A Whole New World
More of my early travels (for those who are interested)
During the 80’s Greece became my second wife and myself’s holiday destination. We travelled extensively, visiting some twenty two Islands, along with much of the coastline belonging to the Peloponnese. From Pilos down through to Kalamata, on down the peninsular known as the Mani to Monemvasia. We travelled this by local busses from Athens, across the Corinth Canal and on.
In the north of Greece we travelled overland by bus from Athens to the port of Volos, picking up a ferry to reach the Sporades Islands (read The Old Men etc.) Much, if not all, of our travel was by local transport; this was at times alarming…but unforgettable. My life was greatly enriched by my visits to this wonderful country and its People.
By the early 90’s we began to hear about another destination, one in direct opposition to Greece…Turkey. After talking to a close friend who had taken the plunge, we decided to go and see for ourselves. It was to be another one of those life changing decisions. I was to meet, and come to love a whole new world.
Our friends had gone on a whim to a place called Kalkan. It was 1992; Kalkan was way off the radar at the time. With no real beach, and a good three and a half hour drive over some fairly suspect roads, it was not for the faint hearted or families. They told of a Hotel with twelve rooms run by a quirky German woman and her mad Turkish husband. They showed us photos of a small harbour set in a beautiful bay; overlooked by a stunning village…it was all we needed to know.
We booked a week immediately, phoning direct with the owners. It was early in the season and rooms were available. I asked about getting there from the airport at Dalaman. They said we could be picked up by a taxi and delivered to their door…sounded like a plan.
As we came out of the baggage hall, we saw a little moon faced guy holding up a piece of cardboard with the name Green on it…brilliant. I have said many times, in a strange land, a board with your name on it is the most comforting sight…all will be well. After shaking hands and following him to his car, I asked him how long the journey would take, (it was 4am and we were knackered) he said “yes”. He said yes to every question I asked him after that…. bloody hell.
The journey was a nightmare; it seemed at times we were driving off road to our doom. After an hour or so he pulled into a petrol station and beckoned us out. Several people appeared out of the gloom and stared at us. Oh dear, we were going to be kidnapped by a manic dwarf and his gang; I could hear the banjos playing a Turkish tune in the background.
Turned out all he wanted was for us to drink water, stretch our legs and take a leak. After a little mime work we established he was called Mehmet; he was to be our ‘go too’ taxi man for the next twenty years.
We continued on our way. As the dawn slowly arrived in the sky we could make out mountains, valleys with crops growing. Roadside stalls were starting to load up with fruit and veg. We passed through villages with children playing in the dust. Goats and dogs wandering into the road. It was all a bit like Greece…and yet not; there was a Mosque in every village. We were in a Muslim world.
Our journey continued into the dawn, with new vistas opening up all around us. At times we were on dirt tracks as wide as motorways; traffic was minimal in either direction. We started to climb slowly, from a valley floor upwards through a series of S bends lined with fir trees, goats were wandering through the trees, their bells ringing. The heat was starting to get to us even with the windows down. We came out of the trees onto a ridge road. As we wound around it we could see the sea. Trepidation turned to excitement. After a few minutes Mehmet pulled into a lay by, he beckoned us out. We walked over to the edge of the road side, looking down on a view to die for.
Below us was the bay of Kalkan, it was simply breath taking. We could see the harbour with a few boats moored up. The village set just behind it, the tower of the Mosque in its center. The hills on either side dotted with olive groves and the odd house. By now the sun was turning the sea from dark blue to a shimmering turquoise. I had never seen anything so beautiful. We drove down through yet more S bends until we reached the village. It was still early, yet people were opening shops, and the smells from the cafes was intoxicating. Mehmet turned down towards the harbour, pulling up outside our Hotel. The Hotel Daphne was old, built in the Moorish style, Bougainvillea hanging from the baloneys; it was beautiful.
We were met at the door by the German lady and a young boy. She introduced herself as Barbara. They quickly showed us to our room, explained the workings, and said to rest for a while; breakfast would be on the terrace at the top of the stairs, when we were ready. We must have slept for a couple of hours, on wakening I was in total confusion for a minute. After a quick shower to clear my head I found my way upstairs leaving my wife to sleep.
On reaching the terrace I was greeted by a view across the village, stretching across the bay and harbour; then on out to sea. There was soft music in the background; classical Opera. I was lost in the moment when a curtain pulled back and this bear of a man popped out on me…I nearly jumped over the side. “Hello” he said, seeing my reaction. I started to laugh and he joined in. The ice was broken, a friendship formed that would last the rest of my life. This was my Turkish brother Vedci.
My wife and I returned home after the week, within a month or so we were back. Kalkan became our second home; we visited as often as we could. My name changed in the village from Michael to Uncle Michael, an honour I was proud to accept. Much has happed since that day, both good and bad for all of us.
My wife and I had divorced by the end of the nineties, but I continued to return; this time with my one and only Lesley. So many memories filled with fun and laughter, I could write a book.
Sadly the wheels of progress turned over the following decades, Kalkan changed. It was inevitable; people who had scratched a living found the word tourist meant money.
Houses in the village that had been in families for generations, now being sold for ‘loads of money’. Transformed into gift shops or holiday lets. Eventually Vedci and Barbara decided that enough was enough, they sold up and moved twenty miles down the coast to a working town called Kas. They opened a splendid restaurant called ‘Ikbal’ and are still there.
The place we loved has all but disappeared under an urban sprawl of upmarket villas and holiday flats. A tarmac motorway runs from Dalman now, cutting the journey time to just over the hour. I’ve heard that over two hundred and fifty brits live there permanently now.
For those of us that knew it as it was, it’s hard to accept. I have been back… on the odd occasion; spending a week before moving on to Kas and Vedci and Barbara. Old age and infirmity may mean I will never visit again. Vedci and I stay in touch on the internet, the odd phone call. After all he is my Turkish brother.