After spending a day in Venice, we board the Turkish Airlines flight for Istanbul. I pick up a Turkish newspaper at the door. The flight attendant says “you are the only Turkish person on the plane.”
“Wow!” I say. I wonder if it is because Turkish Airlines is the best airline in Europe. Or, if it is because Turkey is very popular tourist destination. Either way (or both), that is wonderful.
Since I am the only Turkish person on the plane, nobody claps and cheers when we land in Istanbul. Too bad that I have missed the opportunity to feel the immediate cultural change starting with the Turks cheering the captain for landing.
After passport control, we switch to the domestic terminal for our Bodrum flight. Our luggages are being transferred all the way to Bodrum. We drink two cups of Turkish tea each and eat su borek (phyllo pastry) with cheese.
On our flight to Bodrum, I glue my face to the window and watch the landscape for an hour until we arrive in Bodrum. We pass the Meander River working its way like a giant silver snake through the fertile lands. We pass beautiful mountains and lakes. We started to descend and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. I cannot contain my excitement.
My brother, Mehmet, is waiting for us outside at Arrivals. I weave myself through the lingering passengers and run towards him. Al is coming behind me smiling. Hot summer air is hitting our faces.
Mehmet drives us directly to our favorite restaurant by our house: Tersane. Since this is a soccer game night with the Fenerbahce team competing against the Ukraine, the restaurant is remarkably empty.
The owner of Tersane, Mehmet Halil Bey comes and greets us. He tells us that my brother has been eating there a few times before our arrival. And he was suspecting that Mehmet could be my brother – I guess the curly hair gives that away.
Mehmet Halil Bey spends the winter months, when the restaurant is closed, making furniture. All the tables and chairs are made by him. They look beautiful. He says they are open after 10 in the morning and they place sun umbrellas and lounge chairs where the tables are. We promise to come in a few days.
We inhale the beautiful sea air. We are here! We are in Gokcebel, Bodrum. The sun is again doing its magic of giving us another magnificent sunset. Our table is next to the sea. The sea is calm. You can only hear the one-inch waves hitting the pebbles.
Mezes keep coming. Every morsel is spectacular. We drink raki. We then order Barbun (Red Mullet). Barbun platter comes with perfectly crisped small fish in olive oil. Alongside the waiter brings rocket (arugula) and shepherd salad. I add pomegranates molasses, salt and olive oil to the salad and keep tasting it until it is perfect.
I look for Badem, the restaurant’s mascot dog. His tail starts to wiggle. I hug him as if I am hugging the entire Bodrum. Yes, we live in Keyport, New Jersey. And we love Keyport. But, we live here too. We love Bodrum too. Both of them are our home.
And tonight, we start our first evening at a beautiful restaurant on the Aegean seashore.