Greetings from Fethiye Turkey,
As often mentioned in previous postcards, I always buy two seats on the long distance buses. A 20 hour trip from Urfa to Fethiye definitely qualifies as long distance. In the past I've just asked for two adult tickets and paid the full fair. This time I asked if there might be a reduction for a child's ticket. There is, but we had a hard time deciding how old a kid my bag should be considered. In the end the ticket agent just gave me a discount off the full adult fare; I paid 85TL plus 60TL for the unused seat to hold my bag. Now why didn't I think of that earlier?
Leaving Urfa at 14:00 most of the trip proceeded in the dark through the night and I dozed between bouts of kids screaming in the seat in front of me. A young mother tried to comfort a tiny infant and her eighteen month old daughter without much success. Across the isle sat a young couple, both of whom loved to play with fidgeting tots much to the relief of the harassed mother. During one of the operations to pass the baby around among the three adult care takers, the young man sitting in the isle seat in the row ahead just off to my right turned and commented in English on his assumed role as surrogate father... presuming I likely spoke English. "If these kids ever fall asleep, I'd like to talk to you." he added.
Alan turned out to be a Syrian refugee and spoke excellent English as well as Kurdish, some Turkish and Arabic. On the run to avoid military conscription by a government few in the Kurdish community love, he freely shared his views about the civil unrest in his birth country which has never recognized his Kurdish identity and continues to marginalize that community. Intelligent and articulate, he worries about being called up for the draft when he turns 24 next year. His half sister travels under his protection as required by Islamic law. His parents remained behind in their home located in the north-eastern Kurdish part of the country despite imminent danger from military attacks, but encouraged him to leave the country out of harm's way. Well dressed and well educated, he carried an expensive high end laptop from which I deduced his family might be fairly well off. After all the news stories about the flood of Syrian refugees invading surrounding countries and the pathetic television images of so many struggling people, I found it refreshing to meet at least two refugees who had the sense and the means to leave before the problems became impossible.
Through the night between his baby sitting duties we had several thoughtful conversations. I asked about his knowledge of the civil strife in Syria and the likely outcome and he grilled me for my views on world religions, he himself being a non-practicing Muslim with atheistic leanings. Alan thinks the situation is hopeless and that Assad is unlikely to be ousted anytime soon, the many oppositions groups having as much disagreement with one another as with the dictatorship in power. The bus left SanliUrfa at 14:00 and arrived the next day in Fethiye at 09:00, long before Alan and I had resolved any of the issues discussed. We parted that Saturday morning promising to stay in touch... and I to record our encounter in one of my postcards (this one).
This is my second visit to the ocean side town of Fethiye with its huge yacht harbor and year around holiday atmosphere so much like my old home town, Santa Barbara. The surrounding mountains this time of year have snow covered peaks adding to the unique character of this vacation destination. Many Britains have immigrated to the city in order to take advantage of inexpensive real-estate opportunities, something which became obvious while eavesdropping on grocery store conversations.
The earlier trip back in 2001 allowed me to write about experiences which on re-reading prompted this return visit. But, now I better understand the old saying: "You can never go back." The sleepy little village of my memory is no more. So many of us wrote such nice things about this tiny hide away it has not remained the secret treasure of a privileged few. No longer do turtle doves compete with roosters to be our un-amplified alarm clocks as the muezzins call the faithful to prayer using lung power alone. Amplified calls from the few original minarets now reach even the power sailboats anchored far out in the harbor. Thankfully, there still are so few muezzins competing with one another their individual calls can be distinguished... unlike the cacophony of yelling that sounds like a cheering ball game crowd heard in Urfa as dozens of muezzins raised their amplified voices to the castle heights.
A highlight of that 2001 visit became a motive for this return. Many warm memories of my times in and around the Hotel Mara exaggerated my expectations. So naturally, on arrival in the city I dashed over to the Mara Hotel. Unfortunately, nostalgia had colored my memory and today the hotel is mere shadow of what I remember twelve years ago. Still, I checked in and prepaid for two nights in order to allow time for a more leisurely re-familiarization of the older, colorful area around it. There has been frantic development of the tourist infrastructure during the past decade and now many excellent value hotels line the harbor area a short distance from the old Mara.
As usual, I spent the
first few days hotel shopping and made a wonderful discovery:
the 120TL four star
Alesta Yacht Hotel not far from tourist
infrastructure comparable to Santa Barbara a couple decades ago. There
are so many charming cafes it would take the rest of the Winter to try
them all! While I don't expect to be here that long, I will hunker down
for an extended stay in this ideal hotel with excellent WiFi and hard
wired terminal Internet and try to catch up on some neglected work.
all receptionists must read the same negotiation manual as that ploy is
The room clearly had been designed by professionals and the
building recently constructed, modern and decorated in good taste. Back
down at the reception desk I proposed she check with her manager to see
if 100TL and a minimum stay of at least three nights might be
acceptable. She pointed out the hotel is still new having been built
only two years earlier and that the 120TL rate she had offered was
already well below the posted 170TL rack rate, but excused herself and
stepped into the adjacent office returning shortly with the verdict:
100TL (equivalent to $56) would be fine her manager decided. The normal
single walk-in rate of $67 during the Winter season is already an excellent value,
especially considering the unbelievably rich selection of foods in the
included breakfast buffet... and the unusually attentive and thoughtful
service of the staff. On two occasions while working at the Internet
terminal in the lobby someone brought me an unsolicited cup of
coffee! ... and a smile. (Note: Spring and Summer rates all over Fethiye jump 50% to
100% in most hotels.)
With a large screen computer connected to the Internet available in the lobby, I spent a lot of time working there between using my tiny netbook in the room. The large screen made organizing photos more convenient. Fortunately, with so few guests in the hotel right now hardly anyone uses the lobby computer so I had it pretty much to myself. The hotel's technology manager, Saban got the QWERTY keyboard translator working for me eliminating the need to use brain contortions every time a word contained the letter "i" needed to by typed.
The Alesta Hotel sits less than a city block from the old Telmessos Amphitheater discovered by archeologists shortly before my previous visit to the city in 2001. Since then it has been the site of a new park development with continual archeological excavation work along side the new infrastructure work. Now surrounded by a two meter high construction fence, access to the ruins themselves is restricted to archeologists and their students. One group of college age people dressed for the campus and carrying clipboards and tape measures hovered around one of the partially exposed stone block walls recording measurements. Hundreds of large stone blocks lay in ordered rows out in front of the excavation area, all marked with identifying labels for eventual reassembly into the restored amphitheater. While restoration is a huge undertaking, I marveled at the effort which must have been expended to create the original structure without the aid of power equipment.
Naturally I had to revisit the old Lycian Rock Tombs I'd seen during my earlier visit to the city. High on the cliff above the southern edge of the city surrounded by neighborhoods of old stone dwellings hangs the iconic tomb chamber looking for all the world like the face of a temple. The image of this particular tomb became the symbol for the modern city of Fethiye. It is amazing how much steeper is the trail up to the area of the tombs today compared to my experience twelve years ago at the young age of 66. There must have been an earth upheaval during the intervening years. Surely there could not have been so much deterioration in my personal stamina in a mere twelve years! On the way back down the many flights of stone stairs I briefly became dizzy. With increasingly brittle bones I know falling is no minor matter and cautiously maneuvered the rest of the way down, resolving to reassess plans for future adventurous escapades... possibly aided by one of those fancy carved canes?
Two of my favorite things to do in a new city are riding city buses and people watching from the elevated dining rooms found in most Mac Donald's and Burger King restaurants: cheap and satisfying. Both these activities have the added virtue of providing an opportunity to rest between my still lengthy hikes of exploration... although now taken at an increasingly slower pace... more like strolling with frequent pauses to soak up the ambiance. Lately I've noticed a good many local wrinkled ones doing the same thing. ... must be a characteristic of acquiring wisdom, you think?
Somewhere between Iraq and here my little netbook became infected with a deadly virus. The first symptoms were a slowing of performance and unusual index searching activity. Checking the firewall I discovered the "do not allow exceptions" block unchecked and promptly fixed that. Performance improved, but off and on slowed again.
Then a week later while in the Mara Hotel in Fethiye I suffered a bout of stupidity: a couple email messages, apparently from a good friend with no text and only provocative website links peaked my curiosity and I clicked on one of them. It took me to an innocuous looking site promoting health foods, perfectly consistent with my friend's natural life style. The next time I started the computer it hardly crawled toward the expected display and I decided to restore the system to an earlier time when everything had been working properly. BUT, all of the old restore points before two days earlier in the Mara Hotel were gone! Befuddled and suspicious I selected the earliest restore point available and waited.
When the machine automatically shut down and started to reboot, the blue screen of death popped up and nothing I had been trained to do would allow me to recover a working system. The <F8> screen permitted an analysis of the failure: UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME! The hard drive had been corrupted beyond ordinary repair. Saban, the competent hotel technology manager and I tried several recovery tactics including the use of Hiren's BootCD, a mini-WindowsXP utility with a reputation for rescuing files on corrupted drives, but nothing worked. Resigned to loosing a few un-backed up folders containing photos, I executed the factory restore feature built into the Acer AspireOne netbook. That worked flawlessly and a few hours later, thanks to backup copies of important files stored on a thumb drive, almost everything returned to normal. Amazing, this technology.
Back in 2001 I remember commenting on sleeping dogs seen around the city. There still are lots of dogs and still frequently sleeping! However, I've heard not a single one of them barking or making any kind of sound around the waterfront. During my walks out into the rural areas I did hear dogs barking, but none in the city. Curious, I started asking locals why that might be. The answers included: "We love our pets and treat them lovingly." or "I guess there is nothing to bark at here in peaceful Fethiye." or just "I hadn't noticed."
With none of the answers satisfying my wonderment I went to the Internet to see if others had noticed the phenomenon. According to a story in the local paper, last century barking dogs became an issue in the city and ordinances eventually were passed requiring pet owners to keep their animals quiet so as not to disturb their neighbors. About the same time a group of animal lovers organized a pet rescue program with the financial support of European donors. Over the years the program originally started by Perihan Agnelli evolved into the formal Neuter & Return Program where stray animals were picked up and neutered before being returned to where they had been found.
Neutering for male dogs involved castration which naturally reduced the animal's aggressive nature... and barking! Now, twenty years into the program there are a lot of very quiet canines in Fethiye. The local N&RP program gained national notoriety and is now considered a pilot project for possible national adoption. Not all dogs have been neutered, of course. In fact, during the early morning walk around 8AM over to the otogar (bus station) on my last day in the city I heard many of the pooches reestablishing their territories and greeting one another. By 9AM all became quiet again, though.
Turkish people like their tea sweet and apparently highly diluted because most people take perhaps a quarter glass of the actual brewed tea and then top off the glass with hot water before adding two, three or more lumps of sugar. The just filled glass is always too hot to hold so people sip while gingerly holding the cooler rim of the glass briefly before sitting it down between sips. When asked why the odd shape of the glass I got a variety of answers: "It is just custom.", "It is shaped like the figure of a woman making it more interesting to hold.", "I haven't the slightest idea! That's a good question." Whatever the actual reason, that tulip shaped glass is used everywhere in Turkey I've traveled.
Getting a haircut remains
a problem for men wearing their hair anyway but short. However, many Fethiye
youth have embraced a modern outlook on fashion and more than a few male
heads sport abundant bushes. So, I started looking for a hair dresser
shop that might be willing to take care of men with shaggy manes.
Sheepishly I loitered around several shops to see if any had male
clients, without success. Then, at the last one checked and about to
walk on, one of the women inside motioned for me to come in. Gingerly I
stepped inside the ten chair shop and waited while a minor commotion
broke out among the hair dressers and clients. At last, a male barber
appeared, alerted by calls from the ladies and motioned for me to sit
down in his chair. With gestures we established my desire for "just a
little" off the sides and back. His technique varied somewhat from what
I've seen in America, but he got the job done adequately and I paid my
15TL plus 1TL tip and left a happy, less shaggy man.
Fred L Bellomy
PS: 18 January 2013