Saturday, April 6, 2013

Asia Again, First Impressions of Turkey.

It's the 4th  of April and where's our boat? Delayed a day is 'where' and we're not really surprised. We're in Marmaris, Turkey and this is not another hardship post. Marmaris sits nestled deep in a picturesque Mediterranean bay, almost completely enclosed by mountainous terrain. The town stretches along a beach for several miles.

Ataturk statue on the Marmaris waterfront
  We're told the resident population is about thirty five thousand but at the height of the "season" its about three hundred thousand! This time of year, before the temperatures rise and the tourist hordes arrive, it is a lovely place. There are three marinas in the bay and two of them are the largest I've ever seen. There are supposed to be over five thousand yachts based out of Marmaris at any given time. As a result just about any yachting need can be accommodated. If they don't have it in the shops they can make it or order it. In general things are very well organized. We've been here three days and have some of the lay of the city. I had picked our hotel hoping it would be a good location and it was even better in that the shuttle buses to the marinas are within a two minute walk and the best hardware store in town is across the street.
Infinite variations on Baklava
There is good baklava on every corner and a wonderful fruit and veggie market a few blocks away. We have very good yachtie friends from previous years here and we've already met others. This is shaping up very well.

The trip over was typical non-rev travel. We caught an 0600 flight from Arcata to SFO and then couldn't get on any flights up to SEA. So we took a taxi over to Oakland where an Alaska Airlines flight had seats available to SEA. We spent a nice night  with Rod and Terri Fisher at their beautiful home  in Gig Harbor. 

Rod, Terri and two old dogs.
Got into World Business Class (yippee) to Amsterdam on DL, and had a bit of a struggle finding a standby seat on any flight out of AMS to Istanbul. But we got lucky and the last KLM flight, which was overbooked by three, got us on and we arrived in Istanbul about 0200. Tired but happy, as they say. 
The Bosphorus from Topkapi Palace
 Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium, are there  names for any other  city that conjure up as much history? The Bosphorus strait divides the city and separates Europe and Asia. Hagia Sophia was built by Justinian in the 6th century, on the grandest possible scale, to be the greatest church in Christendom. It became a mosque with the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century and a museum with the coming of Ataturk and the secular state of Turkey in the 20th century.  

Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque

Dome of the Blue Mosque
Our hotel was in Sultanahmet, the oldest part of the city, within a few hundred yards of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, the major-major tourist sights in town. So we did all those places and the usual tourist stuff, which in a city like Istanbul, really does have to be done. We each had great Turkish baths. We did a Bosphorus ferry tour and walked the streets of Sultanahmet and the Bazaar district.
A Huge Bazaar

Our Street

Old Sultanahmet
  These parts of the city are amazingly active and the streets are full of people. I think only Hong Kong, in my experience, has seemed as busy once the day gets going. We ate a lot of good basic food, almost always followed by tea and baklava. To finish off the stay we had a lovely rooftop dinner overlooking the Bosphorus with a very affectionate but demanding cat under the table.  The restaurant cats of Sultanahmet  fare very well.

The trip down to Marmaris was simple enough. We had tickets as "real people" on Pegasus Airlines to Dalaman and we used an A2B shuttle for the 100K ride over to Marmaris. So now, after a week,  we're over the jet lag and about as "back to normal" as we ever get.
Waterfront Marmaris
 Our initial impressions of Turkey and the Turks are very positive. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful. English is common. Istanbul is modern and very busy. Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports are sparkling new. Marmaris is equally bustling  and there is construction everywhere. The quality of work is far above what we've become accustomed to seeing in most of SE Asia. Turkey seems to be booming economically and the Turks are very industrious.  I will say we've seen only a little of the country so far but  I would be surprised if this is not born out further. Again, from what we've seen so far, there is almost no evidence of fundamentalist Islamic cultural pressure. People seem very much oriented towards the west.
Veggie market in Marmaris
 The Turks themselves are an impressive people. The men are big and hearty  and most of them, at whatever age, never seem to have lost a hair off their heads (sigh…). The younger generation of women are very attractive and casually western dressed. They tend to have dark hair and eyes but there are plenty of blue eyes mixed in for a little surprise. People are look heathy and active and there's little obesity. They do smoke those cigarettes, though. Janet is delighted to see so many cats. And the cats are almost all very sleek and healthy looking. They're also very tame and willing to let a stranger be friendly. Janet can get her cat 'fix' and these cats are obviously not abused by anybody. Speaks well for the people and culture when  the animals are well cared for.

Another cat gets love.
So the boat is supposed to be here tomorrow, the 5th. We may get unloaded late in the day but I have doubts about that, more likely the 6th. We'll take it over to Marmaris Yacht Marina and get to work on the red Sahara Desert sand that we're told will have coated everything coming up through Suez.


 6th of March

………..the ship got in about 1730 the 5th and there was no time to begin unloading. This morning they got two boats off but the wind built up to over twenty five knots directly on the beam and "operations were suspended". Fair enough because the last boat to come off did have problems. The wind is forecast to build up to forty knots tomorrow. If so we won't get off then either. Patience is a virtue, people have told me that all my life. Oh well…..

Our Ship Comes In...    

.....with Airstream still aboard.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet
Photos: As always, photos by Janet

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