Turkey – First Impressions

I’ve been feeling a bit like a spoiled brat.

A little sullen because we are not yet in any of the countries I had my heart set on. Our plans were so grand, then along came COVID and everything changed. We were, no are, determined not to let it stop us though. Not that we had a great deal of choice given that a 1 year career break had been arranged, notice had been given to our landlord to quit our rented property, and the contract on our leased cars had expired.

We did however have to concede we just can’t go everywhere we originally wanted to, though as the eternal optimist, I remain hopeful that many of the countries we wish to visit will re-open their borders before the year’s out.

In years of talks whilst planning for our travels, Turkey had not been mentioned. Not even once.

And yet here we are.

Basically, Turkey was open and would let us in, and our government, crucially, were happy for us to travel there, meaning that our travel insurance remained valid. Turkey was not on the list of countries where all bar essential travel is advised against, a list that we knew our government updated every Thursday. We travelled on Wednesday just in case they were about to be added to the growing list of disappointments for us in terms of travel plans having to be cancelled/postponed.

On Thursday, Turkey was added to the list, though Brits already here have not been advised to return home at this time, so we made it. We got out of the UK in the nick of time.

When we accepted Ginny’s recommendation to visit Kalkan, I was happy to be going somewhere, but not overly excited that our first destination was Turkey. We had visted Turkey previously, albeit for one day. A boat ride from the Greek island of Rhodes, to Marmaris. It was a very interesting day, possibly more of that later, but nothing happened on that single day of our previous visit that made us want to visit the country again.

Besides, I’m looking for the extraordinary, am I likely to find that here?

Oh well, we’re here now, so I’d best give it a chance and see what Turkey has to offer.

So, first impressions… Well actually, we’re off to a promising start!

Kalkan is beautiful!

We’ve seen it up close from the narrow alleyways that wind steeply down to the beach, from the cliff edge looking back towards the town and from the hilltop roads at night looking down on the twinkling lights of a still-peak season seaside resort. Kalkan reminds me of an amphitheatre, with the seats being taken by the houses nestling in the hills, all wrapped around the stage, which in this case is the sea.

We’ve also seen it from the sea. The water in October is NOT a gorgeous temperature, that would be pushing it a little too far, but it IS swimmable. Dive straight in, swim a little and you soon warm up and enjoy the sights. On our first swim we found a narrow, winding, very old and rickety set of steps leading down from the clifftop to a small, rocky cove, ideal for snorkelling. Before we entered the water we met two Turkish men on the tiny beach, and found out they knew a single word of English. Snake! With hand gestures they managed to convince us they had seen an 8-foot sea snake just where we were about to go in. Could it have actually been a Moray eel, a fish that along with turtles the area is known for hosting? The language barrier, including our poor knowledge of Turkish, means that we’ll never know the answer to that one.

Day to Day Life

Well COVID is a ‘thing’ here as much as it is anywhere else in the world, so how are the Turks dealing with it? Firstly, masks. It is compulsory to wear one here in public at all times. I think it’s approximately a £100 fine for failure to do so, and most, if not exactly all local citizens, do comply with this. Exemptions are allowed for smoking, eating and drinking, so of course nobody wears one whilst in a bar or restaurant. Another defence mechanism of course, is hand sanitiser, so you’ll find some of that available in every business, every shop and every restaurant. In addition to this temperature checks are undertaken in shops, bars and restaurants when you enter; tables are spaced out from each other and with a few exceptions staff wear masks. Does it feel safe? Yes actually it does; many of the Brits are now headed home, so the streets, bars and restaurants are no longer bustling, packed places. There is plenty of space here, however we are also using our common sense and staying away from other people, washing our hands, sanitising everything and wearing our masks.

The local currency makes it very easy to calculate how much you’re spending. At the current exchange rate, divide the amount in Turkish Lira by ten and you won’t be too far off its English equivalent, this is very handy when you’re dealing with small or large numbers such as when you have to pay your landlord around 5000 TL rent for your accommodation.

The People

Well we’ve found the locals to be very friendly, and generally helpful. There is a language barrier here, we haven’t come across too many people with a great command of English, and as we speak my Turkish vocabulary is barely up to a dozen words. “Teşekkür ederim” is the first phrase I learned, meaning thank you. Everyone smiles when I say it, some laugh, probably because I don’t say it correctly, but it’s always made me happy to make people laugh, and I really don’t care if they’re laughing with me, or at me. All laughter is good in my book. Some assume that because I’ve learned the most basic of phrases, that I am fluent in Turkish and they talk back to me, seemingly nineteen to the dozen, with entire sentences and paragraphs. I smile and walk away. If we spent the entire year here instead of the month or so we are planning to do, I don’t think I’d master the language to that degree. Another, most important word I’ve learned is “şerefe” – cheers! That’s the essentials covered then 😉

Many of us will have visited places where the people are permanently in ‘mañana’ mode. Tomorrow or later. Nothing is done right now, always later. In Fiji a common expression we heard was “no hurry, no worry”. Turkey is no different. Our landlord’s commonly used phrase is “I will help you half-hour after” or sometimes “I will help you one hour after” depending on his interpretation of the urgency of our need.

A week ago I sent a message to my friend and colleague Sharon. Her partner, (possibly soon to be husband if we have our way) John, owns a property in Turkey and therefore they both spend a bit of time out here, COVID permitting. I told her that previous plans had fallen through, and that on another friend’s recommendation we were now heading to Turkey, and asked her what’s good in this country? As luck would have it, Sharon and John were in the country already, one wifi phone call and a few WhatsApp messages later (over a period of days) we had arranged to meet up.

Sharon and John’s place is in Antalya, a 3 or 4 hour drive away depending on which route you took, the fastest, inland route, or the more scenic, but slower coastal road. We were going to need a car. A quick internet search revealed that none of the major car hire companies had branches in Kalkan, and very few of the local sites had a website. We saw enough to get an idea of price, and asked our landlord, Fazir, if he could help us. “I will help you one hour after” On Thursday Sharon had said to us do you want to meet up on Friday or Saturday. I chose Saturday thinking it could take us a all of Friday to arrange a car. It was a good decision, because it did take the entire day to sort out. Eventually we were helped, “several hours after”. More about this trip later…

Keeping in Touch

Communication is difficult here, our English network, Three, isn’t actually all that good in England. In Turkey it is prohibitively expensive. Someone left Carol a voicemail, she topped up her account with £5, dialled 121 but never got to hear all of the message because very quickly the money had all been spent and the message was cut-off mid-flow so to speak. So we rely on wi-fi for message checking. It means we often have to visit bars to use their wi-fi, such a shame 😉 We can often be found in a bar, asking “Can we have your wi-fi password please?” On one occasion, the reply was “buy a drink.” I said “we already have, but we’re happy to have another mojito and a large red wine” “Ok then” he replied “I will tell you the password”. “Ok, thanks, what is it then?”

“buyadrink”

Food

As my friends will already be aware, when it comes to food I’m a fussy bastard! I don’t think I fully deserve that reputation as there are basically 6 things I won’t eat; Pork, beef, lamb, coconut, cucumber or anything that comes out of the sea! And when it comes to pork, I do eat ham, bacon and Richmond sausages, I also eat minced beef, just not big slabs of it such as in a Sunday roast.

I had already decided to be a bit more adventurous with my eating habits, and if Argentina do open their borders to us, then Buenos Aires will be the setting for my first ever steak, which I shall have cooked medium/rare and will be accompanied by a lovely bottle of Malbec. I may, with sufficient alcohol in me, also be persuaded to try chorizo.

The food we have had so far in Turkey has been really good. Though I am more than a little disappointed to not have seen turkey on any menu as yet to join my growing list of having had leek soup in Leek, a Bakewell tart in Bakewell, drunk some Buxton water in Buxton, eaten double-Gloucester cheese in Gloucester, Cheddar cheese in Cheddar, a Viennese whirl in Vienna, a Berliner in Berlin, a Frankfurter in Frankfurt and of course drunk Champagne in the Champagne region. So it looks like I won’t be able to have turkey in Turkey, but I have had some Turkish Delight. Close enough 🙂

In Turkey I have tried tavuk çorbası and tavuk şiş kebap. My friends would have realised by now that tavuk is the Turkish word for chicken (it’s pretty much the only meat I eat) The soup (çorbasi) starter cost 14TL, the equivalent of £1.40, and the kebab 28TL, around £2.80. Great food at absolute bargain prices, what’s not to love? There are an array of rooftop restaurants in Kalkan all with beautiful views of the sea and mountains.

Religion

Turkey is a Muslim country and we do regularly hear the call to prayer from the local mosque, from 2 hours before dawn to after the last daylight has disappeared. At the beaches I’ve seen a few Muslim women in full body swimwear and in the streets I’ve only seen half a dozen or so women in hijabs. Religion here seems to be a problem to nobody, it’s not in your face, nor have I had any funny looks for some of my western practices.

Climate

In our first week the temperature hasn’t varied a great deal from 30 degrees Celsius. I think around 34 at its highest and it goes down to about 26 at night. We are reliably informed that current temperatures are above average for the time of year, but nobody I have asked has a clue when the weather will break and become cooler, mainly because everyone I have spoken to is from Istanbul, have come here for summer jobs and don’t really know the local weather patterns. What we do know, is we are yet to see a cloud, and it hasn’t rained. Yet!

We now know where our second stop will be, more details of that in my next blog.

Next up, Carol’s piece on where to explore next in Kalkan.

Until then, şerefe!

8 thoughts on “Turkey – First Impressions”

  1. Sounds like the perfect place to start your travels 👌as for the sea snake 8 foot not so sure only seen around 4 to 5′
    Looking forward for the next installment😀
    Stay safe Nigel & Carol 😘 xx

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  2. I loved reading this Nige – my thirst for travel is not being satisfied so your blog is helping me!
    Look forward to the next blog and ENJOY xxxx

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  3. Glad you both were able to start your travels somewhere! Pics are amazing. Can’t wait to read about your next country. Enjoy the rest of your Turkey trip in the meantime. PS hi from the rest of the Design Team 🙂 Jo F

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    1. Thanks Jo, much appreciated 🙂

      Hi back to the design teams. Hope you are all well and creating fantastic output 🙂

      Second country not booked yet, loads of bureaucracy to fight our way through to get there. Will keep you informed.

      Nigel

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