Thursday, January 23, 2014


Oh, the pressure! Trying to fine tune a stay so that we can see everything that I wanted to see, take every walk, touch every blooming almond branch -- a week's worth of stuff -- into one day. The one and only day that we are to have good weather. Today is that day.

I don't know how the weather forecasters could all speak with such certainty, but they do: they say heavy rains are coming our way.

And so we have to reap this day of gold and make good use of every minute.

But how? It was to be a leisurely pitter patter through the coves, forests and villages. A bus ride here, a hike there... How do you do this in the space of ten hours?

Ask a local about best hiking options and you get a blank face. Local people work, they drink tea with their friends, eat meals with their family, play backgammon at the village cafe. They don't take hikes on search out signed trails. That's foreign tourist stuff. No one I ask knows of trails, no one really thinks that hiking on one is a great idea. So I am on my own piecing it all together. I do know this: the mini-bus travel has to be scrapped. It's not possible to visit more than one place and connect with a public transportation system we do not fully understand. A missed bus could leave us stranded on the other side of the peninsula. I'm not keen on that.

And so, very reluctantly, we rent a car for the day. Our hotel manager gets his friend to bring one over for us. A good rate, he wont make any money, we just want to help! Ha!

But it is a good rate and the car makes us feel immediately at home: it's an old Fiat, not large at all and it's nice and used. Mud splatters on the outside, a bag of chips and some old plastic bottles within, a tear here, a paint job there. I am quite sure the manager's friend is really not a car rental guy but has, instead brought over his own machine for us to use. Extra cash is hard to come by in the off off season in Datca. We're happy, he's happy.

So we set out. And I would tell you the names of villages and describe in minute detail how there is only one road along the peninsula and the further you go on it, the more potholes and twisty curves it has, but hey, that's a tedious amount of details. So let my photos speak for this day.

And it was a glorious day! A memorable one, with plenty of hiking, eating, smiling at the passage of people and animals through this mountainous and beautiful land of beehives and coastal coves.

Let's start with breakfast. Breakfast is basic here, at the Fora Apart-Hotel. Bread and cheese and a hard boiled egg. But the honey -- oh, the Datca honey! It makes a royal meal out of anything!

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honey, thick and flavorful

Ed fills up, I hang back a little. It's often like that. We can coordinate in most any way when we travel together, but eating meals has been tricky. Especially in places that serve big breakfasts. Good, not good -- it hardly matters. He eats and then we struggle to come up with a common meal plan for the rest of the day.

Okay, forget about breakfast. We are off!

The road is quite empty here, toward the far end of the peninsula. And still, it's slow going. With many stops.

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Many stops.

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The villages are few and far between. Hamlets really. A handful of houses, a mosque, a few tables calling themselves a "restoran" where locals sit and drink tea, maybe a "pansyion" (guest house) or two, closed for the season.

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These hamlets are away from the coast. Pirates terrorized the villagers here well into the twentieth century. There are too many coves and places to hide along this coast. The people backed away from the shoreline to protect themselves as best they could.

We take a winding "road" down to the water's edge. The sun is absolutely brilliant! How could it be that there will be storms and downpours henceforth?! Never mind: the turquoise waters of many hues sparkle on this day. We walk the length of the beach, picking up bamboo reeds as hiking sticks...

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camera on a timer

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...and then turn inland, picking up the graveled road by the shore. Up the mountain it goes, then down again, winding, winding, offering magnificent views each step of  the way.

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But after an hour of climbing, we turn back. There's so much more to do, to see, to explore!

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(While the goats, oblivious to the passing of weather systems, simply graze and gaze and graze some more. By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea...)

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We left the car right by a pansyion that appears to be undergoing winter renovations. But wait -- there are tables outside. With napkin holders. How could that be?!

I ask -- are you open?
To eat? Yes.

It's so evocative here! So perfectly casual and out of the way, too. We sit down, not out of hunger for food, but out of hunger for this perfect moment, out here on the terrace of this crumbling (for now) house by the sea.

For once, our server knows a bit of English and I ask -- can we have something small, something light?
We just have one thing: pita. With meat, or with vegetables, And cheese.
Wonderful. We'll split a portion. Without the meat. And some gas water. Perfect. 

Such great people watching here! No, not the patrons. A few come by, but they are outnumbered by the family that lives here. Four generations of family.

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I ask our waiter -- do you expect tourists now? It's January!
No, not at all. We are not really open now. Just today. Because we bake pita once every two weeks and it happens to be today. So we serve it for lunch. 

Yes, I see that. Locals come to eat this fantastically fresh, warm, thin, crusty pita breads.

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And the grandmother and great grandmother go to the truck that pulls up with fruits and vegetables, and they pick up foods for the family, and the grandkids do grandkid things, and it's just this perfect confluence of good things that land in your lap every once in a while and I am sure that this hour over warm pita bread is going to be one of the highlights of this trip.

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honey and almonds in their kitchen window

We move on. (The goats are done with lunch as well.)

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My goal is to get to Kniodos -- the tip of the peninsula. For the view, the lighthouse, yes, all that. But also for the archeological ruins. This is one of those tales that leaves you sad: there once was a world of great art, culture, commerce here. And it thrived. And then it died. What we see now are the remains: the amphitheaters, the temples -- stones, not nearly as well preserved as they are in Ephesus (see last year's Turkey posts) but nonetheless very real!

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an overview (with the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula)

We spend a while wandering up the paths of this great place of past gloriousness.

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Along with a handful of cows.  

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How inappropriate! I comment.  
No, how appropriate -- Ed says. The grass is so neatly trimmed

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Among the ruins of the amphitheater, a woman stoops and picks handfuls of green plants. She explains -- we eat these. With olive oil, cooked. We like them very much.

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A young boy and his father herd the cows toward the higher elevations, the woman shouts down to a friend who also carries a sack for the green plants... How can I explain the feeling of homeyness here? It's not a museum, it's a place where people still find a slice of life to be lived here, among the ruins.

We're not done yet. There is still the lighthouse. But it's a climb and a descent and then another climb away! Do we really want to do it? 

Yes. No. Yes. Yes!

(From the summit, looking back toward the archeological site, barely visible at this distance...)

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It's empty now on the tip of the Datca Peninsula. Maybe it's always just that much emptier here than it is elsewhere along the coast. In the quiet of that emptiness, you can let yourself gaze forward, but always with a nod to what was once here.  The greatness that faded into rubble. So often it is just that.

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I drive back, Ed dozes. 

I make many quick stops. For the goats, donkeys, cows. For the bees. For the sunset. For the forest.

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(sharing the narrow road in the warmth of the near dusk)

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(a man's best friend here)

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(in an olive grove)

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(among almond blossoms)

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(last rays)

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(painting the trees gold)

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(looking toward the end of the Datca Peninsula, with a band of mountains from the Greek islands behind it)

Back in Datca (the town) now. We pick up oranges at the market and baklava at what is now our favorite bakery. And we stop at a coffee shop. I haven't had my daily cup of coffee, even though it is nearly 6 p.m.. We order additional cookies. A group of men (one who is the owner, or related to him) sit to the side. They take out a bamboo flute. A huge one. The guy plays it. It's a low, raspy sound. Full of melancholy and pathos. He says with a smile -- like this, pointing to our bamboo walking sticks.

You could infuse a lot of meaning into those two words.

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In our room, Ed falls asleep again. He is always tired in the first days we are in Europe. And today, we surely had our fill of climbs and hikes. But he doesn't wake up for dinner and since he ate most of the oranges we purchased, I'm doubtful that he'll want to eat another meal.

So I go by myself. 

It's still warm outside -- maybe in the low fifties. I pass an older couple on a bench, looking out at the lights over the Datca bay. It's 9 in the evening. The little park where they sit is quiet.

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But the handful of restaurants are not yet done for the day. I go to the fish place that we should have gone to yesterday.

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And yes, it's delicious (red snapper) and I remember to ask for it to be grilled and I point to a few veggie plates as well -- all that with a glass of Turkish white wine -- it is the most wonderfully fresh and honest meal, even if I do eat it alone.

Tomorrow brings changes and adjustments as we ready ourselves for the onslaught of rain. But I hardly mind. We had our grand day. That was today.

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