

We are en route back to Marmaris, which has become a base for us in southwest Turkey. Benjamin arrives there on June 5. A shakedown cruise went well- after a week of hard work at the Marmaris Yacht Marine (our marina in Marmaris) put DOVKA into sailing shape - as we retraced our voyage to our favorite spot so far: the Keci Bay in the Hisaronu Gulf. If Marmaris Yacht Marine is our marina away from the Chesapeake Bay, then the Buk Restaurant at the head of Keci Buku, on the outskirts of the tiny village of Oranhiye, is our home away from home. Two young cousins, with the help of a lot of other relatives, manage this cozy spot providing free docks, showers, water and electricity in exchange for the purchase of a few meals ashore at the restaurant. But what they really provide is a relaxed, hospitable atmosphere surrounded by beauty that seduces one to stay and stay and stay.

The bay is surrounded by rugged mountains. A cow and her calf either graze in the small pasture besides the path to the showers behind the restaurant and on the other side of the vegetable garden, or they wander down to the beach and munch under the brilliant pink oleander bushes that line the shore. The cow moos every now and then. The goats on the hills bleat regularly and the roosters crow at odd times throughout the day. The sounds of the village are rounded out by the call of the muezzin at prayer times and the occasional bleat of a donkey or one of the camels across the water.

There is a little island off of which we can anchor. It is all rock and scrub, except for the extensive ruins of another Byzantine fort at the top. The sun and clouds continuously paint different pictures on the mountains in the morning, afternoon and early evening.
The days have been warm and sunny and the evenings cool enough for a duvet. There are times we feel as if we were on a mountain lake rather than the Mediterranean Sea. I am reminded of my childhood summers in Old Forge in the Adirondack Mountains, or our special times with the boys at our friends' lake-house in New Hampshire.

We like Turkey so much because it feels so civilized. An interesting comment about a poor country with a struggling economy and serious social issues (the last two could also be said of the USA). We returned with a bit of trepidation, considering the negative worldwide reputation the Texas cowboy has brought on the USA. But we have found, once again, most peoples of the world are more sophisticated than he, and are able to distinguish between the U.S. president's policies and the American people.

Turkey is a poor country with a lot of rural villages spread across a large area. The tiny settlements along the mountainous coast that serve the tourists on land and the sailing yachts are rudimentary and often seasonal. The people may not have what we consider the essentials of civilization such as continuously running hot water and electricity, but we have found the Turkish people consider the essence of civilization to be: graciousness, warmth, hospitality, honesty, and pride. They are fastidious: the most primitive toilet is clean, and the most lean-to shack of a restaurant serves with more style than many expensive, chic spots in D.C. And there are no plastic spoons or Styrofoam cups.

This is a country of complicated politics and not a little (we are led to understand) corruption (but who are we to talk these days!); a society straddling two worlds as its land mass straddles two continents: Europe and Asia. It is a fascinating country with its ancient history ever present in hundreds of archeological sites from a ruined wall section to preserved cities.

The slightly tacky tourist town of Marmaris (a fishing village 20 years ago) has another Byzantine fort integrated into its warrens of rug merchants and restaurants. Our marina sits on a peninsula surrounded by a frankincense forest. Early Christianity thrived in Turkey, but today the sound of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer is amplified out over the water and over the sounds of the discos and motorbikes.

We are looking forward to relaxing this season, after covering a lot of miles each of the past three years. We have made it as far east in the Med as we are going to go, so we shall just poke around this fascinating and beautiful coast and winter here one more time before beginning to head west once again, next season.


Marmaris, Turkey
June 20, 2003
We are anchored off Marmaris Yacht Marine after a lovely sail south from our latest adventure. It looks like the meltemi (the strong summer north wind) has arrived. It has been blowing 20 plus knots for two days. The wind is bouncing DOVKA around, but it also softens the summer heat of the sun (which has also arrived in the last few weeks - no need for a duvet anymore).

We have explored new territory with two of our favorite crew, Benjamin and Jonathan. From Marmaris, Ben helped us push the 100 miles up to Kusadasi, sailing several long days and stopping enroute at two small charming fishing villages and one totally deserted sandy cove for the night. Kusadasi is an overbuilt resort, benefiting from its proximity to Ephesus, the magnificently preserved Greek/Roman city. Jonathan joined us there and we whipped his medical boards-study weary and jetlagged body off to the opening night of the Izmir (The ancient Greek city of Smyrna) Music Festival, held under a full moon in the "Great Theater" - the 30,000 seat, Roman amphitheater in Ephesus. It was an unbelievably magical setting in which to enjoy Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto!

Both boys were with us for less than a week, but we did a lot and had a fulfilling family time. While they toured Ephesus in the light of day, we relaxed, sipped coffee in a garden and then bought a rug. The experience is worth the cost of the item. We were the only tourists around on this quiet morning. Ali suggested we visit his shop as we stepped out of the car. When we said we wanted coffee, he steered us to the garden and we started talking politics and economics with him. He politely left us when we ordered our coffee and unrolled our magazines to read.

After a while, we wandered into his shop. In every store, hot apple tea is offered as you sit surrounded by carpets and kilims. We accepted the tea and sipped it, as 27 year old Ali rolled out rug after rug after rug. We discussed each rug's quality, the time it took to make, size, color, etc. All very relaxed. Mom had brought the tea to us and we asked about the process for brining olives in the huge plastic jug at the entrance. Not having the English words for some of the items needed, she rummaged around 'til she found the spice she wanted in one of the several sacks sitting nearby. Then we went back to rugs and more rugs and more rugs.

In between rugs, we learned that Ali's family also has a farm and his father has just retired from the rug business, although he made an appearance when the sale was imminent. This was on our second visit, after we returned from picking up the boys in Ephesus. They had their apple tea and we learned all about Ali's 18 months in the Turkish Army. We also learned that Ali drives to Iraq, Iran and Syria and the hinterlands of Turkey during the winter - buying rugs and selling their olives. Dad had been a welder, until he had enough money to get into the rug business. Now he watches his farm and directs his workers (probably all women, from what we saw as we drove by fields and fields and fields, all with women in baggy patterned pants and white head scarves bent over). Ali proudly told us his sister was a hairdresser and he hoped to buy her a shop very soon.

With the boys help, we agreed on an unusual kilim for the kitchen and the deal was consummated. The rug is about 65 years old and needed some repair. So the repair man was called and he said it would take a day to fix. It was arranged that Ali would ship the rug in a carrying case to Marmaris to arrive by Monday, when we would be back there and we would pick it up. We had the telephone number and name of the cargo carrier office in Marmaris, As we sailed south, back to Keci Buku, we realized we had no idea how to decipher the address of the cargo carrier; that we had paid cash and could easily never see our rug again. But, shame on us.

On Friday, as we sat down to dinner, Ali called to say the rug was ready and he was going to send it. On Monday, as we sat in the dolmus (minibus) in Marmaris, having just picked up the rug, he called to see if we had gotten it and to find out if we liked the repair job! Actually, when we finally got back to the boat and unrolled it, we could not even tell where it had been repaired. The line many of the hustlers standing outside of the shops use is "Let me spend your money." This time, the whole process was a part of the product we were buying.

We finished our voyage with Benjamin and Jonathan back at Keci Buku, (having had a boisterous downwind 92 mile, 15 hour sail the day before we got there) to share the beauty of the setting and the ambiance of the Buk Restaurant with the boys. They gave us the incentive to do an early morning climb to the top of the ruins of our little Byzantine fort. It was just us and the goats before breakfast. We all swam, read, biked, hiked and generally relaxed together.

We left the boat in Keci Buku and all stuffed into a dolmus and went back to Marmaris to get the boys to an overnight bus to the Capadoccia region of Anatolia (south and east of Ankara) in the middle of Turkey. Saying goodbye was not hard since we will see them both next week, when we return home for a very special wedding.

Before we sailed back to Marmaris, we spent several days with a South African boat we had met last year. They showed us their favorite spot, the Kaptan Restaurant in the village of Selimiye , one bay down from Keci Buku. For two nights, we were the only customers as we sat at a lone, elegantly set table, two feet from the waters' edge and the boats' bows and had fabulously fresh grilled fish.

Tomorrow we up anchor and go into the marina. We are working to get the boat ready to leave for four to six weeks as we head home for three weeks, then to Northern Europe to avoid some of the hottest time in the Mediterranean and to visit with sailing friends in England, Normandy, Holland and Germany. A fringe benefit of cruising in European coastal waters has been easy access to inland Europe!