Merhaba Momentos

snapshots of Turkey

A final, bittersweet farewell from Ece and Soneramje—Tesekkurlur for your sincerity and warmth—I brought them with me to Canada.   

We escaped the over-crowded streets, sarays and apartments, and the savoury smell of doner for a strip of quaint pansyions, the sweet smell of pomegranate groves and sea water, along the dusty roads of Cirali.

We spent 5 days at the Hane-i Keyif Pansyion (roughly translates to “House of Delights”). Each day brought new adventures, ancient sites, fresh summer oranges and apricots. 

These photos are from our journey to Kekova Island. There are many things to do in Cirali, but the surrounding areas such as Kekova, Kas, Phaselis, and Fethiye also offer idyllic natural beauty and historical wonders. These areas are located, like Cirali, in a valley. The main road drives along the mountains offering spectacular views (photo 1) of the fields, mountains and ocean. 

Oguzhan and I didn’t have a car. There is public transit that runs along the main road but many of the sites are at least a steep 5 km from the main road. 

Determined to see the Island of Kekova and the ancient ruins jutting out of the water, we hitchhiked with some Cirali locals the to the main road and waited in the noon-day sun, a scorching 30 Celsius, for our bus. Twenty minutes later, not a bus, but a truck carrying ceramic stopped a few feet away and offered us a lift. After quickly weighing the safety risk between sun exposure and getting in a strange vehicle, we accepted the ride. 

We got off, however, about 30 minutes later, in Kumluca because the truck’s precious cargo required the most careful and tedious driving with so many stops and starts that Oguzhan and I feared not being able to reach our destination till the next morning.   

In Kumluca (“Come-Loo-Jah”), we caught our bus which followed the mountain’s edge where small beaches could be seen far below.   

After an hour, the bus driver abruptly announced that we had reached our stop. Midway through our cheese and cucumber sandwiches, we scurried off the bus onto the side of road where we saw a highway sign which read: Kekova 15 km

We trekked along the road, noticing the stony remains of Roman monuments and sarcophagi dotting the greenery. The sun was intense and the road offered no respite from its rays, we were hoping to hitch a ride but unfortunately, all the vehicles passing by were driving in the opposite direction. Finally, a taxi pulled up and offered us a lift to the city centre for 30 TL. As haggling is a way of life in Turkey—even in such dire situations—Oguzhan and the Taxi driver argued for ten minutes until both were fed up and the taxi driver pulled away. 

"What was that about?" I asked, concerned that Oguzhan’s pride had doomed us.

"All I asked was 25, he wouldn’t even lower it to 25," Oguzhan replied. 

I looked at him with incredulity. Five Turkish Liras? Five?! We were going to road-roast for the equivalent of three dollars. I didn’t say anything. 

At the moment of what might have been a crisis, we flagged down a blue van driving in our direction. The drivers, a good-looking couple who owned a pansyion in Kekova, warmly offered to take us.

The journey was well-worth our two-hour, private boat tour around Kekova Island. The boat stopped in a bay surrounded by Lycian and Byzantine ruins. Because of an earthquake, parts of the city had sunk below the water’s surface.   

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the small port city of Ucagiz which faces the island. Around 6pm, we headed back up towards to main road and caught a ride with a fisherman who was on his way to Kumluca. We only let him take us as far as Demre—a nearby town along the bus route—because the overwhelming smell of fish and winding road is a nauseating combination. 

When we finally arrived back at our Pansyion, night had descended upon Cirali and a dolunay (“full moon” pronounced “doh-luhn-eye”) was reflecting on the ocean creating what doesn’t exist in English as a single expression, “Yakamoz”.    

We spent a lot of time on and around Istiklal Caddesi (“Iss-tick-LAHL JAH-deh-see” or “Independence Street”). Think New York’s Times Square with its big-name stores, neon lights and constant flow of people. In Istanbul fashion, however, Istiklal is a surprising mix of old and new. Paved with cobblestone, the street is closed to cars but a nostalgic tram splits the sea of determined shoppers, eager tourists and aggressive street vendors. Although the crowd calls for constant vigilance, it’s worthwhile to take a chance and look up to notice the 18th and 19th century buildings, now five-story cafes which serve an all-night plethora of sweets such as sutlac (“sewt-LAJ” — rice pudding) , lokum (turkish delight), and baklava.   

Like every main street, the back and side streets are where you find the best spots—like this one. A set of dingy stairs opens into an ambient “Limonlu Bahce” or lemon garden with hip restauranteurs sitting in the shade of the lemon trees and sipping a most delectable lemonade.  

ps. I am writing this post under the shade of another lemon tree, this time in a garden in Cirali, a small village near Antalya in a valley on the beach. This place is a historical site so any new development must be as traditional and unobtrusive as possible. Pansiyons (or small inns—stucco and wood cabins—run mostly by families) line the coast. The one we are staying at is run by the family of Oguzhan’s friend. We’re off to the beach soon, photos to come!    

The mosque is another Mimar Sinan wonder: Suleymaniye Mosque, 1558.

The baklava is from Karaköy Güllüoğlu (kah-rah-coy Gu-lu-oh-lu), the first baklava shop in Istanbul (1949).

Every morning we ride the ferry from the Anatolian side to the European one. It’s a great way to see some of Istanbul’s oldest and most glamorous monuments.

May 19th commemorates Ataturk’s journey across Turkey to rally support for his nationalist party. In preparation, there have been several (peaceful) protests against the current government. We witnessed one on our ferry ride this morning. A group of young people started singing several anthems of the Turkish republic. Within seconds, everyone on the ferry joined in—even the captain! As the ferry pulled into the dock, the passengers erupted in a Turkish version of “Bella Ciao”.   


The Selimiye (seh-lee-mee-yeh) Mosque in Edirne (eh-deer-neh), commissioned by the Sultan Selim II. Built by the famous architect, Mimar Sinan, between 1569-1575

A photo of Erhan, Oguzhan’s older (not oldest) brother.

A real-deal bazaar underneath the Mosque. 

Keep count of the number of times you see Ataturk!