we finished our 2 weeks in istanbul and flew out to izmir on monday, its only about a 50 minute flight but it saved having to drive a car thru istanbul city. we arrived in the afternoon and picked up our rental car – a very nice, near new honda civic. its been a few years since i have had to drive on the wrong side of the road and it took a bit to get the hang of it again – but having sal as co-driver certainly helped! i think the round abouts are the hardest thing to get the hang of, it definitely still takes both of us to get round them! sal tells me where to go and i work on looking in the right place for traffic to give way to!
we had about an hour’s drive across to a town called mordoğan (underlined on map), we ended up stopping for lunch at a little seafood cafe in a place called balikliova, while i was trying to work out how to order some fish, a huge platter of salad, a couple of mezes and a bottle of water arrived at the table! i ended up just pointing at the yummy looking fish the couple were eating on the next table to get our fish! we arrived at our hotel, the mavi keci late afternoon, it was not easy to find as it was up a winding little cobblestone road on the side of the big hill overlooking the town. serdar’s sister serap, knew the owner and had arranged for us to stay there, we got the first night free as a result of some past favour owed! it was a beautiful small boutique hotel, lots of wonderful wood work and very comfortable rooms with a huge terrace separating the rooms from the dining area.
the fields surrounding the hotel were filled with ancient ruins, and scattered with grazing goats who have distinctive bells on their necks so you get this wonderful melody as they wander along feeding!
the second day we did a drive up and around the top of the peninsular, down the west side and back across to balikliova for lunch before completing the circle back to the hotel. it is all very quiet here, the roads have almost no cars on them and all the seaside villages have just the locals – although from the massive amount of holiday houses in some places and the many deserted restaurants its obvious that there is a huge influx of holidayers in the season. i think our timing has been perfect in doing this trip now, it would be much more difficult in another month – both the driving and finding accomodation etc.
that night derya cooked up a beautiful meal for us, just a simple baba ghanoush that was wonderfully smoky and garlicy, a serve of fresh calamari deep fried and a big salad. the next morning we headed off to drive down to a little village called ildir where we stopped for a tea looking out over the harbour and then we drove onto the village of alaçati which is just out of çeşme. it was a pretty place, narrow cobblestone streets, with the main part all closed to traffic, lots of lovely old stone buildings and filled with restaurants, cafes and shops. it was very touristy, but in a nice way and again because we are here before the season really kicks off, it was quiet enough. we had a bite of lunch and then headed into find our hotel we had booked in çeşme.
this looked simple on google maps! of course it was rather different in reality and our first real test driving in turkey, first of all the road we were driving along into çeşme became more and more congested as it approached town, it soon became obvious it was market day, then the road promptly ended where it was blocked off to vehicles! we worked out an alternative route which took us down cobblestone streets so narrow the mirrors were just about knocked off the car, we then got caught in a 3 way traffic jam – no possibilty of passing each other, and a battle of will and wits over who would back up to let the other through! i won with my deft use of english against 2 car loads of people who only spoke turkish!
we finally got down into the center of town where the narrow lanes continued, except they were mainly one way, which people mainly, although not always heeded! it also became obvious that our hotel with ‘free parking’ was on a lane that was closed to all cars anyway! after a couple of ciruits of the general area around the tiny lanes, we decided to get as close as possible by driving the wrong way down a one way lane and then parking close enough for sal to find the hotel on foot and ask about the parking.
5 minutes later she returned to the car, we were directed to another hotel that would provide the parking for our hotel! i managed to turn the car around and start to drive out the right direction this time, when we got to the start of the street though we found our path blocked by parked cars and taxis and a row of steel bollards in front of them preventing any possibility of us exiting the street we were in!!
after a minute of so of blind panic i got sal to jump out again and go across to where the taxi drivers were gathered to ask them how the hell we were meant to escape, i think she got a lecture about driving the wrong way down a one way street, into an are that we werent allowed into anyway – but they relented and one taxi driver jumped in his taxi to make a path out clear, as he started the taxi one of the large steel bollards auto-magically disappeared down into the road so we were able to make good our escape!
we found the other hotel, who basically told us we could park in the street anywhere where we could find a space! not sure why the hotel we were staying in didnt just tell us the same! luckily we had already repacked so we only needed day packs with essentials in them and the suitcases could stay in the car, so it was no great effort to walk from the car to our hotel.
sal and went for a walk along the waterfront and stopped in a bar to have a beer, across from us was a small timber motor boat with a group of about 4 guys sitting on it, they got glasses out and started drinking raki and sal commented that it looked like they were setting up for a party. we went back out with kai to look for somewhere for dinner and ended up walking past the boat again – sure enough the party was in full swing, a newspaper for a tablecloth on the engine cover and a spread of mezes, octopus, crab and fish.
i stopped and asked if we could take a photo, they spoke no english but waved us onto the boat to join them! we ended up sharing their feast – and about 3 bottles of raki!! another couple of guys joined the group and they spoke english so then the party was in full swing. they were the most wonderful and generous hosts and we had an incredible night with them.
we staggered back to the hotel at the end of the night and have suffered all day today!
today we have driven down to selçuk where we will visit the ruins at the ancient greek city of ephesus.