The weather around the Mediterranean in winter is pretty mild. It rains a lot. Given that there is no rain in summer, the winter rain is very important for this region. You get beautiful sunny days in between rains. It rarely snows.
After spending two days in Mersin at my brother’s home, we are getting ready for our trip to Datca. That means, we will be driving almost the entire length of the Mediterranean, from East to West, until we reach the Datca Peninsula (can’t wait to see Zephyros Hotel again!) which separates the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea.
It is nighttime, Al and I go to bed. I hear my brother going room to room at his house, sounding like something is not right. I get up and find him looking for his wallet. We cannot leave without his driver’s license. It is almost midnight. After a 45 minutes search, we finally find it. I jokingly tell him: “Maybe, something is trying to stop us from going.”
We leave at 5:30 in the morning of December 31. It is dark and unusually cold outside. As we drive, we see the first signs of the morning. Our first stop is Tasucu where my grandparents and my mother are buried at the small graveyard there. I am visiting my mother’s grave after five years. I am still not at ease accepting her early departure. But, I am also feeling that it might make me feel her more. I want to see the olive tree that my brother planted by her foot. She is becoming the tree I love the most. Immortal! Her grave is covered with tiny red flowers.
My sister and her fiancé join us. They give warm spinach borek for us to eat on the road. We could only stay ten minutes. It is freezing and windy. We hug them and say our goodbyes.
We drive many hours after leaving Tasucu. The roads are smooth and empty. We watch the daylight starting to highlight the Taurus Mountains running parallel to the sea. We watch the Mediterranean turning into shimmering silver with the first sun light piercing through the thick dark clouds. It is windy, but no rain.
We talk non-stop. There is so much to catch up on since summer.
We drive through the banana, olive, and citrus orchards. The sea is silvery slate blue telling us that it is not time to swim yet. The morning light is reflecting off the water and off the occasional cargo ships. Winding roads take us through many villages and towns. At every turn, we marvel at the beauty of the small coves with sparkling waters, imagining what it will look like when the summer sun heats our backs while we lay on the beach.
The weather suddenly gets worse. It starts to rain. The rain then turns into sleet. Now, it is mixed with snow. This is the first time in my life seeing snow in the Mediterranean. Very strange. We pass Demre, home of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus). We are now going through a town called Finike, a cute Mediterranean town with beautiful views of the sea and the Greek islands.
As we just pass the last building in Finike, we come to an uphill sharp turn. There are small pebbles mixed with snow and ice on the road, probably blown off from the rocky soil on the curb. My brother tries to avoid the skidding, but it is no use. We are already in the oncoming traffic. There is a car coming towards us. We are face to face. I can see the driver, his wife, and a little kid at the back. Both cars try to avoid each other. The driver of the oncoming car keeps veering to the right to avoid us. But, our car is still out of control. We cannot prevent the collision. That slow motion! Every second feels like minutes. And crash! The driver sides of each car get totally damaged. Parts from the cars are flying in the air. We finally stop. We first run to the other car to see if they are OK. The little boy is scared. He is hysterically crying. Nobody is hurt. Nobody! Thanks to the two skilled drivers, we avoid major injuries.
We call the police, tow truck, and the hotel we reserved for the night so that they can send us a van to pick us up. It is now very windy. The ice and snow are hitting our faces hard. While my brother is making calls and talking to the other driver, Al and I walk to the nearest restaurant. We walk in. They are preparing for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. They are in their own world. They welcome us. The give us a tray full of teas. We walk back in the sleet and snow hurting our faces and take teas to the road workers who have come to help us to direct the traffic since our car is still in the lane and could get hit easily.
Two hour passes by. The sleet is becoming quite hard. We all walk to the restaurant. The workers are very helpful. But, I am sure we are nuisance for them carrying the mud and rain in everytime we enter.
At one point during our back and forth between the restaurant and the accident scene, we see a beautiful rainbow over the water.
Two hours later, we are finally warm by the heaters in the restaurant. The car is towed. Our van arrives. Finally, we are driving in the dark towards Kalkan, our night stop. All the beautiful sights I was planning to take many many pictures of are now gliding past the window of the van battered with sleet. A slow change in the weather. The sun comes up as it is setting down for the New Year’s Eve. The Mediterranean shimmers again. The mountains sparkle.
We check into a small hotel. None of us into big celebrations on New Year Eve’s. But, why not. We are alive. We already have a reservation at Mussakka Restaurant. It is filled with British people wildly celebrating New Year. We eat great food. We drink our raki. At every toast, we say the same thing “we are alive!”
We could have entered the New Year at a hospital or even worse. I vowed to take care of myself and live my life with full enjoyment. It could have been a short one!
After our meal, just at midnight, we walk down to the shore where bonfires are warming the cold night, fireworks are blaring. I hug and kiss Al. Another British couple hugs us. One minute bonding! Now, we are in 2016.
A few days later, Al writes this poem:
New Year’s Eve, 2016
A woman worked her way down the block
to the park
slowly and deliberately.
She was in her eighties.
Her dog, the same,
with hobbling paws;
each step was troubled.
They did this every morning
In their own gray worlds, there was nothing to notice around them.
Until the dog died, of sadness, we guessed.
In the tow truck after the accident,
driving along the Mediterranean shore,
the weather changed abruptly.
What had been sleet and clouds and slippery bits of gravel
grinding on each other as we slid wide around the turn
was now a Turner painting.
Three pristine, white ships self-illuminating brightly
with heavy rivers of sunlight tumbling down as if the Creator himself would appear above them.
A rainbow whooshing up from the water has the deep red of pomegranates
against the slate blue background.
As we drive into town, the shore becomes cut-out silhouette art,
black buildings on deep blue sky.
Dinner celebration silly hats wine laughing deep emotions friendship warmth hope
The woman has a new puppy to combat the loneliness.
It bounces and pulls and sniffs at every passerby-
a lumbering, big-pawed bundle of screaming excitement.
Like any puppy would.
But the surprise is the woman
in jeans and a short jacket
with a lift in her step
saying Hello to all she meets.