It is our last full day at Villa Ruyam in the quiet paradise called Islamlar, Turkey. We want to relax and do nothing. (It is not like packing t-shirts, shorts and bathing suits is going to take a major portion of our day.) But we have a problem…of sorts. Our new “family” wants to take us to Saklikent and we do not want to offend them. My wife, of course, wants to spend as much time with them as possible and I, having read about the place, was curious, but…
We decide to go for a couple of hours. It is, we are told, less the 25 minutes away. That is, of course, less than 25 minutes if you drive like a Turk! So we meet our family and head off. About 45 minutes later we arrive…with Ali, the young boy, sitting in our backseat and giving us the guided tour. We stop at the road leading up to his school, but for some reason he would rather be going to Saklikent than school in summer. Some things just are cross-cultural, I guess.
As we drive we see that infamous painted sign to Fethiye that I was instructed to follow. We, fortunately, pass it and, low and behold, just moments away (the way we should have gone the last time) is Saklikent…a huge, and beautiful, gorge. We are glad we made the trip.
Having our “local guide” we get free parking under a tree, next to – no so ironically – trout-filled tanks – and then wander past the souvenir stands towards this very imposing gorge. We walk over a rickety bridge, next to some large, but very cool looking, restaurants with kooshs (sp?) right on the water’s edge (so you can dip your feet into the water after it leaves the gorge). After paying a fee we walk across this (fortunately) sturdy wood walkway through a portion of the gorge; with its steep walls right next to you and the rushing water right under you. It is beautiful.
Eventually we come to an area with babbling streams and an area to walk around under the trees and ferns. But off into the distance I see a bridge and steps down to the water. Folks, if you have ever been to Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, this is akin to this…but on steroids! In order to see the rest of the gorge, which goes back about 7 kilometers, you need to traverse the rushing waters which are about waist deep. I stayed back with my wife and some of the family (obligations, you know), but the others took it on.
But while they were waiting, Durkadin (translated it means “Stop Woman”) and Selma take to the streams and find the granite and limestone infused mud that will make them look years younger!
I digress here to explain that regardless of what you hear, Turkey is a very secular country. Yes, you hear the calls to prayer no matter where you are, but bikinis and shorts are common, most women that do cover their hair in the rural areas do it because that is the traditional style (not because of religious beliefs), men and women mix most of the time (but not at large family gatherings or in mosques) and alcohol is not the least bit frowned upon.
So while the women wash off their mudpacks I wander down to the stairs and see all the very wet, but smiling, faces returning from their walks down the Saklikent gorge. It is amazing how much water there is in this area which is so hot and dry otherwise. (To give you an example of how dry it is: when you get out of the swimming pool and the temperature outside is 100 degrees, you are instantly cold because the evaporation aided by the slight breeze is so intense.)
Afterwards we go to one of those cool kooshes, but our family tells us to follow them to nicer and less expensive ones. (At least this is what my wife tells me they are saying. They might well have been saying, “typical tourist”). So off we go. Ali shows me his favorite area with kooshes right under the vertical rises of the gorge, but everyone else heads to one more practical…right next to a restaurant. Stepping past the ducks and ducklings we are sitting at the water’s edge drinking Efes and Cokes. The baby is happily in a hammock which I am swinging by way of a cleverly provided rope.
It was then back to Villa Ruyam for an afternoon of…Let’s say it all together now: Relaxing. Of course, with no rest for the wicked, I must prepare our last barbeque: kofte and lamb chops. It is more than we want, but we don’t want to waste the food. So after this we: Relax.
Then it is time to pack. Ten minutes later it is time to: Relax and have a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Of course our last meal is at Place of Huseyin. They graciously tell us that our meal is complimentary. (We just pay for drinks. Yikes!!!). They do not ask us what we want, they just bring it…and bring it…and bring it. And, best of all, they all sit at the table with us after all the food is served…just like family. I set up my new iPad2 and have a showing of our photos with background music of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes singing, “I Don’t Want To Go Home.”
After one last trout (alabalik), too many bottles of wine and raki, it was time to head back to the villa for our last evening. You know the one: The one where you say you have to be up at 5:00 a.m. so it is going to be an early evening and then at 1:30 a.m. you say you better get a couple of hours of sleep.
We are up and out by 6:00 a.m., with our hostess and Villa Ruyam’s owner, Pat, and Cihat there to wish us well. We make the two and one half hour drive to Dalaman Airport without issue (other than an amazing amount of road construction…and we know what follows after) and are hit with reality.
I can enter the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge because of my elite status, but my friend’s Priority Pass is worthless on domestic flights…even though he is flying on Turkish Airlines all the way to London. Not the friendly and family atmosphere we had in Islamlar. We board the flight and I am, again, blessed with a baby sitting right behind me. We say goodbye to our friends and wait in the Millennium Lounge in Istanbul Airport for our next flight. (It has a nice variety of food and drinks, but it is not exactly luxurious.)
Then reality hits me again: On our flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt, my wife and I have aisle seats next to each other. With a seat in between me and the Kiwi next to me I am happy…right up until he starts coughing and coughing and coughing and doing this without covering his mouth while he is flush and a bit sweaty. I ask him to at least cover his mouth and he replies, “If you talk to me again during this flight I will kick your ass. Typical American.” Like I am going to take that? Right. So I reply in my best New Jersey accent: “And you are a typical a&(%$.” He looked away and never…and I mean never…looked my way again. Problem yok…but a reminder I am no longer in Islamlar.
We make our transfer in Frankfurt after an absurdly long security re-screening and after a quick stop at the very comfortable and well stocked Lufthansa Senators Lounge, we board our final flight to Newark. Then reality hits me again: A couple just decided to take our bulkhead seats. What the heck is going on? So, once again, I have to be less than laid back and they move…and then try it with the bulkhead seats across the aisle (unsuccessfully). Again: Problem yok, but I am yet further from Islamlar.
After an uneventful flight and, believe it or not, all of our luggage arriving with us we arrive home. But we find the pool timer is broken and a ton of chlorine has been dumped into the pool, the dog has peed on all the bathroom rugs, it smells like something died in the garage, the icemaker is broken…I want to go back to Villa Ruyam and our little Paradise of Islamlar, Turkey!