Friday, July 15, 2011

Back in Paradise - Our Return to Islamlar, Turkey - Part V

Our life in the village of Islamlar always seems to throw us a curve…not a bad curve, but a curve nonetheless.

You may recall that the owner of “our” Villa Ruyam, Pat, bought my friend a birthday cake and we were concerned about not offending her because we had already organized one. Well, remembering this is rural Turkey, the baker had, unbeknownst to us, told Pat that the cake would not be ready for a few hours, but that he could deliver it to Place of Huseyin’s because he ordered one for my friend as well. Yikes? No: Problem Yok! (No problem.)

Since Pat knew the situation, and we found out about it, we simply invited her up for a lovely lunch (which I, of course, prepared): kofte, cicik, salata, ekmek (bread…that’s a new one for you) and then a second birthday cake. Of course, since the baker knew there were two cakes we had two totally different, and delicious, cakes…and two really lovely celebrations.

After the second celebration there was only one thing to do: Rest. Apparently in a matter of minutes I was snoring away floating in one of the remaining floating chairs. Hey, someone has to do it!

But today was, however, a day of adventure and challenge. We had undertaken the simple task of driving to Fethiye. The focus of our day was for my wife to pick out a nice piece of jewelry for our upcoming anniversary and to have lunch at the fish market. There was only one thing standing between our dining and personal enjoyment: The Scottish voice of my wife and the Australian voice of the GPS girl.

The struggle started immediately as logic said to drive down the mountain to Kalkan and then turn onto D-400 right to Fethiye. However, that is a long circuitous route and driving through the mountains and then farmland was more direct and, thus, was the Aussie girl’s choice. As we have absolutely no pressure and a strong desire for adventure we took the instructed left towards the mountain rather than the right to Kalkan and the highway. So the adventure begins.

We follow the road that becomes D-350 (these are not highways, but 1.5 lane roads with at best marginal asphalt) as we twist through the mountains recalling our drive on the same road in the other direction to the Villa that first night. We note that what we thought might have been a lake or river was, in fact, a very steep drop-off (It was really dark!) and that the “It must be very pretty in the daylight” was, in fact, true, but not anything like what we imagined for it was farmland; not flowers and awesome expansive views.

And then trouble: The Aussie girl said go straight and the Scottish girl sees a hand painted sign that I ignored that pointed to a bridge and said “Fethiye”. I said we should listen to the Aussie GPS girl and who the heck would listen to a hand-painted sign, but SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) was insistent…and then it got stupid!

The Aussie girl actually said, “Continue 2.5 kilometers to Unpaved Road.” I have been dealing with unamed “Road’, but “Unpaved Road” seemed a bit dramatic, even for a GPS…but it was, to be sure, accurate. We then pass an old Turkish woman crossing the road giving us a dirty look like “What the heck are you doing here?” and a tractor pulling a plow and then we see the remnants of karpuz (watermelon) on the road…followed shortly by two carts of karpuz being towed. And all the while I was teased by the Aussie GPS girl with references to “Towards D-350”.

Well an hour and a few bare knuckles later we finally returned to D-350 and very shortly thereafter the road to Fethiye. By the time we got there (about 11 am) it was about 100 degrees (38 Celsius) and the heat was tough. But I remembered Fethiye from when we visited a few years ago on the Seabourn Spirit with my favorite captain Geir-Arne Thue Nilsen (who is now the master of the newly christened Seabourn Quest!) so navigation wasn’t so difficult.

We made our way to the Fish Market. It is essentially a central square shared by four or five fish mongers surrounded by a number of restaurants. You pick your seafood and they clean it and deliver it to the restaurant of your choice who, in turn, cook it as you wish for 6 Turkish lire. After scoping things out…and setting up my negotiations for later when we are ready to eat, we shop. Well, actually the girls shopped and my mate and I found a place to have an Efes. After their purchases I hear, “So you got a table for two, did you?” Busted!

After a bit more shopping (reminiscing about my mate’s purchase of probably the nicest goat skin bag I have ever seen when we were on the Seabourn Spirit together…because I knew exactly where the shop was…and was able to leave empty handed. Yes!) we returned to the fish market.

Now, with the table set I pounce! The fish monger with the nicest and largest prawns sees me and smiles. I walk over (having eyed an expensive and surely delicious turbot earlier) and we negotiate over the price of the large prawns. He tells me the large ones are 50 TL a kilo and the medium ones are 40 TL. I insist he must be mistaken and that the large are 40TL and the medium are 30TL. He peels two of the prawns to show me the difference. I don’t budge, but we are laughing. We go with 12 of the large prawns at my price…and then he throws in the prawns he peeled and we agree on two squid as well. Instead of change from my mate’s 50TL note (about $35) he throws in two or three more prawns.

We walk over to Cen & Can (sounds like Jen and Jan) where the girls have already secured a table and a bottle of Buzbag wine. I remember this wine: It is from Capadoccia where we had been back in 1994. (And it is not pronounced as a bag of insects, but “Booze-ba”). We order some anchovies on olive oil, cicek, salata and instruct the prawns to be sautéed in garlic, chilies and olive oil and the squid to be fried. An incredible feast…and too much to eat. If you take away the cost of the wine, it was basically 6TL ($3.50) for each dish. If you include the wine, well that is a different story!

Now, fully fed we saunter over to the same fish monger to get more giant prawns for tomorrow’s barbecue at the Villa Ruyam. He tells me they are 60TL a kilo. I look at him and he says he is sorry, it is “Cok Secak” (very hot). He corrects his price and tells me it is 35TL for 12 more prawns. I hand him 30TL and he looks at me. I say to him “Cok Secak”… and then hand him the additional 5TL. He packs them in buz (ice) and we head to the car. After my wife purchases a modest evil eye bracelet and the store owner complains of the economy and gold prices not allowing him to make the type of jewelry we are looking for, one of the girls wants ice cream so we stop. It winds up the place on the street is a Burger King. OMG, but two ice creams for 3.50 TL who is going to complain?

On the way home we decide to check out Oludeniz (Dead Sea) and it was shocking. Back in 1994 when my wife and I chartered a gulet (Turkish wooden sailing motor boat) it was a relatively quite beach. Now I just wanted to get the heck out of that crowded, touristic, place.

After refueling the car…with my lovely and caring wife repeatedly driving off as I tried to get back into the car…which was after the gas station attendants couldn’t believe my credit card didn’t have a PIN…and then asked me where I was from and when I said America they said “Canada”. I replied, “No, New York.” The man behind the counter said, “No good. See you later alligator.” and laughed with me. Of course the attendant was also laughing as I kept trying to get into the car and my wife kept driving off just enough to frustrate me. You just never know where you will find a nice guy and a good laugh.

So with that I finally got back into the car and drove on the D-400. The Aussie girl kept telling me to turn and the Scottish girl was asleep in the back seat (at least as long as my mate didn’t scare her awake…as he did twice), but I stayed true and got to Kalkan on the best highway in the area (don’t get too excited about that!) and then up the mountain to our little bit of Paradise at Villa Ruyam.