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Published: November 4th 2015
Tourist visas in Turkey are good for 90 days which would normally seem like a long time unless you rent an apartment in a spot that you love and then those 90 days just whizz on by. By the time we left Canakkale; the Dardanelle wind had taken on a wintry bite and early morning walks required thick jackets and woolen caps.
In Turkey, a visitor doesn't just 'move on' when they feel like it. At least not a courteous visitor. Our last week in Canakkale was filled with goodbye dinners and farewell breakfasts and tear-soaked, boat rocking, Grizzly-bear clinches that none of us wanted to be the first to end lest our ardor be questioned. This autumn we supplemented last year's list of Turkish friends with yet another long roster of tongue-twisting names and I'm afraid that when we come back next summer, that list, and the social requirements it comes with, will grow so ponderous we'll find ourselves living here with these affectionate folk until death do us part.
We spent our last Turkish week in the city of Izmir with our dear friend Dr. Hasan. KJ and I call Izmir; The LA of Turkey. Lots of
hipsters, al fresco dining in trendy seaside restaurants, passionate political discourse and skateboarders slaloming around folks strolling along the city's beautiful palm-lined promenade. Hasan has a great apartment in the Alsancak neighborhood right in the center of things. We wrote a long blog on it last year. On our first night in town Hasan took us to a Doner place across town. I used to think that Doner was just meat on a stick but in fact Doner is 'grilled anything'. In Ankara it was grilled lamb, In Canakkale grilled beef or grilled hamburger. In Izmir I found myself eating Doner cow-brain and Doner liver and Doner kidneys and loving it all. Around us the tables were chock-a-block with happy people talking up a storm and drinking Raki mixed with water from slender glasses. Raki is Turkey's national drink. Tastes like a particularly vicious form of anisette infused with the spirit of the great Ataturk himself. Drink two glasses of the stuff and you'll feel courageous. Five glasses will make you absolutely bullet-proof.
The next day we, Hasan and Hasan's friend Rose drove 150 Km west to a seaside village called; Karaburun. The road out there is a newly
built winding affair that hugs the Aegean coastline. Above the road runs a big ridge of limestone cliffs. On the horizon we could see the Greek island of Lesbos. Lesbos is the new 'promised land' for Syrian refugees trying to escape the carnage in their homeland for the safety of Europe. Big trawlers harvest the fish-filled waters along the shores.
Karaburun is a Bodega Bay sort of cove where permanent residents busy themselves operating small resorts and cafes for the pleasure of new money Turks who live in Izmir. The wealthy Izmirians wear neon-green Nike shoes, GAP hoodies and Columbia-brand jackets while their eyes stay glued to iPhones and iPads oblivious to the pleadings of their attention starved kids. In other words; It's like being on the US west coast.
Hasan has a lot of friends in Karaburun. Hasan seemed to have a lot of friends everywhere in Turkey. He introduced us to a grizzled man known simply as 'The King'. He's a 63-year old lifelong Communist who lives in a small cabin on a wooded lot with a beautiful Aegean view and a gaggle of noisy geese. The site is a collection of castoff lawn furniture, rust-riddled
Airstreams, sea shell wind-chimes and jury-rigged plumbing. The King is a friendly guy but the best thing about the King is that the King has pork. Local hunters shoot feral pigs and give the carcasses to the King who transforms the unfortunate beasts into delicious stews and soups. Together we sat at a sun-lit table and ate from a communal pot of slow cooked pork and vegetables using hunks of coarse, crusty bread for spoons and it was all so very, very good. As an American I don't think about pork very much since it's available everywhere in the States but after three months over here without it, I'm dreaming about baby back-ribs every other night. I need to start showing Sonny's BBQ more respect. I'd kill for a BLT right about now.
After lunch we drove a bumpy road to a high cliff lighthouse. The turquoise hued Aegean was crystal clear and mountainous Lesbos filled the horizon. The sky was Windex blue and the winds were blowing hard enough to riddle the sea with frothy whitecaps. Big seagulls rode the updrafts like Kansas twisters over the waves.
We ate dinner that night at the home of the
King's friends. A big place overlooking the harbor. The dinner table groaned under the weight of dozens of dishes. Our hosts positively beamed as Karen and I dug into the piles of food. We giggled with epicurean delight, smacking our lips and praising the skillful cooks which only encouraged our hosts to bring out even more food. Telling a Turk that you like their cooking is the same as telling them that their children are the brightest kids that you've ever met in your entire life. The 5-hour feast turned into a spirited gab fest covering politics, travel, poetry and side splitting laughter. Our night ended with big hugs and tears of joy at having discovered new kindred souls. Our list grows longer still.
And so our time in Turkey comes to an end. We're heading to Egypt for a few weeks and while I'm certain that new marvels await us I cannot help but believe that the three months we spent here will stay with us for many days to come and our yearning to return here will only grow more insistent. No small praise from two people who have traveled as much of the world as Karen
and I have.
Our most profound love to all of our friends here. To Yesim who made Canakkale even better than it was last year. For her kindness and hospitality we have only the deepest thanks and respect. A woman of remarkable strength and tenacity. Hers is a story of success beyond reason considering her humble beginnings. To Tolga in Istanbul we wish the best in your new home and we hope that things are settling down in your life and that contentment will reign supreme. Our love to all the family back in Trabzon. We love you. Let us know if there is ever anything we can do for you. We will always be indebted to you for being the person who opened Turkey up to us. To Tolga in Canakkale. I am sorry that our reunion was so short-lived but I hope that our time together next year will be more leisurely and frequent. It was great to be able to converse with you in Spanish that night at the Yalova. God bless you Hatice and Nevzat. You rule! Thank you for taking us into your hearts and your home. Our respect for you grows with every
visit. To Sarp and the family. How fortunate Karen and I were that day in the gym when you took the time to ask us about ourselves and to share your life with two elderly Americans. We love you kid. You've got a terrific family. With a courageous father, an ecstatic Mom and a dedicated sister how can your future be anything but bright? Live your life slowly. Enjoy the 'Now' and stay with the program. We cannot wait to get back to run the rack with you again. To Bulent our translator; Thank you for your patience with us and good luck to you in your new business in Canakkale. Give your Grandson a kiss from Karen and myself. To Ayse; I will never forget your kindness nor you intelligent conversations. People like you give me hope in humanity when I need it most. To revel in the minutiae of human history and our fascinating cultures. You are a rare and wonderful lady. Keep truckin'. To Hasan; What can we say. You are the epitome of Turkish hospitality. Spending time with you has always been one of our greatest travel pleasures. We owe you big my friend. Our best
to all of your wonderful family by the sea. To Ozden and Turhan; What a pleasure it was to meet with you and share Maryland stories and Turkish travel ideas and possible vacations in Mexico. Is the world not a remarkably small place and are we not incredibly fortunate to have lived the lives that we have? To Lera; We think about you every day. Please stay in touch with us and let us know how things are going. Be safe. As safe as you can be please.
To Tom and Ellen; We're here for you. Know that. We're only a flight away and besides; We love Maine! You guys are OK too. Stace and Reed; The girls are growing up too fast. Put the brakes on por favor. Dave and Kathy; WhasupwidUall? Liz and Greg; Tell Stace and Reed to put the brakes on please and lets try to get together somewhere sometime soon. Noah; Nothing new to report but we'll holler if anything changes. Our love to Aerin and tell her for us to have a safe trip home. Looking forward to being with you both in the near future even if you aren't ;-O Jane and
Brad; what's new on your daughter's job front?
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