Monday, 18 August 2014

Road Trip Along The North Shore Of Van Gölü - To Tatvan




Wow, don't we just make a fabulous job of getting side tracked on this blog! One minute we're taking you to East Turkey, the next minute we're eating meze in Dalyan and allowing our addiction to Kabak to take hold; and that's in between writing about daily life in Fethiye - such as checking out Erasta shopping centre, trying new foods and sharing Turkish recipes, reading and writing a book review of Ayşe's Trail...and, before we know it, we've still not told you about the last stop of our road trip along the north shore of the wonder that is Lake Van. 

Of course, all of this journey was undertaken last year - lest you go thinking we've made the long journey back eastwards. No, it was simply a case of waking up this morning and thinking, "Today is the day to write about the east again." So that's what we're doing...


East Turkey Van Gölü Road Trip - To Tatvan

So, our first stop was Adilcevaz; home of an Ottoman mosque thought to be the creation of Mimar Sinan of Süleymaniye Camii fame (amongst other mosques). This is debatable - but the mosque and its setting, right on the shores of Lake Van, are nonetheless worth a bit of your time. We just loved the views.

From there, we continued westwards along the lake to Ahlat, home of the vast graveyard of 13th century tombstones. If you remember from that post, we had that place all to ourselves...right up until we were spotted by two very knowledgeable local kids. From then on, we had a guide whether we wanted one or not. Ahh, the joys of tourism.

Tatvan Train, Van, East Turkey
Tatvan is a railway town...and a minirail town, too
And, even when we arrived in the large town of Tatvan, we were still very much 'noticed.' This area of Turkey does see foreign tourists like us...it's just that we're very few and far between. So it's not a 'being noticed' of the hello-yes-please-I-am-here-would-you-like-a-boat-trip variety, but a whoa-look-two-foreigners-in-town variety. A pause, a stare for a second longer than usual, a nudge to a friend. Rarely a hello (unless it was kids). Shyness? Not sure, but nothing we experienced was ever unfriendly. Quite the opposite, in fact. But people were genuinely curious about us - and that feeling of being very visible...it's an odd one. Not unpleasant. Just odd.
Türk Kahvesi, Tatvan, East Turkey
Türk Kahvesi in Tatvan
But anyway, back to Tatvan. We're right on the west shore of Lake Van here and our friend explains that people around here call the lake 'Van Sea.' You can see why; a stretch of turquoise water that stretches beyond the horizon, a promenade, jetties, a little shuttle train plying the length of the promenade on one side and the row of cafes and picnic areas on the opposite side. Tatvan is one of the places around Van Gölü where people come to chill out and enjoy their surroundings. There is definitely a seaside feel to the place.

We walk along the promenade and take a seat at one of the cafes for a çay and a Turkish coffee. Everywhere we visited while we were in the east, Turkish coffee was served with water (that's the norm) but also a small glass of fruit juice, too. Our Turkish friend had no idea why - but hey, it makes a for a longer drink so who's complaining?
Kahramanmaraş Ice Cream, Tatvan
Kahramanmaraş ice cream and a stroll along the Tatvan promenade
And if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The sun was lowering in the sky, and the air was becoming quite crisp and chilled, but the seaside-town-vibe was still very much there. We couldn't not buy a Kharamanmaraş ice cream to eat as we strolled. Did we still have to go through the performance of buying a Kharamanmaraş ice cream? Yeaahh, 'course we did. This is Turkey; the country where purchasing an ice cream is often a tad more than you bargained for. A few spins of the cone later (and whatever else the ice cream vendor does) and the ice cream was safely in our grasp.
Tatvan, Lake Van, East Turkey
Van lake shore in Tatvan
The east of Turkey is wild, vast and beautiful...once you get out of the towns and cities. Tatvan is a smart-looking modern town with chain stores and coffee shops and the seaside feel along the lake shore. It's also a railway town; the final stop for the Van Gölü Express, the train we were supposed to take from Ankara to to the east. Tatvan should have been the first place we set foot-on-land in the east of Turkey. Instead, we had to take the Doğu Express from Ankara to Kars, getting off at Erzurum, much further north. 

Things must happen for a reason because that just means we got to see a little more of eastern Turkey (see photos in the last link just above) and we still got to see so much of the areas surrounding Van Gölü. And yes, we've still got tales from the east we want to tell you. Wonder when we'll be telling them... But for now, it's time to drive back to Patnos from Tatvan. A chore?
Van Lake At Sunset, East Turkey
Looking back towards Tatvan on the road to Patnos
How can driving along the shore of Van Gölü at sunset ever be a chore? In our next post about our east Turkey adventures, we'll be sailing on this lake...

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Falling For Kabak And Feeling The Need To Make The Most Of It




Kabak's been a part of our life for a long time, but it's definitely fair to say that over the last couple of years, the area's kind of taken hold of us and we've fallen for it in a bigger way. If we're to look back to try and pinpoint why we've got such an affection for here, it's probably got to be when we went to stay overnight at the Olive Garden in Kabak

We used to go camping a lot in the Lake District when we were living in England, and that special kind of camping night time quietness; that's what comes back to us when we stay in Kabak. Turkey's camping night time quietness is crickets; cockerels; the occasional, obligatory barking of dogs, waves crashing into the bay, fresh air wafting around the room...and stars...so many stars.

Kabak Beach, South West Turkey
Kabak beach and the surrounding mountains
A couple of nights ago, we decided to go and stay over in Kabak again, just to escape and chill out. This time, we decided to stay at sea level, in the bay, at Chakra Beach, to take it all in...and because we were itching to sample one of the circular bungalows, too. We did, and they're great, but let's get back to Kabak.

For years, those of a more bohemian persuasion have chosen this tiny bay as a base, using the steep, rocky footpath to get down to the beach. It's still like that. Some stay in the camps teetering on the edge of the hillside and others will just crash out on the beach; their guitars resting next to them. It's that type of place.  
Lycian Way & Fethiye Footpath Signs, Kabak
Lycian Way and Fethiye footpath markers
After our evening meal, we too lay on the beach for a while, looking up at the stars, before we hit our real bed. It's easy to see why people stay on beaches - we almost fell asleep there, too. Our little bungalow was the next best thing though; we left the skylight above us wide open, closed the mosquito net around the bed - not that we saw any mosquitoes - no fan, no air conditioning, and we just slept so soundly. Even in this, the height of summer, the night air gets cooler and, at some point around 4 or 5 in the morning, we pulled the sheets over us for more snuggly slumber.

Breakfast at around 8:30 am and then we went for a stroll to the beach and around a short stretch of pathway. We're deeper into Lycian Way territory here and there are also waymarkers for other footpaths, too. We'll come back to hike around some of those a bit later in the year when the weather's cooler.
Kabak Bay, Uzunyurt, Turkey
Early morning view of Kabak Bay
But for now, these photos are taken from a small stretch of path along the bay. The sea looks deceptively calm, particularly in the photo above, and we intended to go for a swim after our walk. Barry followed his intention; I just paddled. The waves are strong and the pebbles and boulders plentiful - right at that point where you need to teeter into the water. I'm not good at teetering, or at getting out of the water gracefully, afterwards. The day before, the sea had been very calm so I at least got to enjoy it then.

The first moments of arriving back to Fethiye, even after just one night in Kabak, feel like you've stumbled into a sprawling metropolis the size of Istanbul. Kabak is a tiny kabak-shaped(1) world, away from all of that. Of course, things are changing. That's evident from the scores of visitors' cars parked into any type of suitable (and unsuitable) nooks and crannies along the roadside at the top of the hill, and from the new camps that are appearing around the hillsides. People want to be here, and why wouldn't they? We want to be there, too. For us though, we just hope Kabak can remain a little oasis of camps and beach. 


Kabak Beach - Useful Information

  • Footnote (1): 'Kabak' means 'squash' in Turkish and the bay is apparently named after a squash because when you view it from above, it resembles the shape of a gourd. 
  • In summer 2014, the dolmuş runs between Fethiye and Kabak every hour. The last one back to Fethiye is 20:30.
  • If you are going in high season (July-August) and are driving, either get there early or don't drive at all and just get the dolmuş. The road is narrow and there is no car park.
  • If you like a bit of hiking, you can walk down to the bay in around 30 minutes. It's steep but easily doable. The entrance to the footpath is right by where the dolmuş drops you off and you'll see the painted signposts for the beach and various camps. After that, just follow the painted stripes on the rocks. If you're at the Olive Garden, you can follow a footpath down to Kabak beach directly from there, too.
  • Entrance to the beach is free but there is a tip box stuck to the wooden, bamboo-covered shade area. This is for the upkeep of the beach.
  • The shuttle services from the top of the hill to the beach - and vice versa - operate on a 'number of people' basis. The base price seems to be around the 35-40 TL mark. Obviously, if you're on a budget, it's better to hang around until there are a few of you to make the price per head cheaper. 
  • For more info about the road from Ölüdeniz to this area and walking down to the beach, we wrote about it in this blog post: To Kabak.
  • There is now a decent choice of places to stay in and around Kabak, and you can find a good selection on Booking.com.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Çalış To Fethiye By Water Taxi - More Than Just Getting From A To B




During the summer season in the Fethiye area, along with all of the Fethiye must sees, there are all sorts of activities available that are there to contribute to tourism in the region - some ideas are better than others and become a part of the regular 'summer furniture' whilst others trend for a few months...and you just know (and sometimes hope) it's a passing phase. 

Even after almost 11 years of living in Fethiye, we've never been ones to dismiss Fethiye's summer added-extras 'because they're touristy.' No, if something's there on offer and we feel okay about and we fancy doing it, then we're doing it. Granted, many of these occasions are when friends are over to visit, and they're eager to try different things they've read about, and we'll roll our eyes and look to the heavens and mouth, "Please don't make us have to do another day trip to Saklıkent again this year." But then we do go...and we fall in love with Saklıkent all over again, and we love the Göcek boat trip all over again...and sometimes, even if there's just the two of us, we'll do something on a whim like this:


The Çalış To Fethiye Water Taxi

Çalış Canal, Fethiye, Turkey
We were just there in Çalış last week and needed to go into Fethiye. We were wandering over the bridge to head for a shady spot to wait for the dolmuş and then Barry just stopped and said, "Shall we get the water taxi?" And so we did.
Çalış To Fethiye Water Taxi
If you've been a Turkey's For Life reader for a long time, you might remember we've posted about this little journey before. On that occasion it was the other way around and we took the water taxi from Fethiye to Çalış at sunset. That was 2011 - and we honestly think that was the last time we made the 40 minute trip across this stretch of water.
Çalış To Fethiye Water Taxi Scenes
Why? The putt, putt, putt of the boat's engine, the fishermen wading through the shallows, the (still) 5 TL fee for a 40 minute sail across the bay, the refreshing breeze of the open water and occasional spray from the sea.
Fethiye, Turkey
Why is it August 2014 and we haven't traversed the distance between Çalış and Fethiye by way of the sea since June 2011? The sea, that's such a feature of our lives. If ever there was a great summer idea for Fethiye, it has to be the water taxi.
Fethiye Bay, Turkey - By Water Taxi From Çalış
It doesn't have to be reserved for just for those people enjoying their summer holidays in Fethiye. When the weather's baking hot, it's great for us, too. Yes, it's 3 TL more expensive than the dolmuş and even 4 TL more expensive than the belediye bus, but hey, they're not ferrying you across a short stretch of the Mediterranean.
Fethiye Boats, Turkey
And, unless you're fortunate enough to get near an open window, they're also not giving you a refreshing sea breeze with views all around Fethiye and the marina; gülets moored along the jetty. It's a more-than-pleasant way to arrive in Fethiye and it's not something we're going to do every day. 5 TL is good enough for us!
Fethiye By Boat From Çalış Beach
As the boat nears the harbour, the ancient castle ruins (thought to be a castle of the Knights of St John - but no one seems entirely sure) with its Turkish flag emerge from the hillside and the harbourside cafes and restaurants come into view.
Çalış-Fethiye Water Taxi Boat
Our boat pulls alongside the jetty and is secured with ropes before we all hop off, already in the centre of Fethiye. In 30 minutes time, this boat will be once more filled with passengers leaving Fethiye for Çalış, and we walk off along the harbour vowing not to leave it another three years, until 2017, before we take the water taxi again...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Erasta Fethiye - A Shopping Centre For Families And Rainy Days




Did you read our last post about our first impressions of Erasta AVM, Fethiye's new shopping centre? Well, do you remember that bit where we said we were going again to take all in and have a proper look round...and I wanted to buy some shoes...and my opinion of Erasta could be skewed either way depending on whether I was successful in finding said shoes? I didn't find any shoes! 

However, let's not let my female shoe fussiness get in the way of our mooch around to see what Erasta has to offer. Because there were shoes in there to look at...just not shoes I wanted. It caused me to chunter on my Facebook profile and that lead to a few Erasta comments from Facebook friends - and those comments are going to influence this post in some way.

Erasta Shopping Centre, Fethiye
Erasta AVM
Because, as we said in our last post, we do prefer markets and high street shopping. But we've not got kids - so it was nice to get an opinion from someone with a toddler. Someone who does her shopping with toddler in pram. She loves Erasta because it's so easy for her to get around the shops - smooth marbled floors, wide doorways. Yeah, we can see her point. And just this morning, a Turkish friend of ours who has recently had twins posted a photo to Facebook. There she is in Erasta with double pram and a big grin on her face. Guess she likes it, too.

Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, we made it upstairs this time. Upstairs, there are more shops but it's also where you go to eat and where you go to entertain yourself.
Bowling At Fethiye Shopping Centre
Anyone for bowling
Picture the scene. You've come on holiday to Fethiye, wall to wall sunshine...and then the skies darken and the rain starts to pour. And Fethiye does do a good downpour if the mood so takes it. The kids are getting bored. What to do to keep everyone happy. Well, Erasta is probably going to come into its own for these very days. Ten pin bowling seems to be the indoor activity of choice in Fethiye. We've got Kumsal Bowling in Ölüdeniz and Fethiye Bowling between the town and Çalış beach. We've now also got Bowlingo on the first floor of Erasta.
Amusement For The Kids At Fethiye Shopping Centre
Colourful entertainment at Erasta Fethiye
Bowlingo is full of bright colours, as you can see. And it's not just bowling. There's all sorts of little attractions for the real kids...and no doubt for the adults who are releasing their inner kid, too. 

And then there's the cinema. Another rainy day activity. We didn't look what films were showing - but Hayal Sineması in the centre of Fethiye often shows English language films with Turkish subtitles. If the cinema in Erasta is the same, well that's gonna pass a couple of hours or so to keep you dry and entertained. and if there's no English language option for you, Turkish comedies are always good for a giggle, even if you've not got a clue what anyone's saying. 
Bright and airy - Erasta Fethiye
As for feeding and watering holes, well you're probably not going to be surprised to learn there is a famous burger place with the initials B and K. And it's a food court with Turkish chains, too. A place called Tavuk Dünyası (Chicken World) is opening soon, there's a Turkish grill place, kebabs and köfte. All the seating is in the centre - so if there's a few of you, you can all order from different places but still sit together. 

If food courts are not your thing, downstairs, on the ground floor, there's Kahve Dünyası with its yummy soğuk Türk Kahvesi. They have a food menu, too and there wasn't a table to be had when we were there on Friday. There's also a simit place and another eatery / coffee place. 


But what if you just get fed up of the whole shopping centre thing and 'chainstore eateries'? There's another little bonus for Turkish food lovers because Erasta is perfectly situated directly opposite a row of traditional Turkish lokantas serving all manner of lovely Turkish dishes at reasonable prices. And we've got to say, we do love us a good no-nonsense lokanta


Erasta Fethiye Shopping Centre is open daily until 11pm.


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