So, the all-too-quick weekend in Istanbul is finito and it’s time to head south to see my dad and his wife, Angela, and in a couple of days my younger brother Eric, his wife Jerri, and his post-college-aged daughter Nicole.
I mentioned the background to all this a number of posts ago, but again the quick summary: My parents bought a small hotel in the Caribbean in 1973, then they divorced and both remarried outstandingly cool people, my dad’s wife being Angela, and they sold the hotel in ’86 and my dad bought a place in north central England (Lincolnshire) and they started splitting their time between the Turks & Caicos and England, but then they began vacationing with a sorta timeshare deal and hit on this place in southwest Turkey that they fell in love with and a few years later decided to buy a small place and refurb it, and so now they tri-split their time between the three spots, and this year is my dad’s 80th birthday, so he invited us to join him there to celebrate. Phew! Now his birthdays’ not until this Tuesday the 17th, but schedules are what they are, so late June it was.
1. Our Turkish Airlines flight wasn’t until 11:30am, so we woke up medium, finished packing, then taksied to IST in time to cruise through security (we were staying within Turkey, but crazily enough shifting continents, Europe to Asia!). At the airport we stopped at a cafe for breakfast and chose this incredibly delicious layered pasta and cheese casserole thing baked in the oven and cut into pieces. It’s a spin on traditional börek, with not quite so many layers of the phyllo-ish dough called yufka. And since breakfast in Turkey is called kahvalti (before coffee), we finished up with cups of kahve.
2. The flight took about 75 minutes, but even with the quick jump we were served a decent-sized food box with grilled whitefish, eggplant relish, fruit salad, olives, and from the beverage cart a refreshingly satisfying cup of yogurty ayran. And the flight attendants looked like they moonlighted as cover models. Me, Glenn. Me, happy. (Fists beating chest.)
3. And as I paged through the inflight magazine (written in Turkish and English), I came across the Turkish Airlines flight route map and only then realized how enormous Turkey is. It’s 1,000 miles wide by 500 miles tall. In my little world that’s the combined size of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. That’s big. And our brief excursion was just chopping off a tiny western chunk. Wow!
4. When we landed in the city of Dalaman in the province of Muğla we were met by a kind, gray-haired driver for the Koren Travel Agency in Turunç. He spoke like he’d just been karate-chopped in the neck, then gargled with gravel, but he didn’t mind talking and we were fascinated by the sound of it. The drive took about 2.5 hours up and around Lake Köyceğiz and through the towns of Zeytinalani and Döğüşbelen and Akçapınar. (Good thing we bypassed Büyükkaraağaç; even the thought of that one made my jaw sore.) One of my first vegetation surprises was to see vast groves of orange and tangerine trees lined up for miles on both sides of the road. And fields of watermelons. And grape vineyards. Our driver informed us that Turkey is a 100% self-sustaining country; that they don’t require the importation of anything. Hmmm, now I know. A while later we passed a grove of palm trees. And then figs. And all along the way were roadside fruit and vegetable stands. And magnificent gold- or silver-topped mosques. Our timing was such that as we passed through one town we heard the Muslim afternoon call to prayer echoing through the streets.
And then we descended into the coastal city of Marmaris, the last serious civilization before heading out to where my dad lives. It’s a sprawling community wedged into a broad flat spot among rugged elevations, and the road into town meanders a bit to find its way down there. We headed straight toward the water, then turned right, cruising along the waterfront with the boat docks on our left and dozens of restaurants and tourist shops on our right. And Marmaris is most definitely a tourist town; it reminded me a lot of Venice Beach or Tampa or Seaside, Oregon. Now, all the while we sailed along in the comfort of our air-conditioned transport van, we were unaware of the staggering heat just outside until we passed a bank building with an electronic temperature gauge that read 45°C. Remembering my high school-learned conversion trick of 18°F for every 10°C (or 9° for every 5°) tacked on to a starting point of 32°F, I did the math in my head: 4 x 18 = 72, plus another 9 = 81, added on to 32 = Holy Hell!!! That’s 113 degrees!! I tapped the button to roll down the window and my face felt like I’d stepped into a blast furnace. (Ahh, but it was a dry blast furnace.) I quickly closed the window and then noticed how many of the tourists outside were garbed in . . . well, not very much. Or actually quite a bit. It appeared there were two approaches out there for tackling the sun/heat: either head-to-toe light cotton and a broad-brimmed hat . . . or . . . near-nakedness. And it looked like the lobsters were winning.
The next 20 minutes was a roller coaster ride of steep ascents of switchbacked roads with sheer cliffdrops off our portside flank and beautiful vistas every once in a while, like the photo here looking down on the town of Turunç. We passed through İçmeler, Turunç, Amos, and then finally over the last rise and fall into Kumlubuk. And for the first time we saw our destination, Dionysos, carved out of the cliff face and molded into its natural crevices and fissures. You can see it there, perched on the mountainside, up high and slightly right of center. We couldn’t wait to arrive.
5. My dad (Douglas) and Angela first vacationed here in Kumlubuk about 9 years ago and stayed at Dionysos (pronounced dee-uh-NEE-sōs) where they became good friends with the creators and owners of the resort, Ahmet Şenol and his wife Rim. After several visits they suggested that since my dad and Ange enjoyed visiting so much they should look into buying a place in Kumlubuk or nearby Amos. A year later (six years ago) they did, and had it gutted and rebuilt inside. But that’s a story for later.
Words cannot describe how spectacular this place is. The Şenols basically designed Dionysus to integrate with the mountainside. It looks like something the Elves of Elrond would design using special nature magic. The story is that the Şenols first chose the site for their personal home, then found the only flatish spot within the rocks to construct the beautiful infinity pool, then coaxed everything else to fit in around the two. There are stairs everywhere (we had 61 of them to get up to our cabin) and twisting trails woven through rocks and trees. Intricate brick and stonework everywhere, and every square inch of the place is done with absolute class. Nancy and I kept looking at each other in mild disbelief. Thanks, Pop! I thought it was YOUR birthday! Here’s the link to the Dionysos website; take a look at the gallery.
Dad and Angela met us at the lower parking area and I must say, he’s looking pretty damn good for 3 weeks shy of 80. It’d been a number of years since we’d seen each other — living on opposite sides of the planet will do that to you — and any hint of color to his hair or goatee were long gone, and he’s still wearing a ponytail down to the middle of his back. And Ange looks just as good. While the hotel crew took our bags to our room, we enjoyed iced glasses of raki at the al fresco poolside bar. And speaking of the pool . . . yeah, I know. Here, let me show you another view of it. We said our hellos then went to our room and suited up to enjoy the sun and wet for the rest of the afternoon and early evening. Our stand alone cabin was spacious with vaulted ceilings and cozy furnishings and separate sitting room, kitchen, bedroom/bath. The A/C was set at 23°C (come on, do that math! 18 x 2 = 36; 3 x 1.8 = 5.4; and 36 + 5.4 + 32 = 73.4°F), which would be a little too warm for me to sleep comfortably that night, but it sure beat the high 90’s outside right then.
6. Waiting in our room was a sweet gift package from Angela that included a bottle of local wine, a package of Turkish delight candies, and the highlight: two Turkish pestemal towels. You may have seen them before; they’re made with highly absorbent, fast drying Turkish cotton in lots of colorful patterns and with fringes on the ends. Here’s a website that shows them well. We used them constantly for the rest of our trip there and on Santorini.
7. And we soon met Annabelle and Kari Ann, two Brits who’d been working at the resort for the past decade and pretty much keep the place running. Annabelle is in charge of all things social and PR related, and Kari Ann runs the front office (and her husband is the head chef!). They gave us the lay of the land and Annabelle advised us about some of our scheduled happenings for the week.
8. We dined outside just a few dozen feet from the bar, Nancy and I given the honor of facing the sea and the sunset. The food was glorious and incredibly fresh! We began with their meze platter and the photo here is what we ate, but I stole it from their website since it looks better than my own shot. Eggplant, stuffed peppers, dolmas, coldcuts, and tulum cheese. We then enjoyed seabass, lamb köfte (meatballs), and grilled halloumi cheese (which I think at least one of us ordered to share every meal from that point forward — man, my mouth’s watering for some right now. Sooo good!) And fresh fruit for dessert. And Turkish coffee. Then we stayed up late drinking raki.
And tomorrow is a little shuttle ferry trip into Marmaris. And we’ll be gift shopping. A little something for the ones we love.
More than just a thought.