Years before I ever went to Turkey I imagined it to be an exotic, other-worldly and faintly menacing country, where west meets east; a land of flying carpets and genies, of spice markets and steamy bath houses. And in some respects, as I found on my first trip there, I was not too far wrong.
For a start Turkey has a long and successful history of catering for tourists and has been embraced and courted by the package holiday industry for many years-and why not? The weather is as reliably warm and sunny as Greece, the coastlines are beautiful and there is a wealth of history to be explored in the numerous archealogical sites scattered everywhere.
For all of these reasons-plus the fact that we could afford a week in spring [when more northerly travel would preclude tent camping] in a basic hotel despite all the calls on our income, we got a package holiday to Cesme, an attractive enough seaside town in the Bodrum region. It would be my second visit to Turkey.
The two star hotel was on the outskirts of the town, but the room was small. It had a miniscule balcony, of sorts, overlooking the pool, where we were soon to discover that the pool barman had an obsession with Donna Summer-and more specifically with her disco hit ‘Hot Stuff’. The song played on a continous loop day and night-not condusive to peaceful sleep. In addition to this, in the ‘en suite’, a shower room barely spacious enough to accommodate a skinny body, the dangling light fixture dripped water. Horrors!
We moved room, although nowhere was far enough to escape Donna Summer. Other than the shortcomings of the hotel though, we were happy with our location.
Though there are limits to what you can do and see in a week’s holiday we like to do more than loll around on a pool side and we were eager to look at the local beaches so despite the heat we decided to walk to ‘Altinkum’ [Golden Sands] and once we’d set off it became clear that few others used feet to get to this stunning stretch of coast, but get there we did, via roads past fields of luscious water melons. En route, on a quiet stretch we passed a lonely roadside restaurant which looked a good bet for our evening meal.
We spent the day at the beach, snacking on freshly roasted corn cobs from beach sellers when we felt peckish.
When we were ready to return we decided to try a Dolmus. They are cunning minibuses that zoom about and stop to pick people up when they are hailed from the roadside. You simply take a seat inside and pass the fare up to the driver via the other passengers. It is a fine idea and works well. We took the Dolmus back as far as our restaurant and stepped inside the cool interior.
When we discovered that there was no menu we realised this out-of-town restaurant was a favourite for locals and that, as tourists we were a little unusual. There was no English spoken and Turkish is not a language I’ve studied, but the smiling restauranteurs were undeterred and we knew ‘meze’ so we could start with that. We sat on the shady veranda with our small sharing plates of tasty things and glasses of wine. When it came to ordering our main course we were shown a large polystyrene box containing a variety of enormous fish and invited to choose one, which we did, pointing to the nearest.
We’d stopped quite early at this out-of-the-way restaurant so it was quiet, except for an occasional Turkish diner arriving by car.
In fact, so delicious was our out-of-town meal we returned to our hotel with a more indulgent attitude towards Donna. But then we were to escape the hotel for a couple of days for a thrilling excursion…