Firstly let me introduce myself to either our regular readers or those of you who are here either by using a search engine, interested in Turkiye or simply here because like me you came by mistake.
My login name is madturkishcow. The name I was given at birth was Jennifer, but over the years I have become Jenni or Jen. I am of the female species, a very young 44, divorced with two grown up boys and hope that like me you share a love of Turkiye and all things Turkish.
I haven't always been a Turkophile. It was one of those places where the Christmas box of Lings Turkish delight originated from, where white slavery was rife and they all wore funny red hats just like Tommy Cooper. The last fact is untrue because Kemal Ata Turk (father of the Turks) banned wearing of fez's sometime back in the 1920's, even hanging a few to prove some daft point about headgear. The only fez you are likely to see these days are on the heads of restaurant staff who dress for the tourists, or on the heads of tourist. I have seen three different camels wearing them, but I don't think they really count………
My story begins back in September of 1989, when reaching a rocky patch in my marriage demanded a holiday abroad without the children and without my husband being at the end of a phone line to the office. The first I got, the second not a chance.
The final destination was chosen by some friends in the local Wimpy bar. I tossed up the idea of Tunisia or Turkiye and the beauty I was told of Olu Deniz, clinched the matter. Without discussing it with my husband Peter, I booked the hotel and flights and simply told him when to take his holiday.
Our flight took off from Gatwick on a typical, cold, wet October evening at 21.00 hours. The plane was half empty and we had a row of seats to ourselves. I had no idea what the weather was like in Turkiye, only roughly knew where it was on a map of the world. I had read very little of their customs or way of life and thought that like Spain it would be very ‘Englishfied'.
We landed in Dalaman in the wee small hours which I can now tell you was 3am. The heat and smell of bad drains, hit us as we stepped off the plane and my husband screwed up his nose in Disgust. Not me, I had this weird feeling as I walked across the tarmac to the airport bus that this was where I belonged and it felt as if I was finally coming home.
We were led into the airport building to the visa desk where we asked for our five pound notes. Looking around everyone looked as if they had stepped off the set of midnight express and every man apart from the cleaner wore a gun in their belt. Passing through customs we collected our luggage and stepped out into the hot Turkish morning.
We were met outside by a crowd of dark skinned, black haired, brown eyed men and a lone blonde female who was our travel rep. The coach was small and as we drove out of the airport most of the travelers fell asleep. We drove for what seemed like hours, stopping to drop people off at dark hotels where the dogs barked in the gloom, shadows reached out everywhere and not a human being in sight.
At every hotel, the coach pulled up, names were called and the people led off into the dark. On a couple of occasions a lone man would appear as if by magic, alongside the coach wearing trousers pulled on over pyjamas and a jumper. Despite the lateness or earliness of the hour, they all beamed broadly waved at the rest of us seated on the coach, grabbed the cases and led the unsuspecting tourists off into the darkness.
We were the last two to be dropped off the coach at a hotel called the Kaya in Ovacik village. We were led into the hotel and taken to our room. The room was small, not very clean and when I tried the shower it went straight through the wall and soaked the bed……………………I found it mildly amusing, my husband obviously very tired, simply freaked. I calmed him down and told him to wait until the morning before complaining.
The Beginning or the end?
After sleeping for only an hour was woken one hour later by the resident cockerel crowing…………………….
It was impossible to sleep with bright sunshine streaming through the window, my husband snoring and a sense of excitement running through me. I opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony.
Looking down, there was a huge kidney shaped swimming pool, which even from that height looked filthy. To the right was a bar area and a restaurant, or what the brochure had described as a restaurant. I couldn't see any more than table and chairs with a vine growing over the roof.
To the front of me as far as the eye could see was open countryside. In the far distance, the hills of Fethiye could be seen as black outlines and from there back to the hotel were fields. Fields as they used to be in England. Funny shapes different colours, hedgerows, trees dotted everywhere and crisscrossing them all, cart tracks leading to nowhere.
Cutting through fields of corn, dotted red with opium poppies, hayricks piled into little heaps, fields of cabbages and tomatoes all growing along side each other with no regimental rows, no intensive farming methods and amongst all the colours of the rainbow, chickens pecked stopped and pecked again.
I woke up a grumbling husband and urged him to look at the view. His response was less than enthusiastic and he decided there and then he hated the place.
In that instance I was hooked. I didn't care if I never saw my husband, children or England ever again. Whatever the problems were back home, it no longer mattered. I had found what I had been searching all my life for and nothing, but nothing would make me give it up. Nothing has ever given me that feeling before or since. This was were I belonged and would move heaven and earth to stay there.
Eventually Peter returned saying that there was a welcome party that afternoon and we could sort any problems out with the rep. He wanted to go back to bed but I wanted to get out and explore. I moaned and complained for a full two hours before he relented and got dressed. I was more than happy to go out by myself, but he was being a plonker and reading too many horror stories, came to the conclusion that should I venture out on my own, I would be kidnapped and shipped off to Arabia…………………..he wished!!!!
We left the hotel and found that it was on the main road to Hisaronu, with the mountain Baba Dag (father mountain) directly in front of us. We turned right and headed down towards Hisaronu village. We passed single storey dwellings with vines growing over iron bars, rubbish piled up the walls, sacks and bags strewn about and amongst it all happy pecking chickens.
There were no pavements, pot holes galore and the edge of the road had drainage ditches. Every time a car came past or a mini bus, my husband would drag me into the ditch for fear of me being hit. After an hour of this I demanded that he walk in front whilst I strolled behind.
We eventually got into Hisaronu, which I now know to be a five-ten minute walk downhill from the Kaya hotel. The right hand side of the road was open fields with a lone toilet perched on the edge. Rocks were strewn all across the fields and fly tippers had added a wide and varied collection of odds and sods.
To the right, which is where the Hisaronu market and hospital now are, was one huge corner field, with an advertising hoarding. Through the wild flowers and long grass, was a single footpath. Goats were tethered at the edges and an old lady struggled with a huge bundle of firewood across her shoulders.
I imagine the time of day to be 2pm and the place was deserted. We found a hotel called the Lycia, which boasted a disco, a wooden shop perched precariously on the edge of the road and a steep drop, the Metro hotel and a Turkish restaurant. We also walked past a track leading to a restaurant, the name of which now escapes me, but did wonderful chocolate eclairs and apple pie. It stayed for another six years or so, but sadly has now been built on.
The buzz bar existed, but in an entirely different place, the mosque and post office were there and the zombie. There was possibly a shop or two but nothing else whatsoever.
The village ended by the ponderosa, didn't extend upwards or downwards and the side roads were nothing more than dirt tracks. Street lights were non existent and the stars so bright you could see clearly. The water cart traveled regularly from the beach to Hisaronu, to Ovacik every day with water.
Tracks I once rode my little Turkish horse down and the main street where Mamish McTurk nearly had a heart attack when I cantered into his shop, now bear little resemblance to the Hisaronu I fell in love with fifteen years ago.
The little wooden shop became Casper Turkish delight and little Bunjamin grew up into big Bunjamin got married and had two boys. Mehmet from the Metro sold off the hotel and kept the Metro bar. The Turkish restaurant became a Chinese and then was demolished. The Lycia was a disco for a good six years and then was neglected for the younger, more modern bars. Everything changed. Some for the worse, some for the better but the warmth and hospitality of the Turkish people never ever changed and although we have our rouges and rip off merchants, the local village people still retain their warmth, charm and kindness.
After our stroll into the village we returned to the Kaya for the welcome party. I think there were two other couples there and our rep was blonde, dopey and couldn't speak Turkish. Peter, my husband immediately became enthralled with her and didn't want to make a fuss about the hotel. After two days of constant nagging at the rep, we discovered that the holiday company had gone bust and it was a chance in a million that we would be moved, or even get a flight back to England at the end of our holiday.
We did eventually get moved to another hotel up in Hisaronu called the Koseoglu. It was basic, clean and the family very friendly. I suppose you could say that the move was the catalyst behind the end of my marriage, but even now I have no regrets and I would do it all again.
My husband despite being only 30 at the time decided that an ideal holiday would be to spend one day laying on the beach, one day sightseeing and every night in bed by 11pm with a good book. I appreciate everyone has their own ideas and views but this certainly wasn't my idea of a good holiday, nor spending it with a couple in their early sixties………………
Every evening it was the same, where shall we go with ‘Linda & whatever his name was'? as there wasn't that much choice we would stroll along the road in darkness to what was the Uçel hotel. Every evening it would be ‘steak and chips'. Boring and monotonous spring to mind and it was.
Whilst my husband and the couple were ordering their meal, I was overcome with a mad urge to escape. Telling them that they were all a bunch of boring old farts, I walked off into the night back to the hotel.
I perched myself on a barstool and listened to the two boys from the family talking with their friends. The beer flowed, we all relaxed and then my husband and the other couple came back. Telling me to go to bed, my husband walked off to our room.
Now, no-one but no-one tells me what to do. I have a theory that Ii only answer to him or her up there and no human being. Telling me what to do has the effect of waving a red rag at me and being a Taurean, exactly the same result.
Turning to the boys, I demanded that they take me to the local disco. Being hospitable and knowing the customer is always right, they agreed. Bayram had school the next day so Mehmet and I set off walking down to Hisaronu.
On the way, we stopped and picked up various friends from houses and shops along the way and eventually six of us strolled into Hisaronu's only disco. I think there were two other English women in there and the rest were Turkish men.
We bought drinks and sat down along the wall. Tables were just huge tree trunks cut down with a slab of marble placed on top. The music was two months out of the charts and the toilets flooded with water. I didn't give a toss. This was what i had come on holiday for and I was going to enjoy myself.
We danced and at 3am Mehmet decided it was time to go home. No Taksi in them days, so we walked all the way back to Ovacik, uphill, slightly under the influence with a canopy of stars above us.
As to be expected, the next morning was fireworks, arguments and my husband taking himself off to the beach with the other couple. I was told to stay in the hotel and not go out anywhere. It was normal behavior from my husband and I was more than happy to obey him this time.
It is strange how life changing experiences seem to happen in slow motion or how we remember every vivid detail as if it was yesterday. I will not bore you with the details, but I will say it was the day my marriage of thirteen years came to an end.
The holiday continued with very frosty relations and we had days out to Patara, Kas, Kalkan and Dalyan.the most memorable for me was Dalyan.
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