Merhaba from Çirali,
We’ve called another temporary halt, this time on the southern coast of Turkiye, not far from the big city of Antalya. We are staying for a few days at a beachside place called Çirali. The stony beach is on the Akdenız, which is what Turks call The Mediterranean. It’s very inviting on a warm day and there are not too many holidaymakers on our end of the long beach.
The journey here has been filled wıth some tremendous treats and wondrous memories.
I was told a trip to Turkiye was worth a Turkish shave so, following Bob Hudson’s Newcastle Song advice ‘Don’t you ever let a chance go by . . .’, stepped into a barber for the same. This was a sensational experience in the truest sense of the word. The barber administered two shaves through thick lather, followed by a nose hair trim (!), a burning out of the ear hairs (!!) and a nape massage (!!!). The entire transaction was performed without a single word spoken and cost 6 Turkish lira.
Next was the hamam, otherwıse known as the Turkish Bath. We had seen a sign in Istanbul: ‘Soap massage, bubble massage, scrubbing for female’ This was not going to be missed! After lying in a huge sauna under a dome wıth skylights for about 10 minutes, I had a full body pummelling wıth a loofah – or some such instrument. This was followed by a bubble massage in which the bloke held a bag – about shopping bag size but made of cotton – with large volumes of soap in it, blew softly into the bag so that it became a balloon and then applied the bubbles. Then I was doused wıth cool water and had a shower. I was then offered the extra service of oil massage. ‘Evet!’, I said. This was even more physical but worth the trouble. The oil massage sadly didn’t qualify me for the oil wrestling championshıps which are being held in the north of the country this week. (Apparently, they have been goıng for about 7 centuries and are begun wıth an opening ceremony etc.)
We then travelled to Pamukkale to see the Pamukkale Travertines which are one of the natural wonders of the planet. I warn the dear readers here that words will fail me as I attempt to describe these unique geological formations – for those who haven’t seen them themselves. These are the pools sometimes seen in brochures or posters for Turkiye. We really wanted to see these for ourselves and were not disappoınted one iota. Word-challenged Americans, when struggling for superlatives, sometimes resort to meaningless expressions like ‘jaw-dropping’ or ‘show-stopping’, or dear oh dear, ‘the Wow Factor’. Here the Wow Factor goes off the scale.
The hillside is white with bright calcium forming from spring water cascading over from higher up the hill. Pools have formed and are full of beautiful blue water. We walked in wonder up the slope to the Antique Pool, which is part of the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis built here in the 3rd century. We swam in the magnificent pool formed by the spring, occasionally having our progress impeded by fallen Roman columns. We finally – and reluctantly – descended at sundown, watching the spectacular gradations of glorious orange drop over the mountains below the crescent moon just like the one on the Turkish flag as the cool water ran over our feet. The call to prayer rang through the valley and the subtle lights lit up the massıve white wall of the hillside. Of course, at this moment we spared a thought for those who had to head to work! Pamukkale has been one of the great highlights of a great trip thus far.
Whilst up on the heights we tried a remedy not unique to Turkiye, but said to originate here. Others have copied and even flogged the raw material but it started here. Mr. Fish is an enterprise offering help to people who have a lot of dead skin on their feet. The idea is you dangle your feet in the water and the tiny fish – the Garra Rufa – nibble away for 20 minutes. This was a new experience to rival all of the others! The blurb says the ‘special fish are extremely efficient in aiding the healing process of human skin by removig only the dead cells, thus allowıng the natural healing process to take place.’ This process, by the way, is known as ‘Ichthyotherapy’.
The food here in Turkiye is superb. We’ve tried quite a variety already and we are only halfway through our time in this wonderful country. We stopped at Mehmet’s Heaven last night for a cool Efes beer (from Ephesus) and the young waiter placed a lit candle on the table, sayıng, ‘This is for romantic.’ Today for lunch we had Gözleme with minced meat (wıth the menu showıng the ‘n’ ominously missing). We have tried Tekirnag Kofte which was a delicacy of that town: very nice; prepared in front of us. The Adana Kebap (‘p’ on the end, not ‘b’) is very good, a little bit more spicy than the average. The other day I had sahlep, which is milk with powdered root of orchis mascula. When we ordered pides the other lunchtime, the proprietor complimented the selectıon by saying , ‘Good choice: you wıll want to bite your fingers off afterwards.’ Tea (Çay) is available everywhere and often offered free of charge as a welcome drink. The Turks pride themselves on their hospitality.
Now we are stayıng at a place near the beach called Esralina Pansiyon. It is under Turkiye’s own Mount Olympos. (That’s how they spell the name here.) We decided to come here to drink the nectar and eat ambrosia like the other Immortals. Proprietor Ismet who is a very congenial host who loves nothing better than holdıng court with kith and kin – and anybody else who happens along. Ismet cares about the environment and is particularly interested in an endangered turtle which buries its eggs on this stretch of coastline. He’s promised to tell me more about it this evening: ‘I am expert all.’ We are enjoyıng a few days rest and recreation before we venture into the interior.