The Bodrum Peninsula on Turkey’s stunning Aegean coast is the summer playground for hundreds of thousands of discerning holiday-makers offering something for everyone – the beach bum, party animal, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie. Described as the ‘San Tropez of Turkey,’ the whitewashed town of Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) is the beating heart of the Peninsula where the Turkish elite come to let their hair down. ‘The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide: Turkey’s Aegean Gem’ is the definitive book for visitors and expats alike from the marvelous Jay Artale, part-time resident and someone in the know. The book is packed to the rafters with meticulously researched facts and fun, sites and scenes, eats and treats, must-dos and don’t-dos, both on and off the well-beaten track. Need to know how to get about? Want insider knowledge on the best boat trips to hidden coves and where to find ancient sites to tumble over? Looking for the best places to eat for authentic rustic cuisine? Fancy a high-energy water-ski ride around the bay? Dying to know what bars to see and be seen in? It’s all here, and much, much more. Whether dipping in for a hint or two or reading cover-to-cover in one serving, this book should be in everyone’s suitcase.
The show is over and the curtain has fallen on our final Anatolian performance. It’s been a long and successful run but they’ll be no ovation or encore. As we said goodbye to Gümbet, Liam and I reflected on our time in this ancient land of paradoxes and plenty. Turkey has provided a restful respite for our weary bones and taught us that we can live differently and work with less. This is a profound lesson that many would be wise to copy. We don’t regret a single second of it.
We’ve both enjoyed and endured some extraordinary exploits with some extraordinary people. From the outset I called our cast ‘the mad, the sad, the bad and the glad’. This epitaph was no less true in Bodrum than it was in Yalıkavak three years before. From our first encounter with the pretentious expat rat pack to the Bodrum Belles, the Gümbet Gals and the Bitez Babes all sorts – the ladies of this small corner of Asia Minor do what they can to live their lives in dignity and grace. Many succeed. Many don’t. Listen up, ladies. Take a little advice from an old pro. When your ship is holed beneath the waterline, head for the lifeboat. Don’t flounder about like flotsam just because the sea looks inviting.
We’re not looking forward to the downside of Blighty life – the unpredictable weather, the fretful recession or the endless whinging. Let’s face it, some of our compatriots, whatever shore they wash up on, have turned whinging into a class act. Nevertheless, our course is set and it is a step forward, not a step back. But, there’s a sadness in my soul. I shall greatly miss our entertaining encounters with the hopeless, the hapless and, yes, the happy go lucky. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu to the emigreys, vetpats, semigreys, VOMITs, MADs, Emiköys, and sexpats. You gave me an unexpected tale to tell and for this I thank you. The next instalment is on the story drawing board.
We closed the door on our little stone house in the heart of old Bodrum Town for the last time and said our fond farewells to our great neighbours. Tears rolled down Bubbly Beril’s cheeks and Vadim distributed rib-crushing bear hugs. We left Bodrum a week before returning to Blighty. We would have been homeless itinerants if two Gümbet gal-friends hadn’t come up trumps and offered us their holiday villa for a week, no strings attached. It was a fantastic parting gift. Lovely Lemon Tree Villa comes highly recommended. If you want to know more, contact Carole or Liza on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ironically, it was like taking a proper holiday, the first for four years. We planned to relax around a cool pool with a G&T, ice and a slice. We also planned one or two evenings getting down and dirty with the good, bad and the ugly along chip pan alley with its competing cacophony and naff neon. We were looking forward to witnessing the garrison of tattooed emigrey arms, pussy pelmets and pot-bellied Nike tops on proud display. It was not to be. Instead, our week became a fabulous fanfare of farewells as the Belles and the Gals sent us on our way in drunken style. I’ll be taking my liver back to Blighty in a jiffy bag.
I assume we won’t be seeing Fergie slumming and beach-bumming it down Gümbet way any time soon. Not unless she wants her collar felt by a teenage paramilitary conscript and a stiff sentence from an un-amused Turkish beak. The ill-advised ex-HRH was foolish to embroil herself in a clandestine filming raid on a huge Turkish orphanage for disabled children in 2008. Poor Fergie’s a loose cannon at the best of times. She’s not cut out for investigative journalism and neither is my foster home. She’d do better earning her living more honestly and less controversially. Apparently, she’s to be prosecuted for violating the rights of five Turkish children and damaging the reputation of the Turkish State. I humbly suggest that Turkey’s reputation is best served by the dropping the whole thing.
To provide a little liquid respite from the endless book edits, I joined the Gümbet Gals for toasts and tittle-tattle. I hailed the dolly on the promenade, paid my fare and sat next to an elderly Turk who began to engage me in animated conversation. Despite my pathetic attempts to explain in Turklish that I couldn’t understand a word, he wittered on regardless, much to the amusement of the Turkish ladies in front of us. I smiled sweetly like the Queen Mother, nodding now and again to pacify him. The dolly sped over the hilly promontory that separates Bodrum from its uglier sister and dropped me off at the edge of the resort. I strolled through the silent streets. Gümbet is closed for the winter and all the tattooed pot-bellied Brits have returned to Blighty. My destination was Jack’s Bar (the name’s just a happy co-incidence), an inexpensive and unpretentious little watering hole just off the now locked up main drag. It’s one of the few establishments that stays open all year. I spent a funny, sunny afternoon gassing and guzzling with the Gals. As the sun set and the air grew chilly, I’d had my fill and the delightful owner gave me a lift home. What a gent.
After an excessive Guy Fawkes Night with a wheelbarrow bonfire, fireworks to blow your hands off and the drunken Gümbet Gals Chorus (ladies, you know who you are), I’m suffering from mental paralysis. I have neither the inclination nor the energy to write anything remotely interesting, amusing or informative. It’s just as well that it’s Kurban Bayram across the entire Moslem world, a time where men are men and sheep are nervous. To celebrate the occasion, I am releasing a tiny snippet from Perking the Pansies the Book which tells of our first bloody encounter with the Feast of Sacrifice.
Liam answered a knock at the door. It was Tariq’s daughter. Selma was a pretty little thing, a fourteen year old girl with fathomless dark eyes and long brown hair, perfectly parted at the middle. Our contact had been minimal but we had exchanged half smiles and several hundred empty wine bottles: she occasionally helped Tariq with the rubbish disposal. Selma handed Liam a bag of bloodied bones.
‘For you,’ she said. ‘Iyi bayramlar.’
‘Why… thank you. Teşekkürler.’
Selma smiled nervously and wandered off into the night. Sheep’s blood dripped through the bag and splashed onto Liam’s feet.
‘What the fuck?’
‘Who was at the door?’
‘Selma and a bag of blood.’
‘Fantastic. Anyone for spare ribs?’
‘You’re excited by a bag of bones?’
It was Kurban Bayram, The Feast of Sacrifice commemorating an Old Testament myth. God rather unreasonably commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Thankfully, Abraham proved his devotion and God provided a sacrificial ram instead. I had never read the book but had seen the Hollywood movie several times.
Liam was unmoved. ‘So hapless sheep across the entire Moslem World are being butchered as we speak? Revolting.’
‘And the flesh is distributed among family, friends and the deserving poor.’
‘So we only get the bones. What does that make us?’
It’s been a double celebration of our birthdays. We were feted in style by a succession of festivities sponsored by a select sample of the Bodrum Belles and Gumbet Gals, and topped off by a birthday bombshell. Blighty-life friend and part-time thesp, Clive, flew in for the occasion on a surprise visit. Liam was suitably startled and unusually speechless. Our days were awash with lavish fizz and food, calorific cakes with candles, and generous bountiful gifts.
Dear Clive is a flimsy sleeper and needs total sensory deprivation. He couldn’t quite fit the isolation tank into his hand luggage so had to make do with a Virgin Atlantic mask and earplugs the size of suppositories. Thankfully, Clive managed to get his beauty sleep (despite the dogs, traffic, call to prayer and a plague of flies) and awoke each day rested and raring to go. Liam and I drank the house dry while a sober Clive looked on with amiable amusement. When the white was spent, I resorted to sucking out brandy from the fruit cake Clive had lovingly baked and slipped into his luggage.
After a solid week of liquor decadence and wringing our livers out in the sink, the show is now over. These two ageing queens are resting their drunken bones. Until next year.