Rubbing Shoulders With the Rich and Famous
Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
40Trip End Dec 12, 2005
The buses are definitely good value in Turkey. Other options for getting around are flying, which is expensive, and train. Train travel is even cheaper than travelling by bus, but the trains can be unreliable and are not very well maintained (i.e., in other words, kind of dirty).
We've eaten many times at food stalls that surround the area where buses pull in and the food has been tasty and inexpensive
Our next destination was Gocek (pronounced "goo-jek"), a resort town located on the Mediterranean coast. We visited with friends there - Margo and Levent. I grew up with Margo (we both lived on farms just outside Wawota) and played on the same volleyball team. Margo was two years behind me in school; her brother and sister-in-law were both in my class; the three of us made up one-third of the graduating class of 1977! Ah . . . small town Saskatchewan!
There was a movie shown on this trip - a first for our bus travels thus far. Even though it was in Turkish the plot was transparent enough - it was a comedy about some goofballs who do their military training and get into no end of trouble.
From the bus we spotted orange groves (oranges ripen here in January/February), as well as people harvesting corn/picking cotton and beekeepers/hives. Purple drifts of wild oregano were growing in abundance by the roadsides
Margo and Levent knew we were coming and I had emailed them with the details of our arrival, but we hadn't heard back from them. I also tried phoning and had no luck. We later found out that they often have trouble with their email. Sometimes servers here simply disappear and their email goes into a big, black hole; in this case they had been trying to respond, but it kept bouncing back. (Apparently the phone numbers we had for them were incorrect.) So we took the chance, determined where we thought we should get off the bus and once we arrived, hefted on the packs and walked the 1 km into Gocek's town centre. After all, we hadn't had much exercise that day! Our quest was looking favourable as the gas attendants at the service station seemed to be familiar with the shop (all we had was the name of their shop) and then another shop owner pointed down the street when we inquired. Margo was not there, but her shop assistant led us to the house and there she was! We were greeted with a kiss to either cheek. (I did eventually receive their emails - two days after we'd arrived.)
Margo and Levent have lived in Gocek for about 20 years. He owns a carpet store and she, along with her friend, Saime, has a high-end Turkish souvenir shop
Both Margo and Levent are very well educated. Levent is an accountant. Margo took her BEd at the U of S and taught at Wilkie, SK for three years. She also have a BA in English and French from McGill and a Master's in linguistics from Concordia University. She met Levent though his sister while she was teaching at Bilkent University, a private English-speaking university in Ankara. Margo told me that professionals are not well paid here and many leave, resulting in a "brain drain" in Turkey - not unlike Canada!
Margo and Levent have one son, Eren. He has snapping brown eyes and a mischievous demeanour, much like his mother and his uncle! He is full of questions, like, "How does a clam eat? Is an oyster a clam? Why does an oyster make pearls? If the earth is turning, how come we don't feel it? Will the sun run out of gas?" He is an inquisitive and intelligent kid. He accompanied us to the beach one day and, like a typical eight-year old, skipped on ahead looking for adventure which happened to included sliding down a cliff on his backside. His eyes certainly widened when he went into the ocean and the salt water hit that part of his anatomy
Eren spent four years in Canada, from about the age of three to age seven, so speaks very good English. In fact, Margo told me that he had to take remedial Turkish when he returned to Turkey. He loved Canada and misses the big, green school yards and hockey - yep, he's a Canadian boy! Eren is polite and well-mannered, as most Turkish kids seem to be. Margo commented that kids in Turkey are taught to be respectful of their elders and are not very spoiled. That his son should become spoiled was one of Levent's main worries when Eren was in Canada.
Cookie, an English Setter, completes their family. They brought Cookie with them when they moved from Ankara; Margo told me that they were only one of two families who had a pet dog in Gocek and that, at the time, many people were scared of dogs. More people own dogs here now and the community has established a spaying/neutering/adoption program, sending many stray animals to Europe each year.
Margo and Levent opted to open their own businesses (tourist shops) and have done very well. Gocek is a small community of about 3,000 that attracts wealthy sailors and yachters with its beautiful harbour and marinas
Much of what Levent and Margo sell is expensive Turkish handicrafts - antiques and one-of-a-kinds. Beautiful, but mostly only the stuff those that have more money than they know what to do with can afford. Somehow, we did manage to spring for a lovely old kilim, though!
Margo loves her job. She is very friendly and enjoys visiting and having tea with her clients. She puts a great deal of effort into welcoming tourists to her store and in getting to know them. As a result, she has a lot of repeat business from those who come back year after year. She is very down-to-earth and unpretentious; regardless of who you are or your status you are a customer and she treats everyone accordingly.
Because she is a teacher, Margo is very interested in education system here
Because she speaks English, French and Turkish, Margo often fields requests to translate for people, even when it comes to building codes and specificiations. Sometimes it is difficult for Turks to understand the English of someone whose first language is Dutch, or German or whatever, so Margo will step into help. Her funniest story was when she was asked to translate for a doctor to a Dutch woman. The doctor insisted the woman had prostate problems (!) and Margo thought, well, maybe she was a transvestite. Apparently, the doctor had a drinking problem and had his patients mixed up!
She says, though, that her son often corrects her Turkish - as kids will do
I asked Margo and Levent about heath/dental care and they say it is quite good and fairly inexpensive because it is highly controlled by the state and doctors, etc. are employed by the government. Lazer eye surgery costs about half what it does in Canada.
It was definitely warmer in Gocek than anywhere else we'd been in Turkey. Although cool at night, there were a number of tourists on the beach during the day. Temperatures in summer get up as high as a sweltering 45 degrees. Whew!
Margo has not converted to Islam and neither is Levent a strong Muslim. They do not fast during Ramazan. She told me that many of the local people in this area were nomads and are not strict Muslims. It is just as much the local rooster that wakes us up at dawn as the calling from the mosque!
I asked Margo what she missed about home and she said they missed peanut butter and made the mistake of telling their visitors who brought them gallons of the stuff
Their line of work, combined with the fact that Gocek is so small and Margo and Levent are so outgoing, mean that they have many friends and know a lot of people. We met many of them - expats as well as Turks.
Margo and Levent built their home about 13 years ago. It is a gorgeous, spacious three- storey house with polished wood floors, doors and trim, and decorated with items from their shops: carpets and kilims, metalware, pillows, antique furnishings, elaborately embroidered fabrics and blue porcelain. The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden of bougainvillea and heady-scented flowers such as honeysuckle, jasmine and melissa. Margo designed their home with the help of an architect friend, but some of her ideas had to modified to meet the building codes for this area - i.e., making the structure able to withstand earthquakes - though the last earthquake that did any major damage here was in 1958.
Eren's school is only a couple of minutes walk away (or a minute's run if he happens to be late!)
I have learned some interesting triva while in Turkey. Did you know that tulips are idigenous to Turkey? That Turkey is the world's number one grower of hazelnuts? That Turkish women received the vote long before women in Europe? That Patara, a town just east of here, is the birthplace of St Nicholas, the 4th century Byzantine bishop who later passed into legend as Santa Claus?
There's been one chicken die of bird flu in north-eastern Turkey, though people here don't seem particularly concerned. Margo told me that malaria was a big problem here many years ago - whole villages were wiped out by the disease - but it's not longer a threat, probably because the water levels are higher and there are thus fewer breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
One evening we were invited for dinner to the home of friends, Kate and Chas, an American-Welsh couple who have lived here now for three years
While in Gocek, Martin and I spent one day on a boat cruising from island to island. This is truly an unspoiled paradise - the water is a clear teal blue and there are thousands of pristine islands. Though a bit chilly, we did go in for one swim. Along the way, one of the men working on the boat pointed out some Lycian rock tombs where people used to bury their dead, high up in the cliffs. They chose the cliffs so they wouldn't be using up valuable agricultural land; the cliffs were also closer to heaven than flat ground.
After we finished lunch on the boat, we were quite amused when an ice cream boat pulled up and sold icy cold treats to the tourists on board
We also saw ruins of an old Greek village. When Turkey became a republic in 1923 and the Ottoman Empire was no more, the League of Nations supervised an exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece, with most Greek Muslims coming from Greece to Turkey and most Ottoman Christians returning to Greece. As there were far more Ottoman Greeks than Greek Muslims, many of the Turkish towns were left unoccupied after the exchange.
There are also lots of stories of pirates who used to hide among the islands and attack ships that were passing by. It it thought that Cleopatra travelled through these islands.
All along the coast here are Lycian ruins, some dating back as far as 4,000 BC. The Lycians were pacifists; when Alexander the Great of Mesopotamia plundered Turkey, the Lycians committed mass suicide rather than die at his hand. Numerous ruins are under water and scuba diving is not allowed along this coastline
On the boat trip, we met two women from London, both students at the Open University. Cynthia was a retired civil servant and an Anglican priest. Sue worked part time doing research for the post office. They were taking a week's holiday and were staying at Fethiye, just east of Gocek.
We also took the dolmus to Fethiye (pronounced "fet-ee-yay") to the local Tuesday market. It was huge; there were vendors selling everything from fruit and vegetables to Turkish delight, spices and nuts to housewares, table linens and knock-off designer clothing. The place was packed with Europeans and British tourists.
Margo is returning to Canada next week for three weeks and offered to take some things back for us. Although we have not accumulated much extra, when you're carrying a pack sending a few things home does lighten the load! (Must be all those beads I've bought - I started making bracelets this summer and have been obsessed with beads ever since!)
We have heard that there has been fighting along the Syria-Iraq border/protests in Damascus, so may be changing our plans to travel in Syria!
It was really wonderful to visit with Margo and family and see that she loves what she does and where she lives. I have only seen her once since I left high school some twenty-eight years ago (where does time go?) and she's still the same genuine, true-blue person she always was. I talked with her about choosing a different sort of path - we both agreed that the conventional route would have been much easier, but not as interesting! Some of us just aren't satisfied with an ordinary, stay-at-home life, but, in some ways, we envy those who can be content never straying far from home.