Bye-Bye, Turkey – Görüşürüz!

Well, my six months of travel are almost over – one more day and then I am off back to Canada on June 20. It has been a wonderful journey!

My companions at Side Garden Residence have been the following:

Tracey, Christine and Barb, family and friends.

Elke, from Bonn, here for six months, looking for work in the tourism sector.

Family of three generations of Turkish women from Ankara and Munich, non-swimmers all. Granny, living large, wearing her string of pearls necklace and her pink crocheted cap, inches around the pool using her hands to propel herself crab-like along the edge. Her two daughters, alike in size and blonde hair, and their three daughters, all lovely dark-haired beauties, are doing their best to learn to swim. Both Elke and I attempted to show them how this morning, Elke with more success than me.

English family of five, nicknamed the Griswalds, who station themselves poolside all day and never leave the complex.

English couple who station themselves poolside and never leave the complex.

Five young English friends frolicking on inflatables.

Ann and her unnamed husband, here from the north of England for 9 months each year, who station themselves poolside and seldom leave the complex.

Many (28 apartments – of the 60 in the complex – worth) unnamed Scandinavian, German and Belgian tour company employees, mostly for Nazar and Tui.

Kaan, Gokhan and several other unnamed Turkish employees of the housing management company responsible for looking after SGR.

Yilderay and his unnamed wife, maintenance man and cleaner.

Granny, Kaan’s grandmother.

Three unnamed cats.

Several song birds.

Recap of where I have been since Dec 31, 2008:

Thailand: Koh Libong; Koh Muk: Emerald Cave; Koh Kradan; Koh Lipe; Koh Lanta; Koh Phi Phi; Phi Phi Lei; Koh Jum/Pu; Krabi; Bangkok: Arun Wat Temple, Grand Palace complex, Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha; Chinatown; many Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Malaysia: Malacca.

Singapore: Modern Art Museum; Singpore History Museum; Bukit Brown Abandoned Chinese Cemetery; several Buddhist and Hindu temples; Arab Street; Little India; Peranakan Museum; Emerald Hill.

Greece: Meis/Kastellorizo Island

Turkey: Istanbul; Princes Islands/Buyuk Ada; Nevsehir; Ibrahimpasa; Uchisar; Ortahisar; Urgup; Mustafapasa; Cemil; Sahinefendi; Goreme; Avanos; Gore; Dalyan, Ortaca; Kas; Gumusluk; Bodrum; Gumbet; Turgutreis; Torba; Side; Antalya; Manavgat; Aglasun; Burdur; Pamukkale; Ucagiz; Simena; Kadikalesi; Koycegiz; Seleukeia; Cirali and many other tiny towns and villages whose names escape me at the moment.

Ancient sites in Turkey: Blue Mosque; Hagia Sofia; Basilica Cistern; Cemberlitas Hamam; Kariye Church; Rustempasa Mosque; New Mosque; Grand Bazaar; Spice Bazaar; Topkapi Palace; Dolmabahce Palace; Sobesos; too many rock-cut churches and monasteries in Cappadocia to mention separately; Kayakapi; Kaunos; Kas/Antiphellos; Xanthos; Patara; Kekova; Simena; Bodrum Castle; Myndos; Ephesus; Hieropolis; Side; Olympos; Phaselis; Sagalassos; Karain Cave; Termessos; Perge

Museums/Galleries in Turkey: Topkapi Palace; Dolmabahce Palace; Hagia Sofia; Kariye Church; Goreme Open Air Museum; Bodrum Castle and Underwater Archeology Museum; Burdur Museum; Mosque/Gallery of contemporary art in Kaleici (Antalya)

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Things I will miss about Turkey:

Weather: wonderful, wonderful sunny hot breezy days; I especially love the mornings and evenings here.

People: the generous and hospitable people that I have met here.

Flora: the beautiful colours of the bougainvillea, hibiscus, lilies and other flowers; the grapevine arbours, the pine forests.

Animals: I have loved the Turkish cats and dogs, especially the street cats with their tiny triangular faces and piteous meowing – cagey devils; grasshoppers, crickets, birds including pelicans and storks (and the funny little bird who comes to our pool every morning and immerses its whole body in the world’s largest bird bath), lizards large and small – these guys, quite a bit like geckos and iguanas, hang out on the rocks at the ruin sites; camels; my little boyfriend Keesje, Willemijn and Paul’s grey and white cat.

Hamams: I love the tradition of the Turkish Bath and think that we should have it in Vancouver. I understand that there is one bath at home, on Granville near 6th, so I will check it out later.

Patterns/tilework: the geometric and floral patterned motifs on tiles, walls, ceilings of mosques, hamams and ceramic ware.

Water: the beautiful turquoise-blue of the Mediterranean Sea; our 25 meter pool at the SGR; the glacial green-blue water of the Manavgat waterfalls and the Koprulu canyon.

Dolmuses; the great inexpensive minibus system, where one can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route.

Things I won’t miss:

The top two are smoking by everyone everywhere all the time and the ubiquitous, pushy, annoying sales touts everywhere almost all the time.

Driving: Although I did not actually drive myself, because I can’t drive a stick shift and all the rental cars here are standard, being the navigator also entailed being alert through the chaotic traffic here. One site I was looking at in preparation for our Sagalassos road trip cautioned: “An aggressive driving style is recommended” – yah, that’s for sure! S/he who hesitates on the Turkish roads is lost.

Litter and garbage: plastic, plastic water bottles, cigarette butts, paper wrappers; people throwing their garbage out of car windows and tossing their butts everywhere; dumps, both legitimate and illegitimate.

Bare-breasted European women on the beach. While I normally have no particular problem with this practice, I think that it is highly inappropriate in this culture. Ditto the wearing of bikinis at places other than the beach or pool. News Flash: You’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy; you are in an Islamic culture – give your head a shake. I am reminded of the English woman at the Saturday market in Side with her large fake breasts popping out of her bikini top trying to negotiate a purchase from a Turkish man slavering over her boobies – blaaahhh to both of them.

Rudeness in general: While the Turks are mostly notable for their politeness and hospitality, some in the tourist sector are really rude and ignorant; ditto some of the tourists who frequent holiday resorts here.

Nescafe: I can hardly wait for decent brewed coffee and the cappuccino – best in Vancouver – at the Japanese coffee bar Ty and I frequent on Davie St.

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The most amazing aspect of my trip has been all the wonderful people I have met everywhere I have gone, both local people and travelers from other countries. I will try to list them here and hopefully I will not forget to mention someone:

Thailand: Tam and all the guys at the Tai Rai Bay Resort on Koh Jum/Pu; Roger, resident guru at Ting Rai Bay; Helena, Sofia, Elizabeth, and Monique, guests from Sweden and Holland at Ting Rai Bay; Chris and Mich from Malaysia on Koh Libong; Ingo and Simone on Koh Lanta.

Singapore: Matilda, my friend and hostess; Skye, friend from Nanaimo now living in Singapore.

Istanbul; Ahmet and Sharam, proprietors of the Ocean’s 7 hotel in Sultanahmet; Sofie from Belgium; Chrissy from the States by way of Romania.

Cappadocia: Willemijn and Paul, artists and hosts of the Babayan Culture House in Ibrahimpasa; Mehmet Ali, unofficial “mayor” of Ibrahimpasa and antique dealer; Kus (Birdie) Mehmet, toast-master extraordinaire of Ibrahimpasa; Idris, proprietor of Urgup’s candle- and world-music-house; Mehmet, Cenap, Bayram, Filiz, Hanim and Cansu in Goreme; Crazy Ali, antique dealer in Ortahisar; Almut, artist, chef and guest house proprietor, and her two sons, in Uchisar; Halil, my taxi driver; Marina, Portuguese artist in wood and stone.

Dalyan: Sonja, guide from Kaunos tours and mountain biking machine, and her husband Murat; Katie and Richard from London, my companions on the mountain bike tour; Ali and Nurmin, proprietors of the Crescent Hotel; Terry, Bob, Doug, and Bill, retired teachers from Langley, BC, Canada.

Kas: the four young guys who helped me with my mannequin installation; Marta-Sofia from Portugal and Germany; Suzi and Peter from Fiji.

Gumusluk: the gang at the Gumusluk Academy, Seray, Ilknur, Nils, Elhan, Pilin, Latife, Emre, Eyup, Mehmet, Mehmet Abi, Zubeida; Meral and Ida from Denmark; Nesa and Li Li, poets from Cyprus and Sweden respectively; Gary the Gumusluk Gambacisi and Danny, writer and proprietor of a pension in Gumusluk; Eren, pianist and Director of the Gumusluk International Classical Music Festival, and her husband Mesrut.

Bodrum: Ayla, guide and delightful companion.

Side: Elke; Yusuf, proprietor of the Vera market and all-round helpful guy; Mehmet, car rental dude and all-round helpful guy; Ahmet, antique dealer.

While I have enjoyed every bit of my time here (even the grumpy old lady bits), the most incredible part of my journey through this fascinating country was the time I spent in Cappadocia at the Babayan Culture House in Imbrahimpasa. The month spent at this artist’s residency and guest house, a centuries old renovated cave house in a tiny village of 800 persons where people live as they have lived for a thousand years, was the most unusual and farthest outside my regular frame of reference. It was magical and inspirational in every possible way. The landscape was incredible; although I had been before for a few days last June, spending a month there allowed me to visit almost every village and town and hike through many of the beautiful valleys. I also got to experience almost every kind of weather: from sunny and 20 degrees to a foot of snow and minus something, sometimes within a day of one another. Also, since it was so early in the year, I had almost every place I went to myself; that, too, was incredible, especially being able to take my time when visiting the Open Air Museum and rock cut churches. I also loved the Goreme Hamam, especially the visit that Willemijn and I made one Sunday when, after spending several hours in the warmth of the bath, we came out in early evening to a winter landscape of snow blanketing the town.

Thanks to everyone who made my journey so memorable!