Our time in Turkey is drawing to a close. At the end of this week we will set sail for Greece, turning the Euro2008 expedition westward. The first leg of this journey, Inshallah, will be a short ferry ride from the nearby town of Fethiye to the island of Rhodes. When Mary made our ferry reservation, the agent told her that we should pick up our tickets at the terminal a few days before sailing. Since there is a market in Fethiye on Tuesdays (horrors!) Herself thought today would be an auspicious day for a visit.
In recent installments of this series I have mentioned that we have been taking tour buses to various sites around the area: Patara, Xanthos, etc. This is not quite accurate. There is a small, private bus/taxi company operating in Kalkan that hauls tourists out to nearby sites and dumps them. We have been riding these buses. Unfortunately, they are relatively expensive, and operate on an inflexible schedule that leaves little time for sightseeing.
There is a bus to Fethiye today, but it departs Kalkan at 10:00 and doesn't leave Fethiye until 17:00 ― a full day for the shoppers. Did we really want to devote this many hours to this town, especially if our main objective was the collection of ferry tickets? What, we thought, do the locals do when they want to visit Fethiye? Surely there must be regular intercity buses that make the trip. We decided to hike up the hill to the bus station (the other advantage of the private buses is that they leave from downtown) to see if there were other options.
Well, it's Kalkan, so it was hot and humid. The bus station is not placed in a convenient location ― a mile out of town, up a long hill. I am (predictably) soaked through with sweat by the time we reach the white concrete bus station. A group of drivers sit on the front steps of the station. My heart sinks when I see the Kalkan tour bus company logo on the parked buses. We make our inquiries and they assert that their bus is the only one that goes to Fethiye today. This is unsatisfactory; it appears that we hiked in vain. Finally one of the men hitches a chair up beside me and offers a special deal. For 20 lira more than the tour bus rate, he will take us to Fethiye in a taxi, let us stay as long (or as little) as we want, then haul us home. It sounds better than the regular bus and waiting around in Fethiye for seven hours. We agree. He advises us to wait ten minutes to see if anyone else turns up who wants a ride to Fethiye, as this will reduce the fare.
I am still suspicious. While we wait, I stroll around the far side of the building, and miracles and wonders, I discover the offices of several bus companies. I dodge into the Pammakule Bus company office. Yes, they run a bus to Fethiye every hour, but we've just missed it. The fare, however, is about the same as what our taxi driver has offered. We decide to keep our original arrangement, and when no one else turns up, set off for Fethiye.
Fethiye is a small city of about 60,000. It is built around a large harbor, and makes Kalkan look like rank amateurs when it comes to the tour boat industry. As we hike toward the ferry terminal, we pass acres of tour boats, sterns backed up to the sea wall. Fethiye has also positioned itself to capture the British tour industry. Harbor-side restaurants advertise Full English Breakfasts with “Tesco Bacon" and "Asda Sausage.” The real thing, not some cheap imitation.
We find our ferry company, and, much to our dismay, the woman we speak to is puzzled by our presence. It turns out that we didn't need to pick up any tickets. Our reservation sheet is all we need. Oh well, we were desperate to see Fethiye and tuck into some of that Asda Sausage.
We take lunch in a harbor-side restaurant. My eldest daughter, Annie, amazes us all by ordering a cheeseburger. This American girl is nearly fourteen years old and she has never had a cheeseburger in her life. But for some reason, she decides that the time has come. The cheeseburger she receives is a little small by American standards, but it certainly has all of the requisite ingredients: beef patty, melted cheese, lettuce, a pair of dill pickles. She tries it and then surprises us again by announcing that she likes it. It's a major milestone in her life: her first cheeseburger, ordered and eaten in Turkey.
After lunch we split up. The women are keen to hit the market, while I am equally keen to avoid it. Fortunately, Fethiye has one ancient attraction, rocks tombs carved into the face of the cliffs behind the town. My destination seems clear.
My course takes me along the edge of the market, and as luck would have it, I am snagged by a carpet dealer. “You don't see many tourists with cameras” he says as I walk past.
I clatter to a stop, surprised by this opening line. “What do you mean,” I respond. “All tourists carry cameras.”
“Not in Fethiye,” he replies. “In Istanbul, yes. You see Japanese tourists with three cameras around their necks, but not here in Fethiye.”
I look carefully down the crowded market, hoping to spot an exception. I don't.
“When tourists come to Fethiye, they are only interested in two things: the beach and beer. We call them beach tourists. They walk around with no shirt on, wearing sandals. They care nothing for Turkish culture. They don't care if they offend us by not wearing shirts. The beach. That's all they care about.”
Is there anything more seductive than hearing another human voice your own prejudices and positions? The carpet merchant was slowly hypnotizing me.
“But you my friend are interested in Turkish people and our culture. You bring a camera, you wear a shirt and solid shoes. We welcome you.”
Ah. The bait and, somewhere close by, a hook. What would a cultured man want to see during his trip? Surely some fine carpets from Cappadocia. Well, it was a valiant try and I appreciated his subtle approach, but in fact, I had been well-trained to resist this form of persuasion by the master carpet merchants of Istanbul. We talked for a few minutes more, then I took a picture of my new friend and departed (carpet-less).
Fethiye was the ancient Lycian city of Telmessos. Our guidebook suggests that the rock tombs are the only ancient artifacts of note in Fethiye. It also (wrongly) stated that you visit them. When I finally reach the site, parboiled by the afternoon sun, I discover that they are fenced off. A (real) tour bus has unloaded nearby. A great gaggle of Germans and I admire the tombs from behind the fence, which strikes me as a suitable coda for a fairly unsuccessful expedition.
At least I didn't buy a rug.