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Barry's Blog # 52 - Turkey is not what I imagined

Neither Aannsha or I have ever visited Turkey. Whenever I pictured it in my mind all I could come up with were carpet shops, hookah tea shops, bustling bazaars and men wearing the red fez.

Even though Turkey is predominantly a Muslim country it's strictly secular and very tolerant of other religions. Apart from the mosques calling the faithful to prayer several times a day, public expressions of religious faith including the wearing of the red fez for men and headscarves for women were banned by Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal, after the founding of the Republic of Turkey 1923.

As Turkey's first president he also instigated a number of sweeping and forward-thinking reforms like adopting a Latin alphabet in place of Arabic script, gender equality in all areas including education and the right to vote. He also insisted that all citizens adopt a surname or family name in the western style. His own surname of Ataturk, was given to him by the Turkish parliament: Ataturk means the Father of Turks. Even though he died in 1938 he is still very much a revered man all over Turkey.

Entering Turkey by yacht

Before I give you my first impressions of Turkey and go through the process of obtaining a visa and immigration, let's first cross the maritime border between Greece and Turkey.

At 2.15pm on Thursday 11th October after finalising all of our paperwork to exit Greece we set off east. About 1.5 hours into our 3 hour trip our plotter in the cockpit showed us crossing the red line on the chart which delineated the border. First thing to do was to take down the Greek courtesy flag and raise the Turkish flag. Before we left Spain we bought courtesy flags for most of the countries around the Mediterranean we planned on visiting. You can't go wrong with the Turkish flag, there is no top or bottom, some other countries we'll just have to figure out along the way.

Our destination and port of entry to Turkey was Bozburun. To make the whole process easier Mike had already been in contact with an agent from Pera Yachting that he uses all the time to check people and yachts into Turkey. With scanned copies of our passports, insurance and boat registration emailed a few days in advance we were met at Bozburun harbour by Gurkan who presented us with a splash proof folder with all of our visa and immigration paperwork already completed, all we had to do was walk a couple of hundred metres to the harbour police office, show our passports and sign the documents. All very quick and simple, but that convenience does come with a price tag of 215 Euros (AU$337) for our 14 metre vessel with two people on board.

Back at the boat we set about putting A B Sea to bed and during that process we were visited by a seemingly unhappy young lady who wanted payment for berthing in the harbour. Here is where I learned my first Turkish word: Indirim, it means discount. Mike now back at home (he's lived in Turkey for 5 years) and feeling that he could secure us a bargain started negotiating with the lady explaining that it was now out of the tourist season and there should be a discount off the nightly price of 90 Turkish Lira (AU$22.60). However she was having none of it and directed us to the harbour office to take it up with the man. He was also not prepared to shift and we eventually paid the asking price. No indirim for us!

If you've been reading my blogs for a while you'll know that our budget does not stretch to harbour or marina fees but this time we made an exception as we were staying in Bozburun for 3 nights and there was a decent Internet connection that we hooked into which allowed us to get that week's blogs and YouTube video uploaded and out on schedule. The other added bonus was that we were berthed directly in front of Osman's Place Gordon Restaurant where for the price of a daily meal we could have use of their shower and toilet facilities. We can highly recommend the full English breakfast, it will set you up for the day and they have HP Sauce.

Mike fiancé Elaine had a prior engagement, which was why we'd been pushing quite hard to get to Turkey by a certain date, and she left us and the boats on Saturday lunchtime. Sunday 14th October at 10.15am we slipped the lines and still buddy boating we took a short trip around the headland to the south to arrive at Bozukkale. In the big bay there are three restaurants each with jetties where visiting yachts can moor for free for the evening or however long they want. There is a catch though, you have to dine at the restaurant. In Bozukkale Mike directed us to the first restaurant on the left as you enter the bay, it's called Ali Baba Restaurant and the setting is stunning. The water is crystal clear and inviting, the view across the bay is tranquil and the fact that the obviously hand built restaurant is nestled just a short 10 minute hike up to the ruins of the harbour fortress which is estimated to have been built at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. makes it all the more attractive. The house speciality at Ali Baba is lamb slow cooked in the oven and luckily we arrived early enough to secure the last five available that day.

Another leisurely start on Monday 15th October had us reluctantly leaving Bozukkale at 10.10am for a short motor sail to Ciftlik. Again there are three restaurants with their own mooring jetties all vying for trade from incoming yachts by waving big flags to attract your attention and come and spend your money with them. Our chosen jetty and restaurant was Azmak and again the welcome was warm and friendly and the food very fresh and tasty. Wi-Fi was a bit sketchy here because of the distance from the mooring to the restaurant, but if you took your phone/tablet/laptop to the restaurant the signal was good.

From Ciftlik we had planned to visit Goecek but we decided to go straight to Fethiye for several reasons. Firstly our buddy boat still had a month remaining on their contract with a chain of marinas owned by D-Marin and their contract gave them up to 7-days free stay at any D-Marin marina so they were going to make use of that which would have left us at anchor in the bay twiddling our thumbs. Secondly we needed to buy a Turkish sim card so that we could have a plan B of using our own Internet data whenever a Wi-Fi connection wasn't available and as Fethiye is a big town we knew that we could get that sorted out there. We also had two mobile phones that needed their screens replacing (Read Aannsha's blog to get the background on the screens issue) and there are countless shops offing mobile phone repairs in Fethiye.

It turned out to be a good decision because the screens had to be ordered in from Istanbul and as it was we waited an extra day after our buddy boat left for Kaş hoping that Aannsha's Galaxy S7 Edge could be repaired before we had to head south in light of a closing weather window. If we didn't leave that would have seen us stuck in Fethiye on anchor without a plan B bolt hole enduring what turned out to be very strong wind gusts of up to 45 knots for 24 hours. So at 7.15am on Sunday 21st October we upped anchor and headed to Kaş.

Next week I hope you can join me again as I explain our final sail south to Kaş and share some more of my first impressions of Turkey, its culture and people.

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