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Aannsha’s Blog #49 – First Impressions of Turkey

I have to say, I have been very pleasantly surprised with all aspects of Turkey since I’ve arrived. It is a beautiful country with a varied landscape of high mountains and soft shell beaches lapped by crystal clear turquoise waters. The villages and towns that I have visited so far are ancient in origin, steeped in history with many ruins identifying Turkey’s previous cultures, and the towns’ main streets, while they sport all the shops you would expect, retain an exotic feel even though some look tired. Everywhere - tired, run down or not - is clean and cared for by the inhabitants, as one may care for an old and once exotic building.

The Turks I’ve met so far have a compassionate feel to them not far beneath their polite, friendly business personalities. In fact most people have asked me about my arm with a genuine look of concern in their eyes. When Barry and I recently went for meat in a local butchers in Kaş, the fellow behind the counter who was around 35 years of age asked me what I’d done (in Turkish but it was obvious what he was asking). With hand gestures and a few words, I told him I’d fallen and broken my wrist. He looked empathetic and began telling me something in Turkish about “soup” (the only English word he used in the conversation). I thought he was talking about going to a chemist for a herb for broken bones and said “yes, thank you”, at which point he disappeared out the back of the shop.

“I think I’ve just agreed to something I wasn’t expecting,” I said to Baz. We waited expectantly, smiling at the lady behind the cash register at the door.

A couple of minutes later the butcher returned with a huge beef leg bone! He proceeded to cut it up with a heavy cleaver, then pointed to the marrow and then my wrist, indicating that this would help it mend.

“Teşekkürler”, I said, pleased that I could at least say thank you in his language.

We bought lamb that he minced and asked if we’d like him to make them into kofta balls, and chicken breasts which he asked if we’d like sliced. At the checkout the lady charged us for the mince and chicken, but not for the bone. I made a bone marrow broth in the pressure cooker, tarted up with vegetables and soup pasta shapes, which was quite delicious. Thank you Mr Butcher.

On the subject of meat, pork is very hard to come by in Turkey. You can buy packet bacon but it is very expensive and we’ve so far resisted the need for bacon butties (sandwiches). There is a pork butcher 3.3Km outside of Fethiye, but it takes 1.5 hours on the bus from Kaş to Fethiye, so it isn’t high on my list of priorities.

When we filmed a video segment where Baz had ‘the works’ in a Turkish barber shop, the barber there was very courteous, reservedly friendly, but had that same gentle feeling to his nature that I’ve noticed in the people I’ve met. He ensured I had tea whenever I wanted it as I was filming and was not receiving the pampering that Baz received. When I crouched down to get a good up-the-nose shot, he put down his scissors, hurried outside and returned with a small stool for me to sit on! The fellow who delivered my Turkish tea from next door gave me my first glass with two cubes of sugar. I only used one. The subsequent tea was delivered with only one lump.

That’s attention to detail. And it’s not an isolated incident. Everywhere I’ve received a service - whether it’s a meal, a drink in a bar, or from the marineros who helped us moor in the marina a few nights ago when the wind became too uncomfortable to bear – have gone above and beyond what I’ve expected.

I even received a pashmina scarf the other night when Baz and I joined others from the marina for an evening meal during the Turkish Republic Day celebrations. I haven’t done a burn test (where you burn a little part of the tassel material. If it smells of burning wool it’s real, if it melts, it’s synthetic material). I’ve taken the 100% Pashmina label that’s stuck on the fabric at its word. To be honest, I don’t care. It was a gift, it keeps me warm, and I love it. I will also go back to that restaurant.

Dancing with my Turkish shawl

And if extra service, consideration and the odd unexpected gift is a Turkish business protocol to ensure return business, then I’m all for it. Many other countries’ businesses and employees could learn from the Turks. Dedication to service, but with a genuine sense of connection, eye-to-eye – not just those polite “would you like fries with that” rote expressions spouted at you by disinterested labourers who’d rather be texting their mates instead. I have learned a lot from these people in the few days I’ve been here, and all in the positive sense.

Turning business acumen into trust

That positive sense is helping support a level of trust in one service area, and that area concerns my phone.

I managed to break the screens of two phones in less than a week while we were on passage from Symi to Fethiye. My Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge which is my main connection to the world, but also my camera for Instagram and some video footage got damaged when it fell off the cockpit table as the boat heeled. Baz lent me his small Samsung J1 so I could at least take semi-decent photos and still upload to Instagram, but I managed to damage that coming down from the fortress at Bozukkale. I didn’t have a bag and put the phone in my shorts back pocket as the front pockets were too shallow and I didn’t want it to fall out. So instead of dropping it, I managed to sit on it when I fell backwards against a rock. Clever me.

I was actually so angry with myself that I didn’t tell Baz for a whole day as I expected him to be at least as angry as I was. He was quite stoic actually.

Mike had mentioned a Phone Hospital and when we were in Fethiye we looked for it. No one knew of it (because as we found out later, it's in Kaş) but a very nice young man who we asked in a barbers shop personally escorted us to a store that a couple of the other people in the barber’s had recommended. Again, here was someone going out of his way to assist.

We took the phones in, paid upfront to have them fixed as things are done slightly differently in Turkey, and returned a couple of days later. Barry’s phone was fixed but my screen hadn’t arrived. We had to leave Fethiye to catch a good wind window to get to Kaş, otherwise we’d be stuck for a week in a large bay with no backup if things got too rough (Mike was leaving on our buddy boat the day before us). I didn’t want to get the money back off the man, who was another person we’d met and liked. Baz told him we’d leave the phone and gave him an extra 20tl to mail it to us at Mike’s address in Kaş marina when it was fixed.

That was two weeks ago and I haven’t received the phone yet. I think the man is away on holidays as the Google review page for his shop says it’s closed and we haven’t received a reply to our emails yet. I do think I remember him saying he was going on holiday which is why he wanted to fix the screen quickly. And as I haven’t received a delivery receipt for the email, it seems his computer is switched off. It may be that the screen hasn’t arrived yet. However, all of that is speculation and it may be that I have to make a trip up to Fethiye on the bus to find out.

I will probably wait until next Monday, just in case the post is slow in Turkey. I’ll also be able to go sans splint and that would be a bonus – just wearing a wrist brace instead of what has become a smelly, grubby, unyielding prison for my wrist. Can you tell I can’t wait to be rid of it?

Anyhow, if I do have to make a trip to Fethiye, that will be a great opportunity to film the bus trip, visit the Old Market Town again, and maybe make that 6.6Km roundtrip hike to get us some bacon and pork chops!

I’ll let you know next week!

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