In Bodrum

Ilknur was kind enough to give me a ride all the way to Bodrum this morning and we found the street on which my pension sits with little difficulty after Ilknur drove the wrong way down a one way street (and Ilknur came back again later to drop off the items I had left in her car accidently – thanks!)  The Hotel Gulec Pension will be my temporary home until Monday. It seems nice enough, with two buildings arranged in what’s billed as Bodrum’s last city garden. The garden itself is a little the worse for wear at the moment – it looks as though the grass has had some sort of disease and is just now growing back; part of it is covered with a tarp at the moment. However, the flowering shrubs and bushes are beautiful and the location is ideal, very near both the bus station and the beach.

After dropping my bags in my room, I wandered down to the beach and sat at the La Roka restaurant and bar bayside. When I first arrived it was quite quiet, but in the time it took to get my order, the place had filled up. Last time I was there, they forgot my order and I had to remind them about it. This time, they brought the coffee promptly but, after I had moved down to one of the sunbeds they provide, I was seemingly once again forgotten. I don’t know whether it’s because what I order is not very expensive, so the waiter doesn’t think giving me good service is worth his while, or because I’m a woman alone, he figures he won’t get a tip anyway and so forgets about me. But several groups who came to the restaurant after me received their food and had mostly eaten it before I’d received anything. I saw the waiter give what looked like my order to someone else, who sent it back. I went into the place and asked what was happening and shortly thereafter, another man brought over my Turkish pizza and it was stone cold so I sent it back. Finally, after about an hour and a half I got some mediocre food, but by then I was so hungry, I just ate it quickly. Then, trying to get another drink was a whole other production, since no one seemed interested in finding out whether I’d like anything else (and everyone else was asked …). Anyway, after I stewed about that for a while, I managed to relax and I spent the rest of the afternoon on their sunbed and swimming in the bay.  The water was lovely.

Later, after a shower back at the pension, I wandered around some of the back streets and down to the bay once again to walk along the seaside promenade. After having ignored the calls and comments from the doormen at several cafes, I sat down in one low key place near the end of the promenade where a number of people were playing backgammon. Here the waiter simply pretended that he didn’t see me, doing everything (including cleaning the ashtrays) but come over and take an order from me – huh, again? Can someone out there fill me in? What’s the deal with these guys, anyway?

The main shopping and bar street here is somewhat like the hooker haven area in Paris where I stayed the last time I was there. I was lodged in a tiny walkup hotel between the Gare St. Lazare and the Pompidou Centre. The name of the main street there escapes me but every evening starting around 5 or so, all the hookers, dressed in their finery, came out and sat on stools on the sidewalk soliciting customers. Here the men (98 percent of the sales people here are male) also sit on chairs or stools or stand lounging against the walls of their shops importuning passersby. Sometimes walking down the streets is like running the gauntlet. However, I was reminded this morning that really the whole thing’s a game and not to get too annoyed by it.

And speaking of hookers, the last day in Gumusluk I saw a female tourist rubbing up against one of the waiters dressed like one, with her false breasts prominently displayed. Here on the beach I was favoured with a view of another woman who must have been in her mid-60s with the breasts of an 18 year old sticking out of her bikini top. I’m not sure why some women feel that it’s necessary to have plastic hemispheres attached to their old skeletons …

Even though I sometimes get grumpy about people working in tourism here, in general the people that I’ve met and spent time with in Turkey are among the most generous and hospitable people I’ve ever known. People will go out of their way to help in times of distress, even if they don’t know you. I’m reminded of the time in Dalyan, on one very rainy day of the mountain bike tour, we were waiting out the storm in a bus shelter with two guys and their mopeds. One of the men pulled out food and wet wipes and offered them to us. Small gestures like that happen lots here …

Later still in the evening, Ayla and I got together after she came back from the Pamukkale tour. I met her, once again, at La Roka bar, seemingly her favorite place along the beach, and we had a table right by the water’s edge. The service we got from the same guys that were there earlier was excellent. We sampled a glass of raki, with what’s called  “raki table” – small dishes of tomato and cucumber, salsa, toast, white cheese and a dish of “roka”, a spicy green leafy lettuce-like vegetable that’s translated on Turkish-English menus as “rocket” – I think it’s argula – eaten with lemon and salt. As we sat, various vendors passed us and we got two roses, one white and one red, and a digital image of ourselves from a guy who in the olden days would have used a Polaroid camera but now must carry a printer in his bag because he produced a snap shot in 10 minutes as we waited. After, we walked along the promenade and past Halikarnas which was, at 1:30 am, just getting going. Two cages above the dance floor contained young go go dancers with their butts hanging out over the sidewalk to entice passing male customers. Ayla and I did a little jig on the sidewalk outside to the music, probably counteracting any effect the go go dancers above might have had. After a cup of tea and a stroll back to see Ayla’s small pension, I returned to the hotel at 2:30 am, well past my usual bed time … The town was beautiful at night with all the bars and restaurants lit up and the castle glowing golden on the horizon. I did not take my camera with me, but will take some night shots tonight.

This morning, after a short but sweet sleep sans animal chorus and bugs, I had breakfast in the garden and a nice chat with Lone and Kim, a Danish couple who belong to a sailing boat co-op with other Danes and are here to work on the boat.

See a few pictures here.