Friday, January 24, 2014

on the move

Late Night Writing

I haven't yet made the switch to posting in the mornings. The good weather shoulders the blame: who can stay in on a beautiful morning? But as a result, I'm posting late at night, continuing even later, into the middle of the night. I would say that on average, Ed is getting about three times as much sleep as I am. Though read that as being mainly a comment on the sum of the many naps he takes while "on vacation." And of course, on his early to bed habit.

The goal had been to come closer to his sum total on the (coming soon!) rainy days. But I mess with that plan when I decide that we should pack and move on, away from the Datca Peninsula. Explore a little more, while we can.
Ed wavers. Why travel on a day that isn't yet delivering the heavy rains? (They are set to arrive Friday, but not until late.)
I have an answer to this! If we wait here for a day and then travel, effectively we will see nothing of the new place. Because of the rains. (I should explain that we are just a little constrained in our explorations by having to be on the coast in Bodrum on Monday to catch an early ferry the next day.)

And so we check the bus schedules and get ready to leave.

Datca Reconsidered 

And yet, we've grown accustomed to the face of Datca. Maybe it's that day of generous sunshine that now is embedded in our souls. Or maybe it's that our room looks out to the bay, yes, lovely view, sure, but also, to the right, we see the playground of an elementary school. Their laughter at recess is our joy. (N.b. the school color is orange and all the girls have long hair.)


We like, too, the staff at our very basic hotel (I make no comment on the beds that slide, or the shower that never heats up, or the random wires hanging from the ceiling). They are young, earnest, sincere. And to give them credit -- their standards are evolving. Thus far, they haven't had many international (meaning fussy) visitors. With the exception of Russians in the summer. Who seem not to mind a little mold in the rickety shower stall.

And we grow really fond of this simple working town. Friendliness and helpfulness are the norm in Turkey (I say that on the basis of now four trips here). The local face may look gruff to us ever-smiling American types, but behind that is a heart of gold. They just want to help you. They really do. No common language? No problem. Somehow they figure out what you're saying. But in Datca, we're getting now repeat encounters with those special people who cross your path daily. The bakery clerk. The cafe staff. All of them. We're sorry to be moving on and starting afresh elsewhere.

(Not sure how I feel about the Datca dogs: they have nightly barking Olympics outside. It's surely loud, but sort of evocative at the same time.)


Still, after breakfast (a repeat of yesterday's basics)...


...we move on.

On the Road Again

We go to the bus stop and catch the small bus to Marmaris -- the sprawling resort town at the base of the peninsula (1.5 hours from Datca). We're in the very last row and the man to Ed's right says something to us in English. And before you know it, he and Ed talk a sailor's language and he knows where we're going and we know where he's going and I'm thinking once again how I would never get out my boat's soft shackle for the spinnaker to show to my foreign looking seat mate on a bus ride from Madison to, say, Chicago (and no, not because I don't really understand sailboats).

In Marmaris, our back-row seatmate tells us we should change buses with him, but when we pull into the bus depot, he quickly shoos us out -- you can take the local! It'll drop you off where you want to go (Akyaka). Hurry! One just pulled up to see if there are any passengers from this bus!

Taking a "very local" bus means that everyone on board this tiny old van has to adjust seats when we get on. There are no vacant places, but the driver tells the little kids to get on their mothers' laps and he moves one young man to the top of a cooler and there you have it! Seats for Ed (next to a mom and her lap kid) and myself (next to another mom with another kid on her lap) and, too, a seat snuggled next to the driver for yet another passenger from our bus. 

The girl next to me is seven, but she looks more like four to my Americanized eyes. (Kids are much shorter here. So are adults actually.)  I know her age, because her well cloaked mom (grandma?) prodded her to speak to me in her school girl English and the girl asked ever so shyly and sweetly -- what is your name? And then the next question taught to kids -- how old are you? And there I had to laugh. I'm not sure she understood my "very old!" so I admitted to being "sixty," which, too, was beyond her reach. Her mom had to translate it to her.

We got off at the junction in the road where the offshoot leads down to the river, the shore, and the village of Akyaka.

Akyaka, First Glance

Why Akyaka? Well, because I am struggling to find something with "just outside the door" walking possibilities (in case the rains take a pause). Something that is calm (please -- no grand resort type place!). Something that will reveal a face of Turkey for us. Something that has a hotel that's open year round. A decent one, without multiple Internet complaints about how the WiFi doesn't work. One that's on the bus line to Bodrum. One that's not too big. One that has a place to eat nearby in case it really really rains and pours. That's a lot of qualifiers. Akyaka (and the Kerme Homan Konak hotel) fits the bill on all fronts.

Sort of.

It's not really on the bus line in that we have to tap a stranger's shoulder and ask said stranger to please call our (new) hotel on his mobile phone to tell them we are here and to ask them to please pick us up (they offered!) because it's three or four kilometers down that hill and we are anxious to get there before the rains come.


And you could say that I really went overboard on the "town of a smaller size" requirement because later, when Ed and I walked through the village, he comments -- there really isn't that much to it, is there (beyond quite a number of now empty summer apartment rentals -- the Turkish person's very modest version of a holiday condo)?

And the hotel -- the mouthful of words hotel? Well, it's also not really us -- one might say it's a bit over the top (take a look at our gold draped bed), in an Ottoman Empire sort of way.


Nonetheless, in this off off season it is within budget (meaning under $100 per night, with breakfast and taxes). At least as negotiated by me and the supremely kind manager. (Nor should I keep talking about the off off season any more. I am told that today is the last school day before the official Turkish winter holiday, which is a two week affair. The manager tells me we cannot have a river view room because they're all booked by vacationing Turkish couples.)

A word about architecture in Akyaka, which is in the province of Mugla. The buildings here follow the traditional patterns of Mulga design: wooden balconies, carved wood ceilings, elaborate wooden stairs. Our hotel looks less formidable when considered along side the neighbors.

(the hotel, by the river)

(Muglian styled windows)

(the hotel dog)

Okay, we're checked into the room with the gold bed. It has a lovely windowed seat and a little balcony! -- I say this with utter delight. Ed reminds me that having a balcony in heavy rain is sort of pointless. I give him that "can you be any less enthusiastic" look that I know to carry with me for these special times.

 a window seat

And now it is 1 p.m. and as predicted, the skies become terribly overcast, but the rains are holding off. So we drop our bags and head out to explore. The river first. We are about a kilometer or two inland, right on the banks of this rapidly moving body of water.


A path along the banks reminds me that like so many southern countries and, too, southern parts of countries (Italy comes to mind), Turkey is still not entirely onboard with clearing her land of litter and discards. Getting better, but not there yet. (And we're not there yet either! You need only walk along our rural road and count the empty beer cans on both sides of it.)

Still, the river itself is enchanting. So much so that we are smitten with a restaurant that sits virtually over the waters. It's warm enough (though I am in my jacket) that we can sit outside and have a light lunch there.

(We eat their version of a Greek salad and a smoked eggplant and pepper salad. With fizzy water.)


We linger. It's just so lovely to sit and watch... The geese (not the Canadian ones!).


...The people who bring a couple of beers and sandwiches to the banks and share some of the latter with the geese (who then come to us for a handout and we oblige, making sure that each one in the pack gets at least a chunk of bread).

...And the occasional fishing boat. And of course -- the water. The wonderful, clear water.


Okay, time to raise ourselves from our lovely perch at the river's edge. 

We continue the walk toward the beach. Akyaka is at the curve of a large inlet on the Aegean coast. The beach isn't a too die for affair, but now, in winter, it's good enough. People are drawn to beaches and even on this January day, there'll be the occasional family or couple. And fishermen. Always the fishermen. Peeling tiny shrimp from Ismir (I asked) for bait. Or throwing a line. Or chatting to a fellow fisherman.


In these early explorations, we can't really figure out the village itself. Where is its heart? By the beach, the summer apartment rentals prevail. Closed now,  of course. Some restaurants are open, but overall, the street that parallels the beach feels very empty. I tell Ed that it feels bleak in its emptiness even as it would probably drive me nuts were it crowded with summer vacationers. Eh, maybe it's that the skies are gray...

And that's sort of the feel of this place -- shuttered, just a tad gray. We can't (yet) find the school. The mosque. The bakery. Here, along the water, it's just a low key tourist destination.

Though as elsewhere along the Aegean Sea, the coastline is magnificent.


Here's a look back at the Akyaka beachfront: 


 We continue a bit further , coming into a park of summer cabins. The cabins themselves are, of course closed, but the park itself is rather popular with the locals who, like us, are out for a stroll. We pause to watch a wedding photo shoot. And Ed sits down and promptly dozes off. Just for a few minutes, he mumbles. A standard reply to my trying to nudge him out of a nap.

Cats Once More

So I leave him for those "few more minutes" and I continue along the coast and here, I come across this most unusual sight: there is a platform of sorts and it is built maybe six feet above a ledge which fishermen use for fishing. On the upper ledge, some six (maybe more) cats are poised, ready to scramble in case there should be a catch for them. 


The fisherman just below demonstrates: he detaches a caught fish which he deems to be too small for culinary purposes, but just fine for a cat. He tosses it in the air. The cats jump for it and to my surprise, the littlest one catches the jackpot.


And further down, a group of men cast their lines as yet another cat perches on the rock. Waiting, waiting...


For what? For that flying fish? And will he fly for it too? Landing in the water?  Cats have unique thinking systems which I oftentimes fail to completely understand.


But I do know this about cats -- Ed reaches out to them and they reach right back. I warn him about approaching feral cats, but he ignores me. Sometimes they scamper off. Oftentimes they do not.




And this really is the end of our walk for today. My traveling guy wants a full blown nap. Me, I'm still searching for my shot of coffee. Not likely to find it in this village of tea drinkers. Likely to find it in the hotel. And it's good! And it's their treat! Nice people, I tell you. Super nice.

Fish Once More

Late in the evening I nudge Ed to see if he is up for dinner. He isn't, really, but he wants to be more obliging. In what has to be a state of partial sleep, he walks with me to a riverside restaurant -- just a few steps from our hotel. The place is lively and quite packed and there isn't a menu really, just freshly caught fish to choose from.

Ed tells me he is not up for a whole portion of anything and so we do some combination of me eating and him artfully passing forkfuls to my plate and I can tell all the while he'd rather be sleeping.

That notwithstanding, it is a superb meal! The appetizers -- local greens, local shrimp, stuffed mushrooms -- are delicious and the fish -- a sea bass from the Aegean waters -- possibly the best ever. 


after (one fish, split in half)

They bring the two odd Americans -- where one half sleeps and the other mostly eats -- a complementary dessert of fruits and a crepe baked around a delicious paste of halva and honey.


I surely stuffed myself silly on this day. Never mind -- who can go wrong on bunches of fresh arugula and a roasted fish?  

At the hotel, Ed resumes his sleep, I write. The village is quiet. Except wait -- is that rain I hear?