My previous posts were dedicated to the other three words that describe Blue Voyages: Hedonism, History and Nature. Now, it is time for Culture and Food. The two inseparable words. Because, in Turkey, eating is an experience, it is part of the culture. Eating is not just taking-in food.
In this post, I am covering the Turkish culture that is associated with the Blue Voyage.
Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli, a famous Turkish author, used to pack some watermelons, ice, bait, and fishing gear and go on the sponge divers’ boats, wooden sailboats called gulets, with his friends and explore the coastline in Gokova Bay near Bodrum. This year is 1925. And he was in exile (for three years) in Bodrum for publishing a story about the Turkish army fugitives. What an exile!
He was spellbound by the nature and the people in Bodrum and ended up spending 25 years there. He used “Fisherman of Halicarnassus” (Halicarnassus is Bodrum’s ancient name) as his alias in his pen name.
Thanks to him, his leisurely coast-exploring with his intellectual friends later turned into an international tourist attraction: Blue Voyage/Blue Cruise in Turkey. And the sleepy town of Bodrum became the Turkish Riviera.
I am so envious of him that he could continue to explore the area and write about it for many, many years.
After my first blue voyage in 1997, I am absolutely addicted to it. It was always on my bucket list (along with hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia landscapes). However, I have not checked the item off my bucket list yet, since I cannot get enough of it.
The core of the Blue Voyage, as defined in 1925 and many hundred years before, is actually the core of the Turkish culture.
Turks are very loyal to their friends and family. We met a village woman in Kayakoy(Karmylassos in Greek) during our off-shore excursion in 2012. Here is the story she told us: During the exchange of Turks and Greeks in 1923 after the Turkish Independence War, the Greeks from Kayakoy (link) were given a little time to pack and they could not take all their belongings with them to Greece. That time, no one knew if they ever would be able to come back to their own village or even to get their belongings. This Turkish village woman still has a locked chest that was given to her grandmother by the grandmother’s Greek neighbor. They were very close friends and lived in harmony as everyone else in the village, Turks and Greeks mixed, until imperialism brought its dark clouds over this beautiful village.
It is almost ninety years and no one has opened the chest. This woman is still keeping the chest with the hope that the great-grand kids of the Greek woman may come and ask about it.
Turks are generous to visitors. The same woman in Kayakoy handed grocery bags to us and told us to pick cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini from her garden. My friends kept asking how much it would cost us. We took our free vegetables to the chef on the boat.
Turks don’t just say “Hello!”, they want to know if you are all right, and if everything is well taken care of. When our kids returned from a disco one night when we were staying at Antique Theater Hotel in Bodrum, they decided to swim in the pool. They were a little tipsy, I guess. Instead of warning the kids for the potential noise, the waiter brought a fruit platter and bottled water to them.
Turks find ways to make you feel better. In one of our blue voyages, the captain took my son on the dingy and they rowed it for an hour looking for sea urchins by the rocks. He just wanted to give him an enticing experience. If you are at a restaurant and the evening is getting colder, the waiter will bring you a fleece or a woolen wrap.
Turks find ways to make you feel far better. When we were on Blue Voyage around Gokova Bay, we stopped at Cokertme. A minibus came and took all our dirty laundry. The next day, when we arrived in Bodrum to disembark the boat, our laundry was waiting for us all fresh and pressed. We flew to Istanbul with clean clothes to wear.
Turks do not hesitate to ask if what they want is going to make themselves feel better. We often ask the waiter to move our table right next to the water so we can enjoy the view and the waves. Immediately, a couple of waiters would be carrying the table and everything on it right where we want it. If it rains, then they will do the same thing in reverse.
Turks like to have the conveniences right at their fingertips. Almost in every stop we had during our blue voyages, we were never surprised to see boats pulling right next to our boat selling ice cream, boiled corn, gozleme (thin pastry filled with cheese and herbs), or souvenirs.
Turks love singing and dancing. Give them any opportunity, Turks are ready to sing and dance. The event could be a wedding, circumcision party, or just friends gathering. On blue voyage, you might be dancing on the boat or at a restaurant on the beach.
Turks just don’t eat a meal, they experience it: There is no second seating at restaurants in Turkey. When you sit down for dinner with your friends, you will be there many many hours. The food will keep coming. You never order all your food at once. Order a few. Eat a few. Order more. Eat more. And sip raki (a traditional Turkish drink) or Turkish wine throughout your many courses.
Now let’s talk about FOOD!
All the chefs we met on the boat made us feel like we are the VIP guests.
Here is a breakdown of the day’s food itinerary:
Wake up, swim.
Eat Breakfast: eggs (boiled, scrambled, omelet, etc), feta cheese, kasari cheese, honey, jams,butter, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage), sometimes crepes or pancakes, coffee, tea
Swim, read, explore sites and villages.
Drink Turkish Coffee: A perfect small cup of Turkish coffee
Eat Lunch: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables cooked to perfection. Silky eggplants, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, stuffed grape leaves, bean salads, green salads, potatoes, pasta, and for dessert: a fresh fruit platter and/or roasted almonds soaked in honey. Add a glass of wine to ease yourself for a nap or reading.
Nap, swim, read, mingle, explore sites and villages.
Have your 5-O’clock Tea time: Freshly baked chocolate cake or pastries or cookies with coffee and tea.
Mingle with friends. Cocktails before dinner.
Eat Dinner: Maybe fish or octopus that your captain had speared a few hours before dinner. Maybe grilled chicken or lamb chops. Fresh shepherd salad. More vegetables. Some with garlicky yogurt sauce and some with tomato sauce. Dessert: A fresh fruit platter.
Sing, dance, mingle, read, sleep.
In addition to all the meals you are eating on the boat, you are free to explore the food at the little villages. This adds to your experience of the rainbow of colors and tastes of the Turkish cuisine.