Bodrum and Gumusluk Gambacisi

Halikarnas disco, Bodrum

Yesterday I had a very busy and lovely day. In the morning we had new guests at the Academy, Meral, a Turkish woman married to a Dane and living in Denmark for the past 6 years, and her daughter Eda. I met them at breakfast, which we had at the table under the trees next to the pool. Meral brought her daughter to the Academy, hoping that she would be able to interact with Turkish children and learn some of the language and culture. Unfortunately, there are no other young children here and actually none in the near vicinity. After a lovely breakfast feast, and some time spent in the studio preparing my prints for mailing, I wandered up the road at 1 pm and grabbed a dolmus for Bodrum.

Ayla was waiting for me under the trees at the Bodrum otogar and we headed down the main drag towards the harbour. She took me to a local dessert restaurant which specializes in Turkish milk desserts, especially varieties of pudding. I sampled a chocolate with ice cream concoction and she had a rice pudding with topping of fruit and nuts. As we ate we watched the tourism police, travelling in a large pack, give grief to vendors in contravention of the bylaws regarding business practices. Not too far from the dessert place we stopped at the shop of Ali Guven, sandal maker to the stars, and had a look at his handmade leather footwear. Apparently he was the first to design gladiator sandals and the photos on the wall with famous people attested to his popularity with the rich and famous. Then we made our way along Bodrum’s main bar and shopping street, a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops and restaurants on both sides of the street. All the restaurants and bars on the water side have terraces and/or tables on the beach, filled with gorgeous sardunya and bougainvillea flowers and vines. Bodrum has two bays and two sides of town, the older Greek side where the beach is located and the newer Turkish boat harbour full of gullet yachts for hire. On the Greek side you can still see the remains of old Orthodox churches which have been converted into shops or restaurants. Far up on the hill is a hotel called the Monastir built on the remains of an old Greek Orthodox monastery.

Our next stop on the Greek side was the jeweller’s boutique – we spent some time drinking tea and talking with the young designer and trying on various rings made of precious and semiprecious stones. He makes them big – big stones and big settings. He also showed us several prints of an Alevi mythological figure (whose name escapes me at the moment) with the head of a woman, six feet with snake heads and a tail with the head of a snake, accompanied by roses; this creature is a fertility goddess and he has several images of the figure in different colours with different kinds of flowers. From there, we wandered down onto the beach and plopped ourselves down at a beachside bar for a beer and iced tea and watched the kids and dogs frolic in the water. Both of us took the opportunity to wade in the cool water.

After that refreshment we walked along the seaside promenade between the palm trees to the end of the bay where Bodrum’s famous Halikarnas (so named because of the town’s ancient name of Halicarnassus) disco is located harbourside. After waiting for quite a while in the vestibule while someone asked someone else if I could take photos inside, we were shown into the disco proper and I took some pictures of the somewhat cheesy fake Greek temple décor and the disco dancers practicing on the stage. This place only gets going after midnight and then goes until 6 am; if you so desire, you can dance with Bodrum’s beautiful people in soapsud bubbles all night long.

We passed on that opportunity and took a taxi up the hill to see the Manzara Hotel, designed and built in 1982 by Ayla’s husband. This is a beautiful boutique hotel built on several levels and terraces, with two lovely pools around which older German women were sunbathing topless. We were greeted by the manager Birsen, Ayla’s longtime friend, and chatted with her over a soda water on ice while I enjoyed the view down over the harbour and castle. From there, we took another cab down the hill again and over to the Turkish section of the harbour to a restaurant that Ayla had thought had some Thai food. Turns out the restaurant was Italian but had one Thai appetizer, fish cakes; we had the fish cakes, which were very tasty, and some mediocre pasta with two nice glasses of white wine. After dropping Ayla off for a meeting at the tour office, I made for the otogar and the dolmus back to Gumusluk. The weather was perfect – sunny, clear skies and breezy with between 34 and 39 degrees … in Canada, that would have counted as a major scorcher – unheard of! But my blood must have thinned out since I have been here and to me it just felt pleasantly warm …

Ayla told me that lemon would keep the creatures that have been biting me away so we bought some cheap lemon cologne at a drug store and I slathered it on myself. However, it did not seem really to make any difference at all. The bugs must be beside themselves with joy at my Canadian blood because I continue to get bitten day and night. Today we heard that because it had been a rainy winter and early spring here in Gumusluk there had been a vast infestation of fleas around the peninsula. However, these bites don’t look like any flea bites I’ve seen before and I am convinced they must either be spiders or gnats.

This morning a few more guests arrived at the breakfast table under the trees – Nesa, a poet from Cyprus, and Li Li, a poet from Beijing residing in Sweden for the last 20 years, both here for a literature festival being had in a town about 4 hours east of here.  Li Li told me that there was not much of an Asian community in Stockholm, that the weather was bad there, and that he would actually rather be living in China. Whereas in Sweden he might get 15 people out to a poetry reading, and that would be a good turnout, his poet friends in China get 100. He and Nesa decided to give a reading of his poetry to the assembled breakfast crowd of myself, Seray, Ilknur, Meral, Latife, Emre and Ahmet Filmer, the other Academy founder who has just arrived back here. Li Li read in Chinese, then Nesa the Turkish translation and I was asked to read a poem in English. Li Li was also kind enough to give me one of his books, Snow’s Confessions.

After that, Meral and I went to take her daughter for a haircut, then hopped on a dolmus to the Kekik bar at Kadikalesi where I had seen children the day before. However, unlike Sunday, when it was so crowded, today we were the only ones there. It was a beautiful day, though, sunny, hot and very windy and the water was lovely.

A couple of days ago I had arranged with Gary Berlind to go to his pension to hear him play the viola da gamba. Meral was very interested in hearing it, too, so the three of us grabbed a dolmus to the municipal office in Gumusluk, from which Gary retrieved us and brought us to the pension he shares with his landlord Danny Koplowitz, a Brit who has lived in Turkey for many years. Danny is an eccentric character with many talents, guitar, translation, woodworking, who learned how to speak Turkish while serving 12 years in a Turkish jail … the pension is full of wooden cabinetwork which he did himself. Joining us also were his dog Six Toes, his Van cat with one blue and one green eye and a slanted face from a jaw infection and his very large red and white tom cat Sultan. Danny is in the midst of refurbishing the terrace of his pension for the coming season.

Gary put on his troubadour’s hat and played several tunes on his bass gamba, the solo instrument of the gamba family. He also has two smaller viola da gambas and a cello, but these are for playing in small groups and with instruments such as the harpsichord. I very much enjoyed the samples he played for me, mostly pieces from the 16, 17 and 18th centuries. Apparently there is quite a large repertoire of music for the viola da gamba … who knew? But back in the olden days before tv and the internet people actually would get together and play music with one another on viola da gambas. I say out with tv and bring back the gamba! After having spent the last seven years in Turkey, Gary is seriously planning to move to Israel where he might have more music performance opportunities.

I needed to print out some documents in order to ship my prints so after leaving the pension, we stopped in at Gumusluk’s one internet café only to find out that nothing there was working, including the printer, this after hearing that Ilknur’s printer at the Academy also was not working. We tried getting the phone man to print the document on his printer but he did not have the program needed to print it – damn. When we got back to the Academy finally, after waiting for the Bodrum dolmus for quite a while, I also found out that Latife’s printer was not working. This kind of thing I find enormously frustrating in Turkey. Not just here, but other places, too, things don’t work properly or are broken and no one has bothered to fix them or, for some reason, can’t fix them. (Sometimes, as in the case of the dishwasher here, for example, a serviceman has been called and just does not bother to show up, even after having promised for several days in a row to show up). Seray was kind enough to copy my document onto her computer and is going to try to get the printer fixed so that I can print it out and mail my tube of art work off. Maybe tomorrow …

See pictures here and here.