Sunday, August 03, 2008

Back to Budapest

We’re cruising above the water in a hydrofoil going from Fethiye, Turkey to Rhodes, Greece on the very last leg of our journey which has lasted 6 weeks. The past week has seen us go from Butterfly Valley to the seaside resort town of Ölüdeniz where we checked into a little bungalow at the Oba Motel, a place with its own vegetable garden I remember from the days when Ölüdeniz was just a ramshackle beachside party zone for Australian backpackers (whereas today it’s a posh and proper collection of new and comfortable hotels and apartments and restaurants sporting “full English breakfasts” for its largely UK clientele. Local newsstands carry the low-brow British tabloids, but no FT or Economist) While it lacked A/C, it had its own toilet and shower, thereby putting it at a standard much higher than anything we enjoyed in the Valley. We had a modest dinner of Gozleme (Turkish tortilla) filled with spinach and cheese curd that Lucia did not fancy. The secret, I later learned, is to ask for onions and yellow cheese in addition to spinach. This makes for a much tastier Gozleme.

Our subsequent destination was Kaya Koy, an old Greek “ghost town” that gives the impression of a ruined ancient city, built on a hill, typical for such places as Ephasos and Anamurium. But closer inspection reveals that the ruined structures were inhabited less than a century ago and were abandoned during the population exchange following the foundation of modern Greece and Turkey back in the 1920s. We wandered through the ruins, inspected a church and many homes, noting how cramped they must have been and how the 19th-century church, unlike its ancient or even medieval counterparts, was hardly built to last: plastered wood as opposed to stone.

The area around the ruins was pretty bleak, dusty dirt roads, weather beaten signs and savannah vegetation. We stayed in an old hotel across from the ruins. The room was large and contained two throne-sized easy chairs, but no TV. There was swimming pool as well as a pool table. Eldar and I enjoyed some time with both.

The next day we took a bus to Patara, the town just next to the 18 km Patara Beach, the longest sand beach in Europe, if you count Turkey in Europe. Quite amazing. Lucia, Eldar and I did some groovy body surfing.

The road to the beach is straddled with some impressive Greek and Roman ruins, which we didn’t take time to properly explore. The Patara region was recently hit by severe wildfires and the surround forests were quite evidently scorched. There was thankfully little apparent damage to any homes or hotels. Even before the fire, we learned, that Patara has beed suffering from a dearth of tourists in recent years, despite the presence of several hotels, pensions and restaurants. This, I suspect, is due to several factors. First, it’s priced for Westerners, therefore overpriced for most Turks and overpriced for Western backpackers, which includes us. It isn’t equipped to accommodate package tours, which has become norm for Westerners traveling to Turkey and is the bread and butter of places like Ölüdeniz. Moreover, it doesn’t offer the seclusion or trendiness currently sought by the “trustafarian” brats of Nuevo-riche Turks found in Kabak (more on that in moment), so it disappoints. This needn’t be so. If the local businesspeople got together and agreed to lower their average profits on rooms, food and drink, cleaned up the place and lobbied hard to Lonely Planet and the blogs, the Backpackers would come. Then others would follow. Cheap shelter, beer and eats were probably the draws 10 years ago, back when Turks didn’t feel pressed to squeeze the most out of every tourist purchase, before their own costs of living soared upwards. But some planning and cooperation could recapture some of this cheap and cheerful good time while actually boosting local revenue.

Patara was followed by Faralya, the village set on a mountain ridge with a view of Butterfly Valley. There we stayed in a lovely family-run place in an air-conditioned bungalow and a swimming pool with breakfast and supper for a total of 70 Lira, or about 45 Euros. Less than the valley. It did lack direct access to the sea and the community that the Valley offers. But it was very relaxing.

Finally we went to Kabak, a party zone for alternative young Turks with money. We stayed in a TeePee with no AC, no direct access to the sea unless you call a steep 20 minute walk down a dusty path direct access. There was a swimming pool. But a drugged out crowd and pulsing electronic beat non-music until after 3 a.m. making it impossible to sleep. It was imaginatively and comfortably decked out and could have been swell had it not been for the noise. They wanted to charge us Lira 100 for one night. But I got the owner down to 75 by explaining we came there because our son had met his daughter in the valley, which was true.

Our last night in Turkey was spent in a comfortable harborside hotel with AC and a western shower as well as a TV and wifi. We went out that night for dinner, first to a fantastic pizza place for Eldar and then to the fish market for Lucia. I had a tasty vegetable casserole.

Next day we caught the hydrofoil to Rhodes, which brings me to where I started this entry. Our room in Rhodes was OK, but but no AC. I slept OK. We flew back to Bp yesterday morning.