Gokcebel is a beautiful little village – I love it here. It is wonderful to be back in Turkey again after 4 years. The Old Stone House is a former castle or fort, likely about 250 years old, although it has older parts, such as bits of Roman column and pillars. The scent of jasmine and mint fills the air and the garden has lovely bougainvillea, palm trees, and grape vines winding over a huge wooden pergola underneath which is the breakfast table. Three levels of terraces surround the house, each of which has a lovely seating area. The main house has three bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and small dining room used in the winter when it’s too cold to sit outside. All the houses here are built for outside living because the weather is so beautiful here most of the year.
Just outside the back gate is the Mulberry Cottage, a much newer two story building, with two twin bedrooms, one single, and a small kitchenette, as well as its own little terrace and upper deck with a view out over the valley. The town is located in a small valley surrounded by serrated hills, the caldera of a former volcano. Eljay and I are staying at an apartment across the valley, since there is no room at the Old Stone inn – all the bedrooms are full with our painting program guests who arrived in a series of waves yesterday. Altogether with Eljay and Hikmet, the local Turkish tutor, we are a group of 12 who will spend the next two weeks drawing and painting around the Bodrum peninsula.
Before the guests arrived Eljay and I had a lovely sunset drink down by the harbour in Yalikavak, the closest big town just a few miles down the road from the house. I have not been in this part of the peninsula before; last time I was here we stayed in Bodrum and in 2009 I was in Gumusluk, west and south of here, for the month of May. This part of the peninsula is not too over-developed and is still quite charming. Yalikavak has a beautiful yacht harbour and a series of beaches along the coast towards Golturkbuku. Restaurants, bars, and shops line the harbour and the side streets next to it. As I recall there is some sort of regulation about the colour of the buildings here – they must be white or at least light in colour, giving a uniformity to the villages. Against this white background the purple, pink, and red flowers stand out in stark relief.
As usual, since we are in a small village, the animal chorus gets going very early in the morning. The strangled cries of roosters, dogs, cows, bulls, and the odd donkey echo around the hills accompanying the 5 am call to prayer, sung by an imam with a terrific voice. Three of Eljay’s cats stroll around the garden, many skinny stray beasts wander through the yard, and a very large tan and black Turkish dog keeps guard outside the front gate. Today we are going to begin the program with an oil painting exercise around the village – each person will have her own set up of easel, stool, a bag of painting supplies, a pallet, and even an apron. Eljay plans to start people off with a thumbnail sketch of the local “colour” and then proceed to painting from there.
Each member of our intrepid group grabbed her bag of supplies, a stool, and an easel and headed for the hills. We separated into two groups and stationed ourselves in shady spots overlooking the view, one group near the market and the other up above the mosque. The first order of business is oil painting in a realist manner so Monday saw us sketching our motif and transferring the drawing onto a small canvas for painting. On Tuesday, after visiting the tiny local market and purchasing some shalvar pants and scarves, our group returned to our respective spots to block in the lights and darks. I, being a crummy student, did not do the exercise as described but instead executed my piece in the hot colours of the American south west, making the Turkish village house look like something out of New Mexico.
The local dog fell in love with Barb and sat down in her paints, refusing to leave her side. Everyone was able to do a piece with which they felt proud and Eljay was very complimentary about our efforts.
Almost all of us took Eljay up on the optional hamam program, piling into the minibus for the Raschid Hamam in Ortakar (the third best Turkish Bath in all of Turkey, according to the owner’s daughter) where we were hosed down, scrubbed, and massaged for three hours of bliss. Su was delighted with her masseuse, a tall, dark-haired pony-tailed Russian man decked out in tight white speedos …