Friday, January 04, 2013

to Alacati

Who comes to Alacati? Ed asks as we stroll down a winding old street, with the typical cafes and small stores you're likely to see in a town that draws summer tourists.

We are on the Cesme peninsula -- a western slip of land that juts out into the Aegean Sea (which, if you don't know your geography, is the sea that separates Turkey from Greece), but we're actually several kilometers from the water. We have yet to feel the salt of the Mediterranean. I do know that were we to take a dolmus or car to the water's edge, we'd come to some reputable windsurfing spots, but people who do water sports like to stay close to the water with the sound of waves and sunsets over the sea. Alacati offers none of that.

And yet, it's charming and delightful and maybe even a touch cosmopolitan. Our small inn for the night (the Incirliev) is beautiful (and very inexpensive in this off season).

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Our host is a woman who speaks perfect English, having studied chemical engineering in London in her former life. There are no olive pickers who walk their loaded down horses down the main street. Though there are the older men, as in every town and village of the Mediterranean, sitting, talking, drinking their (in Turkey) tea.

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And there are olives. But picked. And brined.

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It feels a world away from Sirince (or Selcuk, for that matter).

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(a game within a shop)

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(familiar words)

And earlier this morning we were just in our lovely village, where the roosters crow and the dogs bark and the smoke rises steadily into the misty hills.

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...eating our breakfast of breads and cheeses and jams and olives...

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But, it's time to move on. The dolmus picks us up at the edge of the village. Down the hill we go, right into the fog coming in from the sea.

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In Selcuk, we transfer to another dolmus. With a last glance toward this world of chatting men and boys (many of the dolmus vans have a three person seat up front -- for the driver and two passengers; Ed and I love to climb into this -- it affords the best views, even as you wait for the dolmus to depart)...

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... to Izmir. The bus and dolmus station there is enormous! We spend the layover hour walking between ticket offices (each destination has its own stall), cafes (all selling the same Turkish sesame bagel) and honking buses...

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And finally, we board our own bus for the coast (or near coast). This is no dolmus! When Turkish people don't travel by air, they travel large distances on buses that imitate air travel. There is a bus attendant who makes sure you stay put in your assigned seat. Halfway there (it's not quite a two hour trip to the tip of the Cesme peninsula), he passes out cups of water and after, he walks down the aisle splashing outstretched hands with something that is probably a hand sanitizer, though we declined the offer, since random yellow liquid out of an unlabeled bottle at first seemed like a sacred ritual rather than a reminder that we live in a world of germs.

The bus continues to the port town of Cesme, but we get off in Alacati -- the town just before it, for the simple reason that Alacati has the nicer b&b.

And so here we now are, walking the streets of Alcati, (and pausing at a bakery before we even reach the b&b; you know, for the baklava)...

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...and being rather amused by this oldish town (you mean to tell me these windmills are not real? They're newly constructed. No, newly renovated. Okay, I'll grant you that there probably were mills just like these once upon a time...).

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(Harvesting the wind remains a preoccupation in this typically windy region, though this week, the air is perfectly still).

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And at times we are even delighted, in a  "this is very charming" sort of way.

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Ed is mostly delighted with the cat population (again, coexisting).

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(at an outdoor cafe)

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(still life)

Our innkeeper recommends a dinner place up in the older part of town. It's a small restaurant ("Asma Yapragi") and now, in this off season, it is quiet -- with two outside tables and a handful more indoors.

It's in the mid-forties here at night -- hardly your outdoor eating weather, but the place has heating lamps and they bring us blankets, so that we cannot resist eating this January meal outside.

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And I have to say, it was probably the most romantic meal Ed and I ever ate together. I don't know why it felt that way. There was no music playing. The food was delicious but simple -- five appetizers to choose from (we took four of them -- various vegetables variously prepared and yes, at least two with yogurt) and then a choice of meatballs or rosemary rubbed lamb (we shared a plate of lamb, with rice and almonds). For dessert -- pumpkin cake.

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But something about the restaurant was just so pretty (in a farmhouse sort of way) and the feeling of warmth from the lamp, the blanket, the (for once) good Turkish wine -- all this was so comforting that I have to say, it will surely remain memorable even in years when I am likely to forget so much else that takes place each day.

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We walk back along the now quiet streets. Ed said earlier that he found in general Turkey to be a quiet people. Unlike the Italians and Spaniards, Turks don't raise voices in public. And now here we are, our last night in Turkey (we return to it at the end of our trip, but that will be Istanbul, which is surely two worlds apart from these towns and villages) and we notice that all the prowling dogs and cats are quiet too.

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As if somehow they know that there is a time for barking and a time for contemplation. A quick sniff, a wait for a rub behind an ear and they scamper away. Quietly into the night.

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