A Turkey Tale 2

As documented in last Sunday’s post, we were having a quick, slightly off-season break in sunny Turkey, based in the pleasant coastal town of Cesme in a lack-lustre, budget hotel.

I’d had a week in Turkey a few years before and had taken a mini excursion to Ephesus and Pamukkale, an experience I was happy to repeat and knew Husband would like. The trip would be by coach, with a tour guide. It would also mean a stopover in a hotel, providing us [hopefully] with a break from Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’, our Cesme hotel pool man’s obsession.

There are various ways to visit archaelogical sites. You can do your own thing, either with or without a guide book, but you will miss out on a wealth of historical background. You can take up an offer of one of those audio-guides that hangs around your neck, although more often than not the narration will be out of sync with the points of interest [this often happens on open-top bus tours] or the sound will give up half way round. Then there are tour guides, who may be earnest, well-meaning and deathly dull or knowledgable and entertaining. On this occasion we got lucky and our guide, Uys was charming and urbane, maximising our experience of exploring beautiful Ephesus by feeding us interesting stories and giving us plenty of time to wander by ourselves, too.

It is an extensive site, notable for the remains of its iconic library and a stunning paved road, lined with roadside columns and statues and all well worth a visit.

Though I harboured no expectations of the hotel we were to overnight in it was a vastly different experience to our Cesme place, a vision in marble with a grand entrance lobby and rooms spread throughout the grounds. There was also a buffet style dinner which was more than adequate. We were able to relax and chat with Uys, our tour guide, who seemed more than happy to socialise.

The second day of our trip consisted of a visit to Pammukale, a stunning natural formation of calcium pools that cascade down a mountainside. I’d visited before, when none of it was fenced off and visitors could wander down and in and out of the warm, cloudy water in the saucer-shaped pools as they pleased. By the time I went with Husband the powers that be had grown wise and cordoned off the majority of it, leaving just one or two areas for a paddle or a bathe. Before I’d ever visited Turkey I’d never heard of Pammukale and I’ve subsequently wondered why it isn’t much better-known, as it is a natrual wonder of the world!

Above Pammukale lie the ruins of Hierapolis and a hotel where we lunched after swimming in the warm, sulphorous waters of its pool, among columns and relics long fallen. To swim in such a place leaves a lasting memory. We journeyed back to Cesme and I was struck by the vast amount of ancient history, aged architectural remains strewn around in the open, uncatalogued and unremarked.

A Turkey Tale

Years before I ever went to Turkey I imagined it to be an exotic, other-worldly and faintly menacing country, where west meets east; a land of flying carpets and genies, of spice markets and steamy bath houses. And in some respects, as I found on my first trip there, I was not too far wrong.

For a start Turkey has a long and successful history of catering for tourists and has been embraced and courted by the package holiday industry for many years-and why not? The weather is as reliably warm and sunny as Greece, the coastlines are beautiful and there is a wealth of history to be explored in the numerous archealogical sites scattered everywhere.

For all of these reasons-plus the fact that we could afford a week in spring [when more northerly travel would preclude tent camping] in a basic hotel despite all the calls on our income, we got a package holiday to Cesme, an attractive enough seaside town in the Bodrum region. It would be my second visit to Turkey.

The two star hotel was on the outskirts of the town, but the room was small. It had a miniscule balcony, of sorts, overlooking the pool, where we were soon to discover that the pool barman had an obsession with Donna Summer-and more specifically with her disco hit ‘Hot Stuff’. The song played on a continous loop day and night-not condusive to peaceful sleep. In addition to this, in the ‘en suite’, a shower room barely spacious enough to accommodate a skinny body, the dangling light fixture dripped water. Horrors!

We moved room, although nowhere was far enough to escape Donna Summer. Other than the shortcomings of the hotel though, we were happy with our location.

Though there are limits to what you can do and see in a week’s holiday we like to do more than loll around on a pool side and we were eager to look at the local beaches so despite the heat we decided to walk to ‘Altinkum’ [Golden Sands] and once we’d set off it became clear that few others used feet to get to this stunning stretch of coast, but get there we did, via roads past fields of luscious water melons. En route, on a quiet stretch we passed a lonely roadside restaurant which looked a good bet for our evening meal.

We spent the day at the beach, snacking on freshly roasted corn cobs from beach sellers when we felt peckish.

When we were ready to return we decided to try a Dolmus. They are cunning minibuses that zoom about and stop to pick people up when they are hailed from the roadside. You simply take a seat inside and pass the fare up to the driver via the other passengers. It is a fine idea and works well. We took the Dolmus back as far as our restaurant and stepped inside the cool interior.

When we discovered that there was no menu we realised this out-of-town restaurant was a favourite for locals and that, as tourists we were a little unusual. There was no English spoken and Turkish is not a language I’ve studied, but the smiling restauranteurs were undeterred and we knew ‘meze’ so we could start with that. We sat on the shady veranda with our small sharing plates of tasty things and glasses of wine. When it came to ordering our main course we were shown a large polystyrene box containing a variety of enormous fish and invited to choose one, which we did, pointing to the nearest.

We’d stopped quite early at this out-of-the-way restaurant so it was quiet, except for an occasional Turkish diner arriving by car.

In fact, so delicious was our out-of-town meal we returned to our hotel with a more indulgent attitude towards Donna. But then we were to escape the hotel for a couple of days for a thrilling excursion…

For Better or Worse

                Change is inevitable; that much is a given. In industry and in any establishment ‘change’ is an issue that must be managed, trained for, discussed, prepared for and implemented. Why must all this effort go into dealing with change? Because most of us, the worker bees, the minions, the ignorant-we won’t like it. And we won’t like it because it won’t be in our interests. It will be in the interests of those making the change; they may be bosses, government ministers, directors or anyone who might benefit from alterations.

                One change that hit the national headline news this week was the move, after 40 years, of Ford’s van factory from Southampton, here on the South coast of England, to Turkey. The reason given is lower cost. I’m guessing this means lower wages. Of course the move is great news for Turkey, who, I believe is still aiming to belong to the European Union, having begun negotiations in 2005, but less good for those workers who had believed, not expecting anything to change, that their jobs were there until retirement. No doubt Ford’s will also have less in the way of employment regulations to follow-that is-if and when Turkey gets its membership in Europe.

                As the stirrings of unrest boil away under the surface in Turkey, I’ll be interested to see how Ford’s venture of moving there progresses. The turkey may come home to roost, as it were.

                Closer to home, the shockwaves are still settling after our little writing club was sacked from the ‘community’ arts centre where we always met. As a non profit-making club, apparently we do not generate enough revenue; hence we are no longer welcome. For now we will meet in our homes until such time as we find another venue. We have to adapt to the change.

                It may be unfashionable to adhere to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it’ mantra, but all change is not necessarily going to be better for all people. In my previous life as a real working person [ie one who earned a salary] I was happy enough for things to be changed if the benefits were pointed out. Being of a somewhat cynical nature, however, I tended towards the view that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore a proposed change would be a system or a scheme or an idea that we had implemented before under a different name and in a different guise. And here’s the thing-often more than once. On the occasions when, in my innocence, I was rash enough to point this out, the outcome was never happy, or indeed favourable. I became a sort of cynical ‘Mr Pooter’  figure, labelled as an idiotic buffoon-or worse.

                Nowadays for me, change is gradual and unavoidable, although strangely, not always altogether unwelcome, without authority to rail against. Who is there to blame for wrinkles, unwanted weight deposits or grey hair? It’s all in the scheme of things, just as it should be.