Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Border line Turkey

A full moon rises over the fuel dock at Didim marina

It's the brute functionality of Turkey which hit us between the eyes. So much ugliness spreading around the gulf just south of Didim, our port of entry. Ugly resort developments spreading over the hillsides of Bodrum peninsula like some hideous skin disease, a rash of fish farms turning the waters of Gulluk gulf murky green, the colour and consistency of liquid pea puree. For a few days after our arrival in Turkey our spirits took a dive, and came up clogged, as did the filter on the water-maker.

A development gone wrong in Gulluk gulf near ancient Iassos 

Fish farming in Gulluk gulf (and below)

This is a country which values the things we in the so-called west have made such a virtue of in the past 30 years - efficiency, progress, growth, upward mobility. All conspicuously absent across the water, and what a price the Greeks are now paying for the scant attention they've paid to the fine print of the prosperity gospel. So the surprise to us, coming back to Turkey, our de facto country of residence, is how foreign it feels after Greece. Something has shifted for us, and we're not quite sure yet what that something is. We're hoping it will click back into position soon.

Enki moored for the first time at a restaurant jetty

Looking back from the jetty at Cokertme

A lot has happened in Turkey in the three months we've been in Greece. There was the boil which burst in Taksim square just after we left in June, releasing a big septic build-up of anti-government resentment. That's not finished with, but we've had a spattering of conversations over the summer with people who know Turkey much better than we do, and the consensus is that Turkey won't blow apart...not now anyway.

Cokertme beach

A couple of nights ago we met a man on the pebbly beach at Cokertme whose opinions on Turkey's future, had he offered them to us, would have been seriously valuable. He approached us as we sat at a dinner table by the water drinking Efes (Turkey brews good beer). He was dressed as a conservative gentleman dresses in the summer, in light slacks and an ironed short-sleeved shirt. His English was precise and correct. He was full of smiles. He apologised for interrupting us, but said he'd noticed the boat on the quay, and had to say hello. His good friend Geoff Brown was head of the Australian air force. In April, he and his wife had visited Geoff in Australia. He glowed as he told us about what they'd been shown - the military museum in Canberra, of course, but most of all they'd enjoyed Sydney harbour, which they'd cruised in the company of a naval frigate.

Peak hour rush for the anchorage

The man who pulled up a chair at our table on the beach was Mehmet Erten, recently retired and now renovating his house in Cokertme which is about as small a place as you could want to live anywhere and about as far away as you could hope to get from Ankara and still enjoy some of the benefits of modernity. Less than a month ago he was General Mehmet Erten, commander of the Turkish air forces, but as those of you who are alert to Turkish politics will perhaps recall, in early August the Erdogan government cleaned out the top brass of all four sections of the Turkish military, and General Erten was amongst those relieved of their responsibilities.

Look at me! I can swim now

He did not tell us this, but it wasn't hard to put two and two together. Retirement comes in all manner of forms, and his would have kept us talking far into the night, but it was our retirement he was interested in. He showed such admiration. "We Turks are not really seafaring people," he said. He had bought himself a Zodiac and was getting to know it. He wrote his name, his wife's name and their phone number on a piece of paper and invited us to find them when we next visit Cokertme and "drink some wine". We'd be delighted.

The flinty soil of Turkey

As well as feeling our way back into Turkey, we like everyone else are wondering what "the world" is going to do about Syria. My morning routine is to check email, the marine weather forecasts and the BBC, in that order, but these past few days I've been looking at the BBC before the weather.

We are not blase about the potential for a military "intervention" to force a change in our plans. Last winter the nightmare in Syria was possible to talk away as we sat comfortably in a marina in the south west of Turkey. This winter, there may be civil war in Egypt as well as Syria, and Turkey is hardly a passive bystander in this region. Interesting times.

Sailing down Gokova gulf
And in case you think we've lost the plot and our life on Enki has become one long public radio background briefing, be assured that we continue to pull off some very fine sailing exhibitions, unwatched but massively enjoyed nonetheless. Our days are determined by a) how my finger is healing - soon to be struck off the agenda (yay!); b) the working order of boat machinery (currently a small glitch with the watermaker, but since that item is a luxury we'll say no more); c) the direction and force of the wind and d) the search for a desirable anchorage which still has room for us. This last is the most taxing thing we do, believe it or not, it still being August and there being far too many people on boats rushing (literally) for the best spots and some of those not what you'd call Turkish gentlemen.

A nicely balanced boat making good speed

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