Just why has almost everyone I know been to Turkey this year?
In less time it took us to reach Cornwall, we travelled over 2,000 miles to a remote Turkish bay to celebrate a milestone birthday. We almost didn’t make it, following the demise of our UK tour operator one week before we were due to depart.
Since it burst onto the tourism scene over a decade ago, Turkey has successfully given its Mediterranean holiday neighbours a serious run for their tourism revenue; offering glorious miles of sun-soaked coastline with plenty of old ruins dotted about, food like it used to taste, water sports, yachting and gullet holidays, what’s not to like? I have visited Turkey many times over the past 26 years, explored almost all of it and yet it has remained elusive, at arms length. Not that I am expecting the red carpet each time I return, yet I find both its familiarity and aloofness disconcerting. It certainly does things differently; en-masse excursions in convoys of four-wheel drives are popular, full to overflowing with bikini-clad tourists on their way to indulge in some toe-curling cultural experience that involves hundreds and strangers and mud. I just can’t see the appeal. Sightseeing boats with names like Seasick Seliyme, Belle Deli and Erva Demir ply up and down the coast, and I watched whilst two Gulet’s, like fleas on a dog’s back, try to squeese into a tight space when a bay full of empty coves and sightseeing possibilities are at their disposal.
Despite the tourist brochures, Turkey is not the most attractive country I have visited, if you stray from the coast that is: do the piles of detritus go unnoticed? The rusty cars, single shoes (where do the other ones get to?), water bottles big and small, fridges growing in the trees, a gas storage depot in the middle of nowhere and an impressive array of forlorn couches by the side of the road. Dusty settlements that have sprung up along the shiny new highways, optimistic taverna owners sitting in their large forecourts brimming full of empty tables and chairs. It feels tenuous. And very hot.
Kuzbuk Waterfront comprising two cottages is located on a remote headland, west along the coast from Marmaris, accessible only by boat, was our holiday destination. The cottages looked as though they had been designed by someone who had never visited the beautiful site, sitting as they were, uneasily within the designated conservation area.
We almost didn’t make it, following the demise of our UK tour operator one week before we were due to leave. This was a must-happen holiday; the celebration of a dear friends milestone birthday and thanks to the locally-based and most helpful Vicky, who managed to put us in touch with the cottage owners, our groceries, transfers and a boat, we rescued our holiday from the jaws of painful disappointment. The chance to swap shoes for fins all week was just too good to pass up. I so love a cliche: the aquamarine sea – visible from the plane – so clear, the sunlight directing you as you swim underwater, little black fish hanging beneath you, all contrasting with a deeper blue as the land slides away into the depths. In the sea, right in front of the cottage, we found a foot-high shelf of pottery shards, handles, broken lids and tiles that kept us guessing as to their origins and contents – the miles of terraced hillsides, gone to ruin, were evidence of the previous Greek occupants. Was all this pottery ancient Greek? I love a mystery too.
Being cut adrift from a holiday rep, meant we had to resort to our inner Cederberg selves to prepare our meals – a BBQ in a wheelbarrow, with no Wifi, infrequent communication, shopped for lovely fresh goods at the local market and entertained ourselves snorkelling and relaxing at the cottages. Apart from the octopus living under the jetty and the herd of death-defying goats who descended from the steep cliffs to sup from the stagnant well and to eat our watermelon rinds, we didn’t have company.
For a destination so busy and so close to other very busy centres, the peace and quiet we enjoyed was unrivalled: no cars, one airplane all week and one rusty old motorboat ferrying people back and forth from the beach club located across the bay, were the only man-made noises that disturbed our peace and quiet. It was wonderful to step off the treadmill for a week, and for that reason, I will return.
Now to get our money back from ATOL!