Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Turkey 2010 - Part II - Oh, What to Do?

Our Roman column lined, blue tiled, pool with a beautiful limestone decking will be our primary hangout, day and night. To the left is a truly beautiful mountain towering above us…and we are towering above the town of Kalkan, Turkey (which is straight ahead and to the right)…but far enough away that we actually cannot see the town, but the Mediterranean Sea and a few small islands. The one obstruction is a neighbor’s house (which we knew was there when we rented the villa)…which is the only thing keeping the view from being perfect.


After a morning of floating in the pool (and not even thinking about our lost luggage) my friend and I ventured into the only little market we know (we stopped there with Harry for two seconds to pick up some ekmet (bread) the night before). What a shocker! You would not believe the “road” we have to travel just to get to an actual road. Not even a single lane. Steep. Rutted. Rock-strewn. Narrow. And, just to add sound effects, with brush growing tall in the middle of the tracks. Now I am glad I came at night…because it is much more unnerving in the daylight!

We find the little store, which is much further down the road then we remembered (but, remember, we were in shock just trying to keep up with Harry the night before). We make a few purchases, try to chat with the shopkeeper with my six words of Turkish and sign language, and return to Villa Xanthos with a less isolated feeling, a greater appreciation of the villa, and a great need to get back into the pool for an afternoon soak in the 95 degree heat.

Now it is time for a big move: We move to the beautiful covered wood deck which overlooks the mountain, some of the villa’s grape vines (we try some), and then explore the grounds finding this wonderful little seating area, that little garden over there and such. Harry stops by and recommends a restaurant for dinner. It was the perfect backdrop for a glass or two of one of the local white wines, Doluca, and a rest before dinner. (Oh, this relaxing is hard work!)

We venture out, in the dark, to find Pinarbasi Restaurant up the hill in the actual village of Islamlar. I made a wrong turn and found I was literally trapped in an ally, unable to turn around, and not a clue where this blunder would let us out. Luckily it lets us out right at the restaurant! We are brought up to a rooftop restaurant where we are one of only three tables being served. My wife speaks to the waiter/owner in Turkish ordering various Turkish meze (small plates) and then the specialty of the village, trout. We, of course, order some local white wine, Angora, and raki (the very popular Turkish drink which is similar to ouzo, but mixed with water – to form a milky white drink – with ice). There are trout “farms” everywhere. (I think there are “show” trout ponds and the trout are delivered fresh daily, but it doesn’t matter.) He explains that they place the rainbow trout in salt for at least eight hours, then drizzle them with fresh olive oil and place them on a grill. I am in heaven.

After dinner, it was drinks and talk by the pool. There we meet Kermit, our new tree frog mascot. He hangs with us. Then I decide to call the airport to see about our luggage. Eureka! A celebratory drink (OK, we were looking for an excuse) and we make plans to drive the two hours to the airport because (a) we have very little hope that the airlines will find this place; and, (b) have strong doubts the luggage would be delivered in our lifetime. A drink to the drive tomorrow. (OK, we were looking for an excuse.)

After a leisurely morning and a dip in the pool, we are off to Dalaman. The GPS must be wrong. It is telling us that the drive is a bit over 3 hours. That can’t be right. (Note: NEVER doubt the GPS.) It was a very long, but very interesting drive and one that is far more interesting (and easy) in the daylight.

For example, we pass literally hundreds of greenhouses and cannot figure out why they are there or what they are for. (It was a government program that backfired wherein people were encouraged to buy a few acres of land to raise tomatoes using cheap government loans. The problem: there were so many tomatoes the bottom fell out of the price and they have been pretty much abandoned.)

Another example: In one small area there are roadside stands with stoves spewing black smoke with silver pots on top. What were they and why only there? It comes to be that they are selling corn which is grown in the area. Now, who would buy hot corn in 110 degree heat is another thing. And a thing I have no answer for.

After about 2.5 hours driving through beautiful and interesting countryside we see a sign for the airport. And then we are there. And the airport is much larger than we thought. But more importantly: our luggage was there.

We were going to head to Fethiye for lunch. We had been there on the Seabourn Spirit on a previous Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise and had a nice time there (we actually met up with some of my wife’s family who were on holiday from Scotland). But with the ride being an hour longer than anticipated and a rather leisurely start we changed plans…as we do. Instead we headed to Gocek, which I remembered as a sleepy little marina town where we disembarked our gullet (a wooden Turkish motorsailer) my wife and chartered back in 1994.

Have things changed! Gocek was still sleepy, but not little. The marina was filled with yachts, gullets and small boats, over a dozen restaurants and lots of shops lining a pedestrian walking mall. We walk until we find that right restaurant. And there it is. Nicely white, tableclothed, tables under huge trees with a view of the yachts. We order a nice lunch, asking about the fresh fish of the day. (If you didn’t know, ordering the fish of the day in Turkey is one of the world’s great rip-offs. The same fish that costs you $5 on the menu can cost you literally$50 if it is the fish of the day.) We pass on the fish of the day, but have a lovely lunch and a walk-a-round.

Back in the car and a *(&# 270 Turkish lira ($150) speeding ticket later (and I wasn’t speeding) we arrived home. I know, you are thinking, “Why didn’t Iamboatman fight the ticket and complain it was the car that just passed him?” I have two words for you: Midnight Express. Discretion was the better part of valor.

We try a different restaurant, Mahmut’s, which is just around the bend (there are no corners) from the place we ate the night before. We find they are just as friendly and do some dished better and some not as good as the place we ate the night before. The trout is grilled very delicately. We like it a bit better. Mahmut’s has a special lamb dinner experience on Wednesdays but are told the place gets crowded as they ferry people up from Kalkan for the evening. We decide we don’t like the idea of a crowd, but that maybe we should check out Kalkan and, besides, we can do a proper shop for groceries…and wine.

After another evening of chatting by the pool and a morning of chatting in the pool, my mate and I head to Kalkan armed with a list of food to buy and a desire for finding something interesting. Oh, yes, we must also find the harbor because we have hired a gullet for Thursday (I pause: what day is it? I don’t want to miss Thursday.). We find Kalkan and the harbor. The problem with Kalkan is that it is a resort town filled with people paying far more than we did to merely experience a town filled with people that are paying far more than we did. We provision up, finding a good butcher as well. We also stop at our “local” market…just to support our friends (actually they had the kind of nuts we liked and couldn’t find them in Kalkan).

I make a lunch of cigara borek (cheese filled filo sticks), lamb skewers and kofte (spicy lamb mini-burgers) with a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and olive oil. It is late afternoon, so we consider it “linner” (Homer Simpson’s definition of the meal between lunch and dinner…just as brunch is between breakfast and lunch.) No dinner tonight. Yeah, right!

During our afternoon, my mate and I contemplate the mountain to our left. We see to the far left at the top some structures and wonder how we can get there to see them. Walking is NOT an option. It would take days and especially in the rugged terrain at 100 degrees plus we probably would die.

So now it is dinner time and we decide to just go out for a salad somewhere. I insist we just drive and I will find the right place. (I love to do this…and almost always get it right.) I find Uzum Bistro. The name Bistro makes me cautious, but I figure the signage is classy, so this just might be a bit more upscale (hardly a measure here!). We turn off the paved road and down a gravel track. If we didn’t have our gravel track to navigate this would seem challenging, but now it is not a problem at all. As we drive we see the sights on the far side of the mountain we had been contemplating. We did it. We made it to the mountaintop.

The owner of Uzum Bistro greets us at the entrance to a lovely garden with an incredible view that towers over our villa, which is in the distance. He pours some wine and raki (and it is a good pour) and takes our order…that just seems to grow beyond a salad. He then advises that his wife has just left for Antalya so it is just him as waiter and cook, so it will take some time. We are very good with that, as the sun sets over the mountain top. Then we hear a motorcycle. The neighbor’s wife comes to help him out. We like this place.

He tells us that he has villas that he rents out to British honeymooners and we see them below us as we enjoy the view, our friends and the food. And, of course, there was Zeytin, his dog. Very large, very mellow and our guardian for the evening. My favorite dish: pickled seaweed (I forget the Turkish name for it.)

As we finish our dinner the power goes out everywhere. We come back to the villa and I put on my Slope Brook Farm hat with LED lighting (I come prepared!), find some candles and, as you do, we have drinks by candlelight by the pool.

At 3:30 a.m. the power comes back on (I am awakened by the air conditioner…which, curiously, really wasn’t needed with the mountain breeze) and then it goes off. And then it comes on. And then it goes off. And then it comes on again.

We awake to another beautiful day. Oh, what to do? I don’t know. Let’s…