When you live in a vacation spot, there is a high chance that you do not see the crowds on the streets until eleven in the morning. This is the great time Al and I like to explore the quiet streets, watch the shop owners opening their stores, washing their storefronts, and drink mid-morning Turkish tea at restaurants and coffee shops.
This is one of these days. We wake up early and start walking from our home to Yalikavak. It is about an hour walk, with lots of uphills and downhills. Good, strenuous exercise. The scenery is beautiful. We pass by the whitewashed houses adorned with beautiful bougainvillea mixed in with blue and white jasmine and oleander bushes. We brush against the olive tree branches covered with green olives. We dream about when the little pomegranate fruits will turn into juicy giants.
We finally arrive Yalikavak. We walk through the backstreet, right behind the restaurant rows on the water, enjoying the quietness and shopkeepers talks. Most of the stores are not open yet. Some restaurants are already open serving Turkish breakfast.
We go to our friend Davendra Naidoo’s Le Cafe Restaurant. Davendra is Indian and he grew up in England. He ended up marrying a beautiful Turkish woman and moved to Bodrum. When he arrived, he knew only how to say “I love you” in Turkish (“seni seviyorum”) The next several months, his wife sent him on errand after errand for him to learn Turkish. After many years, he speaks fluent Turkish. He ended up opening Le Cafe right on the water at Yalikavak. His restaurant is one of the places you never feel hot in the hottest day of summers. There is a constant gentle breeze. Giant umbrellas on wheels overlap each other to keep the sun away. The waiters know how to adjust the umbrellas constantly to ensure you do not get direct sun.
Al and I sit down for a cup of Turkish tea. There is a young man beating a large octopus on the rocks. That is how you clean and tenderize octopus. I did it once when I was seventeen when my friend caught one with his spear gun. We ended up having a grilled octopus for dinner. The young man keeps pounding the octopus on the hard rocks just by the water. Then, he starts in circular motion rubbing the octopus on the rocks until it gives away light pink foams. As the foams increase, the dark colored octopus starts turning into pale white. I bet also that it gets tender while the dark skin washes away from the octopus. I walk there and see a bucketful of octopus all clean and ready to be delivered to the restaurants.
I have a haircoloring appointment. I leave Al with his computer. He is already typing away on another amazing story of his encounters in Turkey.
I come back in an hour. The gentle breeze at Le Cafe is still there. There is a large tourist group from all around the world finishing their late breakfast and enjoying the talk of the guide about Yalikavak. He mentions that there are a lot of foreigners who choose Yalikavak as their retirement place. He says British people buy houses close to the downtown so they do not need to buy a car. Given that dolmuses run to every corner of the peninsula and if you are patient to wait a few minutes, you can get away without a car and even start enjoying not having a car.
Al and I order our lunch. Ice-cold Efes beer, barbun (red-mullet), shepherd salad, and home-made fries. We enjoy every bite and every sip. I read Al’s story and it is beautiful. I am sure you will read it here soon.
I see another young man throwing stale bread into the water attracting hundreds of fish. He lowers his fishing line (no pole or mechanism to pull the fish up) with a bread piece attached to a single hook. He starts pulling melanur (or melanurya, “spanus melanuria”), beautiful silvery pan fish native to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. My brother and I used to fish in Tasucu early in the morning, catching melanur while watching the sunrise. Beautiful memories start pouring in. The fishermen starts throwing more bread to the sea to attract hundreds of more fish so that I can capture the beauty of a fish feeding frenzy.
After beer, we get sleepy. Naidoo thinks we need Turkish coffee. Our coffee comes with a small glass of water. That is how they serve Turkish coffee.
We say goodbye to Naidoo and walk to the Dolmus stop to go home. On the way, we stop at the grocery store and buy beautiful white figs, a bottle of Turkish wine, fragrant peaches, and some cheese for our afternoon snack.
At sunset, we walk to Tersane. We are meeting with my college friends from the Middle East Technical University (METU) for dinner. We order grilled octopus knowing that it has been caught in the early morning hours and cleaned on the rocks for us to enjoy.