24 Jul 2021

In the seventies, we had four different routes with my parents during the summer months: Silifke, Datça, Ayvalık and Bodrum.

Silifke and Yumurtalık were the locations we most frequently went mostly because of my father’s work. Since my father was the subcontractor for the Iraq-Turkey Oil Pipeline, we usually spent our summers on that route.

This is how I got to know our southern coast; both from what I saw throughout our journeys on the road and what I experienced at each location we stayed. We used to directly go to Antalya by car, and I still remember the exact order of our route afterwards: Manavgat, Alanya, Anamur, Silifke, Cennet and Hell Cave, Maiden’s Castle, Mersin, Adana and Yumurtalık; I used to take great pleasure in counting the mileage signs from the back seat. So few accommodation facilities on the road that a list of their names wouldn’t even fill a small notebook, a few shabby restaurants, and farmer aunties and uncles selling their produce on the road.

At one point, my father had undertaken the construction of a military radar base in Datça Knidos, and that’s when I got to know the Datça peninsula. I remember the route starting from Sedir Island to Marmaris, Hisarönü, Datça and Knidos like it was yesterday. It was a herringbone asphalt road separated by two lines in the middle; the roads were empty, except for maybe a few trucks, tractors and private cars; the odd place to eat on the side of the road, and a few farmers scattered on the road selling their products. Besides, most of the roads were stabilized and gravel.

Ayvalık was another beautiful spot. I don’t remember how we ended up in Ayvalık, but the land that my father bought with a friend, located on the way to TRT on the island of Cunda, and the house built there was the place I considered as our summer house for many years. It was both a pleasure to go there, and a pleasure to spend time once there.

When the destination was Cunda, we always took the Çanakkale route, which meant Tekirdağ meatballs on the way, the Eceabat ferryboat, the Eceabat messy fish, Çanakkale buttermilk and roadside sales/sellers along the Çanakkale mountains who were mostly ‘Alamancıs’ (Turkish guest workers from Germany) as they were referred to at that time. Coming to Turkey on holiday from the Netherlands or Germany they used to sell sewing machines, blenders, utensils, etc. to locals.

Home life was beautiful in Cunda, both in the village and at the sea.

Getting down to the pier, hanging out in Ali’s cafe, the papalinas we ate at the restaurants with fishing boats lined up in front, the sheer pleasure of getting ice cream from the Roma Ice Cream Shop, our grocery shopping at the market in the back street, our unauthorized mischief in the ruined buildings and the sour fountain on the back road have always occupied my mind as the good old memories.

We used to go to the sea either by boat or by car to Orhan’s Place – now called Ortunç – via what I referred to as the ‘TRT’s way’.

And Bodrum.

Bodrum was also a special place for me.

Bodrum had a mysterious beauty, an untampered identity, and a virgin feeling that set it apart from the other holiday destinations.

Actually they all had these qualities, but Bodrum had that je ne sais quoi.

When my father said, “We are going to Bodrum” for the first time, I did not know what to expect, but after spending time there, the memories I acquired were much more emotional than my other experiences.

In those days, you would enjoy the beauty of Bodrum’s town center during the evenings and enjoy the sea from the southern coast of the peninsula during the day.

Let’s see what I remember from the Bodrum town center:

The Bars Street, Han Tavern, Laterna Restaurant, that tiny version of Hadigari, veggie doner place, the small ice cream shop, little doughnut (lokma) shop and others. And of course the Halicarnassus Disco. We should not forget the sandals and sponge manufacturers. There was also Eylül, where we used to have soup after we left Halicarnassus in the early hours of the morning.

The locals of Bodrum were also naïve at the time, just like Bodrum itself. They were kind, hospitable, helpful and not greedy. So were the guests…

We used to run into Zeki Müren on the street. Müren wasn’t a lady or a gentleman, but a master from time immemorial.

I will never forget, how my mother forgot her red sunglasses on the wall of a primary school on the way from Bars Street to Halicarnassus, only to find it at the exact location the next day.

On that same street (in fact near the school) my parents’ friend Bleda had a house by the sea. I have stayed there, and have even dipped in the sea in front of her house.

In those days, one would go out of Bodrum for the sea, and in the evening, life would take off on the Bars Street and so on.

We would spend the days discovering the different coves. Sometimes on daily boat tours, and sometimes by car.

At that time, the only facility in Bodrum that could be referred to as large and luxurious was TMT. I had never been there, but I knew about it.

I met Captain Doksan on our boat tours. If I’m not mistaken his name was Mustafa Doksan. One year after we met, he told us that he could arrange something called a Blue Cruise for us, and he did. You should have seen the sands of Cleopatra Beach, and the beauty of the Seven Islands back then!

On the south side of the peninsula were Bitez and Gümbet, followed by Yahşi, Kargı, Ortakent (a river used to flow through it, I used to catch mullets there) and at the far end Akyarlar, Karaincir (even after 45 years, I still vividly remember the lady who made raw meatballs and doughnuts under an awning on the beach in Karaincir) and the beach stretching towards Turgutreis were among the various spots we went to for swimming.

There were also the coves on the north side of the peninsula, which were difficult to access due to uneven roads, and where there wasn’t any place to stay even if you were to go. These spots were known for their tangerine orchards and empty lands, and were chosen by people who came to Bodrum from the big cities for building summerhouses or estates. Torba, Gündoğan, Türkbükü, Yalıkavak and at the far end Gümüşlük. Back then, I was really in love with the view of Torba from the road above.

My mother still goes to Gündoğan during the summer months, to the Cennet Evler (Paradise Houses) development, which had been built for people who worked for the Foreign Service officers.

I spent my teenage years in Çeşme.

The sports I did and my circle of friends mostly directed me towards İzmir-Çeşme.

Alaçatı didn’t even exist back then, well, it did, but you wouldn’t even want to go near there by car.

Şantiye, Ardıç and the Yıldız Cape were the places we stayed; the 4th Gate, Aya Yorgi and Paşalimanı were the places we went to swim; Dokuzbuçuk, Çardak and Paparazzi were the clubs we went to; Kumrucu Hüseyin, Altınkapı and Dost Pide were the places we ate at. From Altınyunus to Turban, from pickles to ice cream shops and bikers, and of course, from the ‘gates’ of Ilıca beach to Metin Oktay and Mustafa Denizli, whom we came across while walking on the street every day… Those were the very, very good days.

Let’s revert back to Bodrum.

Where was I? Paradise Houses, where my mother resides.

Also known as Madness Houses.

How is it that people (and their families) who have been well-educated, who have seen the world, and who are well-versed in diplomacy because of their occupation, can never get along with one another other, but have continuous arguments, and control a development where it is FORBIDDEN to step on the grass, bring a dog, leave a towel, eat next to a sunbed, jump into the sea, stand on the left, sit on the right, let alone breathe. You even need to be of a certain age to be allowed to stand in the shade of the tree by the sea. 

My wife couldn’t take it anymore one day and asked, “Where are the gas chambers?”

From the 70s when I went to Bodrum with my parents, to the 80s from which time they have been in Gündoğan, to those days when I went to Bodrum for vacation with my friends from Çeşme to recent years as my mother has been in Gündoğan and because I have been going there on vacation with my family and friends. During this 45-year period, I have had the opportunity to observe Bodrum with despair and sadness.

In general, I try to begin my articles with the problematic issues I observe and end with the solutions I can think of.

This time it’s the other way around; I started off on a positive note, and am ending off on a low one.

In horror, I have seen how we have slaughtered such a wonderful jewel.

My 20-day Bodrum holiday—if you can call it a holiday—was spent watching what should not be done and how.

  – Clean avenues, streets and roads, worthy of a holiday resort,

  – Vast areas of greenery and trees befitting these beautiful beaches,

  – Good and reasonably priced restaurants and facilities,

  – Honest people liaising between tourists and accommodation opportunities, 

  – Vacationers who do not take unnecessary luxury with them,

  – People whose voices are used for speaking and conversing,

  – The ‘humbleness’ that should belong to people who have hoarded millions,

  – The good manners and conduct that one would expect from boat owners and seamen,

  – People that can carry their wealth,

  – The notion of taste,

  – Quality,

  – Infrastructure,

  – Respect,

  – And finally, the peace worthy of a vacation, a holiday.

Unfortunately I couldn’t see any of these.

I don’t even want to write about the things I’ve seen.

The only good thing I saw was Bağarası Restaurant and Ümmühan Hanım’s (and her family) delicious food and uncompromising attention to their work.

Author’s question:

When you reach the top of the slope, you will see Bodrum / Do not think that you will leave as the same person as you came / The ones before you were the same / They all left their minds in Bodrum… (Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı)

If the poet wrote this stanza today, what changes would he make, and in which lines?