When we travel from one country to another, despite the level of research we do, I can never really know what we will find when we arrive.
It is for this reason we like to take a ““peek”” at a place before committing to an entire winter there. We were glad we took this approach in Morocco. While an interesting place to visit, it was not a place we felt we would be happy for an entire winter. We again peeked in Montenegro and that peek helped us to relax all summer long, confident that we would be happy there for the winter.
Here it is August, and we still haven’t seen our winter home of Kas, Turkey. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to travel that far South and East when so much of our summer plans are North or West. So, we are crossing our fingers.
But having arrived in Turkey only two weeks ago, what we have seen of Turkey, we love. Easy for me to say now…
I must say, I had my reservations. I’m not sure why there was so much uncertainty with Turkey. Perhaps it was comments from family or friends who don’t know the Turkey of today. Perhaps it was due to my own “Western” – centric tendencies.
You see, Tukey is – well, Eastern, or at least, middle Eastern. By the time we make it to the Bosporus canal, we will be straddling the dividing line between two continents. We can’t go any further East and remain in Europe. Officially, we are on the Asian subcontinent.
Perhaps that is why recently, I have been at once feeling like the travel we have been doing is getting, well, redundant. I suppose if you do anything for long enough it can lose its “Alice in Wonderland” feel and after our 5th summer aboard and 4th summer cruising in Europe, we are feeling …. Well, comfortable I suppose. And it is the DIS-comfort that I usually like about travel. The getting outside of our comfort zone which is where the real work and the real personal discovery happens. I just don’t want to be too far outside of my comfort zone.
So, just in the nick of time, we leave the “West” and arrive in the “East.” Of course, we have been traveling in the Eastern Hemisphere for a while now having just passed the 26th parallel East. And we are shaking things up again by being here.
Many of the islands just 10 miles away from the Turkish Coast are Greek. Why? Because the entire Dodecanese Island group originally belonged to Italy following the first World War but became Greek after the second World War. It makes traveling these islands and navigating interesting given that there is just a line on a chart separating the Greek waters from the Turkish. I have looked up to see a lovely island oriented perfectly to find a protected anchorage given the winds, only to discover moments later that its Greek – so we continue.
But it is remarkable, given that, even though many Greek Islands are a stone’s throw away, the feel of the island, the language, the religion, the currency, the flag, the food, the history… are all totally different.
When we first arrived and got settled and I peddled to the grocery store with Kim, I felt at once despondent. A Crushing feeling of overwhelm came over me – and it shocked me. Staring into the dairy case trying to discern the Turkish word for “butter” after spending 3 months learning the Greek words, left me lost. At once realizing that despite having achieved some level of proficiency finding the Greek products which I could use to prepare the foods my family loves – I realized that I was starting all over again. Rather than feeling excited at the prospect of learning a whole new lexicon of foreign words and phrases and discovering a whole new flavor profile of delicious food, I just felt exhausted with the effort of starting over again. All the new words, useful only a week ago, useless for my endeavor today. Even the word for “Thank you”, the first and most important word we ever learn even before the lines are on the dock, eluded me for the first week. I just could not learn this word. I practiced it repeatedly and the next day, it would fail on my tongue. (Tesekkurler) by the way.
An acquaintance from Montenegro sent me an article today -which was timely given the changes that I have been grappling with. This person was grappling with his own changes – far greater than those that I have been dealing with. You see, alone and while on a passage, at night, he was knocked unconscious and awoke many hours later aground. Ultimately, he lost his home, his boat, and all his plans for the coming months.
According to Dr. Robert Puff, PHD writing on Physcologytoday.com, one’s ability to adapt to change is the determining factor in happiness. We all know that change is inevitable, so being able to anticipate and adapt to the change we all know is coming will decide one’s happiness.
I have often said that this lifestyle would either attract people for whom change is no adversary or it will make a person this way. One cannot be happy cruising if they are averse to change. There is very little about this life that is known or set in stone. The stops we make, the plans we research, everything we do is left to the vagaries of the weather and a machine which, regardless how well it is maintained, will incapacitate your trip from time to time.
This is not the first time I have become overwhelmed in a new country. But this is the first time I had to fight back feelings of panic given that we will be living here for the next 6 months. This was the first time that I had to admonish myself to keep my mind and spirit and heart open to all the new experiences. And for these first two weeks, I am breathing into the change and embracing the newness of this experience.
And my disposition has drastically improved. For one thing, I may not know how to say or read “butter” but 90 percent of the food we eat on board comes from the market and the market here is second to NONE. By the time we made it to the market that first Saturday, I felt my mood lighten and my spirit lift and within 20 minutes of my arrival, I was joyful. Stunned at the feeling of love and joy that overcame me, I had to take a moment to ask why? Why did standing amongst these lovely farmers, and rural shoppers surrounded by the most incredibly tasting fruit and vegetables I have ever eaten have such a profound impact on my peace of mind. I’m not sure but I think it is this: First, all the fresh food was a reminder of the abundance that we enjoy in our life. Regardless of any materialistic thing, the fresh food, and the abundance of it, is an enormous gift and nothing to take for granted. Alec added that the energy in the market is higher, and I think it is the energy emanating from the food as well as the people who shop and grow what is sold here.
I left with very little in my bag from the grocery store that day, but the bags upon bags of fresh fruit and veg we found in the market – you can’t believe! And while, as a longstanding coffee snob, I’m struggling to adapt to a very tea centric culture, I have enjoyed a few cups and I can see that I may well be a convert, at least while here anyway.
I am reminded of the grocery store trip in Italy, overjoyed I was that I finally found what I thought was tahini and bought several large jars to discover a few hours later, on board, that we had bought mustard. None of us a fan of the condiment, I found a lovely recipe for honey mustard dressing and now I can’t keep enough mustard on board!
We rode our bikes the Ancient Greek sanctuary called Didyma and it was amazing. Founded in the 8th century BC, evidence of the temples to the twins, Apollo and Artemis dominates the grounds but other deities were also worshipped here. Look for people in the photo for some idea of the size and scope of this remarkable project.
I hope to write several more posts about the Turkish culture in the coming months but what I can tell you today after this short time here is that the handful of people we have met, are kind and warm and hospitable. The fruits and vegetables are incredible. The cost of living is incredibly low – but sadly for the Turks, inflation is very high. I feel grateful that I don’t have a bank account full of Turkish lira losing value every day. The waters here are unspoiled and the country incredibly clean and the historically significant archeological sites are remarkable.