Sunday, January 26, 2014

to Bodrum

I say to Ed -- Akyaka is to Bodrum like Cassis is to Cannes. Maybe I exaggerate, but not by much. In Datca, in Akyaka, your shopkeeper may know a few words of English. Or not. In Bodrum, they've heard it all. Bodrum has a lovely old quarter, but it also has casinos and restaurants where you can spend a lot of money. And for this reason, it's really hard to find a perfect and perfectly inexpensive place to stay there.

Still, it is time to move on. This is our crazy hopscotch along the Aegean coast. Two days in Akyaka and now it's time to leave. And Bodrum is next in line.


Breakfast. Ed is filling his plate again. This is the time when he really eats. And so I ask him: have you switched to mornings only? 
And I understand that: managing your days' meals is a tricky business. Our new default position, at least on this trip, appears to be a bottom heavy eating style. With an early bedtime. And I mean really early. Doesn't 5 pm seem a touch too early?
But it isn't that way for me and so we need to figure out how best to adjust to both. I'm thinking maybe we'll get it right by the end of the trip.

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The rains came and went, all night long. The TV screen at the side of the breakfast room shows the damage these downpours have caused: flooding, yes, that. Washed out mountain roads. To us, it's a vacation juggle. To others, it's a menace. But right now, the clouds have breaks in them here in Akyaka. Will we be lucky again?


Our ever so helpful hotel staff person gives us a ride to the bus station. He hurries. He wants to put us on the 11 a.m. bus to Mugla. There, we'll change for another bus to Bodrum. But as we arrive at the bus stop, we see a bus, but no driver. It's 11:03.
I think this must be the 11:30 one, our hotel guy mumbles.
That's okay, we'll wait.
I was going to tell him to help you find the Bodrum bus.
We'll figure it out. 
Just ask anyone...

He's off. And I look at the schedule and I see that there is no 11:30. The next one is at noon. Ed stays and reads, I go down to the sea for one last look at the Aegean, from the point of view of Akyaka.

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(bus driver's seat, Akyaka to Mugla)


Bodrum is in the middle of the Bodrum Peninsula. It's just like the Datca Peninsula to the south (in fact, on a good day, you should be able to look at one from the coast of the other): a ribbon of land extending into the sea. Only it's completely unlike the Datca Peninsula. Bodrum is easy to get to. It has an airport and a highway running right to the main town and it has an enormous marina, which tells you something.

To get from Akyaka to Bodrum, you have to cross a small mountain range. And as the little bus climbs, the clouds came down to greet us. By the time we are near the crest, the rain is coming down hard again.

And, too, it continues as we pull into Mugla -- a provincial capital spreading over a plane. You really understand that the rain in Turkey stays mainly on the plane. Because whatever cloudbreaks we had had on the coast, do not translate into cloudbreaks here, on the Muglian plane.

We get off at the last stop, inquire about the Bodrum bus, are directed to another stop, inquire again and there, a man is shouting Bodrum, Bodrum!? -- in an inquisitive manner.
Yes, Bodrum! I shout back.
Stay here, he says.
Ed takes that to mean that he is offering to take us there for a price. Ed has been hanging around Central America or Poland for too long (probably the former).

I never understood what the caller's role was in the scheme of things, but he has the same question for anyone who passed by the stop: Bodrum, Bodrum?! And one, no, two other people join us in the wait.
Ten minutes, the caller shouts to us.

A half hour later, I am stamping from foot to foot. Because -- did I tell you? It's raining heavily here! We are huddled at a protected bus stand, but the rain is coming  in sideways and, too, the Muglian plane's temperatures are a good ten degrees cooler than by the sea.

The small van (I think it seats a maximum of twenty passengers) for Bodrum arrives. It's been traveling all the way from Fethiye -- a coastal town some four hours south of us. And it is almost full. Just three empty seats and Ed and I, as the first comers, according to the Bodrum, Bodrum caller, plus one other person get on. The fourth engaged in some discussion with the caller and I assume another bus is not too far behind, because she did not show the disappointment I would have felt had I been told to get back under the shelter for another "ten minutes."

Our fellow traveler takes a seat in the middle, Ed scoots back to the last row and I join an older woman sitting toward the front.

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The bus is tiny, the seats are tiny and I try hard not to invade her space. She smiles and urges me to move in. Okay, but I don't want to be all American-like, commanding more than my share of what's there (at least that's what I always worry others assume we do on this planet). The old woman will have not of it. She puts her black cloaked arm around me and pulls me to her, with a warm, encouraging hug and a flurry of words which I of course do not understand.

I wonder if I ever would, on the bus ride from Madison to O'Hare, hug a stranger to show them they are welcome there.


We get off in Bodrum and it is still raining, though not in torrents. Our hotel is only 7 minutes away from the bus, but you have to know which way to turn. It's in the old part of Bodrum and the streets here are nothing more than alleys, twisting in ways that even Google maps have trouble mimicking.

We find it: the tiny, adorable, newly converted Mia Butik Hotel. It will be the perfect place for us. It meets all our requirements for out brief stay here: central, but in a quiet alley. Small. Fresh and clean. Fast internet. At 40 Euro ($52) per night, taxes and breakfast included.

Our room is on the ground floor, but it is so very ideal. There is no sitting area, not in the room, not on the ground floor, but the delightful stairs...

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...lead up to the breakfast room and you can surely sit there at any time and well, let me show you this glass enclosed space and the view that goes with it:

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Perfect. All of it is just perfect.


There appears to be a lull in the rains. We set out for a walk through town.

I was in Bodrum with my younger girl some six or seven years ago. But that was June and the days were sunny and hot. Bodrum is an entirely different experience in January. Especially on this day, when the rains come on and off, like a dysfunctional shower stream and the wind lashes out in fury at the unfairness of it all.

It's an unusually brutal day. We watch the water splash through the cafe decks, rolling right inside when the wave gets too big. I'm thinking -- there is no way you'll get me in a boat in this kind of weather. Not a chance. We have two days before the sailing date. Let's just hope that our luck holds.

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A Mediterranean marina is a place of endless fascination for Ed. It recalls his sailing years and even though his own boat was rather modest, much like his car is rather modest, he does love to gawk at bigger stuff. Had I brought him to Bodrum for this purpose, he would have protested: the place is too resorty, too cosmopolitan, too polished. But we are here out of necessity and now we are at the harbor and if the weather was just a touch dryer, he could lose himself for many many hours just staring at boats.

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But, the wind is fierce and though it's warmer than on the Muglian plane, it's not exactly strolling weather.

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We admire the tiny fish market (meaning the place by the water where a handful of fishermen are selling their day's catch)...

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... and retreat back to our hotel where, you guessed it, within an hour, Ed is fast asleep.

But I'm psyched for this lonely ritual now! I'm off to find dinner, while the bear sleeps.


I go to a place that is one of many in a horseshoe of fish eateries (this one is called "Meyzen"). Oh, some Tripadvisor people especially liked this one but I think these things are sort of random. On another day it could have been its next door neighbor.

Heat lamps. That's good. I can eat "outside." The waiter hovers.  
Which appetizers? Greens? How about a mixture? Then? Not too much? How about the shrimp? With some fried octopus?
Fine, fine, all fine.  
Wine too?
Yes, so long as I don't have to finish it (meaning I can take the remains home.) And not anything expensive.

The rain now is brutal. It pounds against the awning, slashes into anything in sight. To think I walked over under the light of shining stars! No rain just a few minutes ago. Just cats. In the dark alleys where we are staying, there are the nocturnal cats of Bodrum, waiting, waiting for a handout.

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At the restaurant, a waiter comes. Another serves. The owner stops by just to ask if all is well.
Good, very good..

And now I'm between courses and the main waiter is back, asking the Turkish "how are you" (i.e. where are you from).

And so we talk. I learn he is from central Turkey. That his uncle cut him a break two years ago by hiring him here. That he learned English in school. He learns that I'm American. 

So I ask: after all, Bodrum is so cosmopolitan! Where are all the visitors from?
England. Definitely England. And in the past -- Ireland. Dutch people too, but mostly English. 
Ah yes, the English have an interesting relationship with travel to the continent... Where else? 
Recently, Bodrum sees Scandinavians. And some French.
Not Americans?
No. I have never seen an American here.
I think he is joking. Bodrum is a destination! It's no backwater place. They have Starbucks here, for God's sake!

So I offer him an explanation. I tell him: we have these two oceans, one on each side. It's scary to cross an ocean and venture out into the unknown.
He smiles. I think Americans like where they live and so they don't come here. I only have seen Americans in Istanbul. On business.

I know of course that he must be just plain wrong. As I am mulling this over, he continues:

In my village, all my life, I learned that nothing good came from America. Nothing. Wars, problems, nothing good.

I consider this. Because it is so inconsistent with what I encounter here, in Turkey.  
So why is everyone so kind to us when we travel here? 
You are our guest! If you came to my village, we would do everything to make you feel welcome. We would be so honored! We would probably bring you gifts to take home!

I remember the hug coming from the old woman on the bus. I was a foreigner. Her instincts were to draw me closer.

It's not raining when I walk back to the hotel. No moon tonight though. At least none that I see. Just cats. The stealthy cats of Bodrum.

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