Tuesday, June 19, 2007

from Bodrum, Turkey: where roosters crow and young ones dance

A table by the Bosphorus: coffee, grilled cheese on breads, cucumbers, tomatoes, jams and sesame rolls. Always, the freshly squeezed juice. Breakfast in Istanbul, then a flight south.

In a stroke of good luck, we make the flight to Bodrum (by the Aegean Sea), in spite of the fact that I misread the departure time, thinking it to be late afternoon rather than early afternoon. Ask me a schedule and chances are only 65% that I will give you the right answer.

In fact, we not only make the flight, but have enough time to stop for a goat’s milk pistachio and orange (for me) and pistachio and chocolate (for my daughter) ice cream. One cannot neglect the important things in life. Goat’s milk ice cream is up there.

On the flight, I am sitting besides a Very Friendly person. Frequent fliers do not like Very Friendly seatmates, unfortunately. Never mind that this woman tells a normally fascinating to me story of her movement between Turkey and America (she is a chemical engineer and, along with her family, is part of the significant tide of returnees to Turkey). Never mind that she has some interesting commentary on the Kurds at the Iraqi border. It’s all good, all interesting and I try so very hard to listen and ask questions, all the while thinking – how many more seconds before we land?

We take a cab to Bodrum proper, past dry hills, oh so dry, with olive trees growing nonetheless – their pale gray leaves adding to the feeling of ruggedness and heat.

It is very hot here. How can a place, just a fifty minute flight from Istanbul, be that much hotter? We roll down the windows of the cab and let ourselves be slapped around by hot air – like a massage of sorts, not a cooling one, but still good and punchy.

The discreet hotel is a thing of great loveliness – perched on a hill, away from the chaotic little town (for Bodrum, though small, has the same feeling of frenzy). Stepping out on the little balcony, I see…


… the Aegean Sea and the white houses hugging the little bay, I see the islands – some Greek, some Turkish across the waters. It’s all tempting, all worth exploring, but I have work to do and besides, there is a pool and so we decide that the next day, we will go nowhere and see nothing and we’ll sequester ourselves right here in our lovely white room on the hillside of Bodrum.

First, though, there is the matter of dinner and we walk down into town, past small houses, with people sitting in front,


... and city roosters, too. Past shops, always the shops, everywhere in Turkey, people selling things, we pass all this and wind up at the harbor.



We try to fit into the pulse of the town, for we have heard that the globetrotters have “discovered” Bodrum and they come here to party late into the night and so everything is done at a much later hour, but we are hungry and so we cannot wait.

We find a restaurant that comes with praise. We sit in a small courtyard, with flowers to the side...


... and our waiter is even friendlier than all the hugely friendly waiters of Istanbul and he makes suggestions and they are all good and we eat everything.




We are ready to collapse, but he cannot believe that this should be our plan given that we are in a village that likes to party late into the night and so he slips my daughter a card indicating how they should meet up and dance the night away and I smile politely as does she – for we are the tired ones, the ones who lose their oomph at midnight (except that I know that she is molding herself to me, that were she here with her own pack, they would be out there tasting music and laughter at 4).

All at once I feel protective and maternal and I am wondering if I have become this way because I am so close to the waters that wrecked havoc in my own youth. Bodrum is within spittin’ distance of Samos, the Greek island next to the Turkish coast, where some 35 years ago a bartender and I rode a motorbike all night long and threw plates in tavernas and danced and smooched on a rocky beach and then he asked me if this means I would be his wife and I thought – Jesus, what am I doing??

Too tired to hike up, we take a cab back and the driver gives us each an evil eye (a glass bead), to ward off the dangers of travel.