The southwest coast of Turkey is remote and not readily accessible by car. Jagged, pine smothered, coastal mountains drop precipitously into the Adriatic Sea, making road construction difficult and dangerous.
The best touring is done the same way they have gotten to this coastal region for the past three thousand years, by boat. Major harbors like Marmaris and Bodrum provide a gateway from the inland towns for anyone wishing some coastal exploration.
The charter boat of choice is called a Gulet. These fifty to one hundred foot long, double masted, schooners originated as fishing vessels but in the late sixties the designed morphed into luxury yachts. Their beauty, the friendly Turkish people and the mystique of sailing to exotic ruins in otherwise inaccessible bays opened this region to tourism.
The channel was well marked with a sign of greeting in English. We headed toward the quiet southern anchorage leaving the city to our port. We nestled in close to the shallows amongst other cruising yachts and dinghied ashore to tie up in a park like setting.
The clean, welcoming city of Marmaris surprised me. The old market area is closed to vehicles and a roof encloses the street. In New York it would become a dark and dangerous place to be. But in Turkey the shops keepers make it welcoming. They stand outside their stores and invite you in, some are even funny…Welcome, come in, are you rich? Most all of the shops that we passed featured leather. Shoes, bags, coats. John introduced us to Robin, a shopkeeper, teacher and designer who he done business with before. There was no getting away from Robin without an hour of laughter, refreshments and of course bags in our hands.
The wide waterfront promenade showcased the true beauty of the Gulets. The pride taken by the boat’s owners was evident in the beautiful wood and tiptop condition of every boat we passed. After we walked through the immaculate town, past restaurants, parks and shops, I realized that the special care the Turks took in their boats was the same special care they gave to everything we passed.
A meal in a Turkish restaurant starts with a warm greeting and then a tour of their kitchen. The warming ovens are opened for a view of their offering of the day; the ingredients described in detail. The freshness of their metzes, displayed in refrigerated glass cases, are explained. The counters and cook tops sparkle.
I was totally impressed by the whole place, except for one thing. I never saw a women working anywhere except as checkouts in the grocery. None in the shops or the restaurants or on the Gulets. If they were there, they were hidden or just too few for me to notice. They were out shopping and walking with friends or children but not alone. A few wore scarves to cover their heads. So that did give me pause, but it was their culture I was there to see, not more of my own.