With only a quick overnight stop in Selçuk to see Ephesus, it was back on the road after the ruins tour for a five hour drive down the coast towards Kas. Brenda and Butch had visited this charming little town 13 years prior and had bought a condo by the end of their few day trip – that’s how outstanding this little getaway is! I knew we’d be getting a great experience here since they had lived seasonally here for the last 10 years or so, and knew all the best places to eat and things to see and do. We arrived late in Kas, darkness already blanketing the land around us, so we headed straight to our hotel, which had a beautiful pool over looking the Mediterranean ocean. We got settled in and met for a family dinner to talk about what we’d like to do for our three days on the coast. Our itinerary mostly involved eating far too much delicious Turkish food, renting a boat to hit the sea, and doing a little shopping! Dinner was fabulous, as always, and far too much food, as always! Before bed, Rug and Leah showed me how to play Wizard and I lost to a level beyond pathetic, but had a great time learning about the game.
In the morning the sun was shining brightly and it felt glorious to get away from the cooler temperatures of Istanbul. We had a few free hours to to do a little exploring and shopping, so Rug and I hit the town and began to drift about. We found ourselves wandering through the streets, flip flops whacking against the cobblestones, aimlessly turning this way and that down little pathways, expecting to eventually find ourselves at the sea. It shortly came into view and we had a beautiful vista of a lighthouse perched atop a pile of rocks in the Mediterranean.
A little kitty had followed us and of course I turned my attention to him. Which may have been a mistake as moments later another cat came out from the bushes to say hello. And another moment later, another cat came out. And another… Within three minutes we went from being alone to suddenly having six cats surrounding us. It was official; Rug dubbed me the Kitty Khaleesi as the six cats curled around my legs, purring and meowing and began to follow me wherever I walked. It started out as rather delightful, but escalated to creepy quite quickly. I told my children to be free, and we ran off to lose them when they wouldn’t listen. No matter where you go in Turkey, you will find cats…or rather the cats will find you! I seemed to particularly draw them to me, however, and thus was crowned with my new title – especially after the sudden and alarming approach of the six cats at once and their need to follow me, not to mention the hundreds of cats from Ephesus (read about that adventure here!).
Brenda and Butch had arranged a boat trip on the Mediterranean for the afternoon so after our kitty encounter and exploration of the town, we hopped in the big van and drove up and through the winding, climbing, twisting mountains to reach the harbour. I had envisioned a small boat, but the 10 of us boarded a huge Yacht, one of the many which filled the harbour, the red Turkish flag flying proudly from every one of them, creating a mass of crimson, whipping about wildly in the wind. The boat was massive, and it was luxurious to have the whole thing to ourselves. We had mats on the top deck to sun bathe on, and tables on the bottom deck with shade and space for seating and eating. We explored the boat, ordered drinks, brought out our snacks that we had all picked up in town, lathered on the sunscreen and hit the upper deck.
We cruised about a half hour or so until we came to a secluded, beautiful little bay. On the beach shoreline stood the remnants of a long forgotten, long ravaged ruin – an arch from an old church, perhaps. The white bleached stone was crumbling, blending with the sand beneath and around it. The bright turquoise sea was glowing around us as the boat anchored in the shallow waters and we all shed our clothes to dive into the sea at last. Now, being November it wasn’t exactly scorching hot outside and the sea had cooled already from the earlier summer warmth, leaving the water crisp and refreshing. But seeing as I had not made it into the sea in Greece (due to far too cool weather), I knew I had to take advantage of the sun and take my first dip in the Mediterranean. Butch had arranged to have some paddle boards brought along and we took turns paddling about or practicing our head stands on the boards. There was a moment of dismay when the towering spire that is Bryan dove head first into the too shallow waters and knocked his head on the bottom, resulting in a scrape, goose egg, and slight headache. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious and Bryan continued on as if nothing happened (even launching into a perfect head stand on the paddle board!), though we did curb the diving off of the roof of the boat!
It was a perfect day to get some sun, swim in the sea, and cruise along the coast to see the ruins of Kekova, a 2nd century city, sunk by an earthquake. As the boat cut through the cerulean waters, the chalky stone of the mountain side only 30 feet away began to show signs of life from long, long ago. Decaying stone walls appeared. A staircase eerily stepped down into the sea, disappearing beneath the blue, a walkway to the depths of those mesmerizing azure waters. And beneath the deep, the wavering outlines of old walls, long forgotten pieces of homes- rooms that once thrived with life- sat calmly submerged beneath the Mediterranean, now home to new life; to fish and coral, barnacles and algae.
The day ended with the sun setting brilliantly over those teal waters, as our Captain expertly maneuvered us backwards into a spot in the pier. We drove back to Kas, winding through the mountains, stopping only to let the herds of bleating goats prance across the road. We washed up and went for yet another remarkable meal, our table covered in the small plates of the usual mezes. We waddled ourselves through the streets and down to the waffle shop, Feride Dondurm, which was owned by Mustafa, a good friend of Butch and Brenda. We sat at tables outside with Mustafa and chatted, drinking back Raki, munching on oranges and busting out Wizard again. This time I had the game figured out and did far better, coming in tied for 2nd place, woo!
On our last morning we were invited to have breakfast at the home of Yusef and Fatma, and Ayse, their daughter- three remarkably warm Turkish friends of Butch and Brenda. I didn’t quite understand how deep the level of hospitality of the Turkish people was until we were taken into their home that morning and fed the most incredible breakfast I believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging in. They welcomed us with warm embraces and greetings, as we all laughed at the antics of Ayse’s son, Demir. The table out on the deck (or terrace as I am sure they call it!) was completely covered in dishes piled high with food. There were baskets of bottomless bread, fried eggs that came from their chickens in the yard, olives from their trees, fresh tomatoes from the garden, fried potatoes and my two favourites- homemade blackberry, cherry and strawberry jams from the fruit trees in their yard, and kaymak (a clotted cream butter, similar to a thickened yogurt) that you drizzle honey over and drift away into ecstasy as soon as it hits your tongue. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten so much bread in my life; I just couldn’t get enough of Fatma’s home made jams, they were divine!
After ensuring we ate more than enough, our lovely hosts took us out to the garden and we wandered about, admiring their rich and abundant harvest of fruits: grapes and gooseberries, blackberries and other strange fruits we didn’t recognize. They kept picking off fruits and piling them into our hands, urging us to eat them and take them. Yusef pulled off about 10 gooseberries and piled them into my hands. Then he came with another handful and urged me to open my purse and dumped them in! I was so deeply touched by their generosity. To have these wonderful people showering us with such extravagant hospitality was nearly overwhelming for my already bursting heart. I was a complete stranger to them, just a friend of a friend. And yet they took me in like I was family, went to such lengths to prepare such a fabulous meal, and then insisted on sending me away with as much of their garden bounty as would fit in my purse.
Endlessly, I am dazzled by the kindness of strangers. When we piled back into the cars, after our goodbyes, I had to fight back the tears. It was a goodbye to people I had only met that very morning, but their impression upon me was so strong that it burrowed down right into the depths of my heart. I doubt they could know the impact they had on this wanderer, by simply sharing their home and food with me so graciously, so eagerly, expecting nothing in return. How strange and marvellous it is when we travel, to have these moments of beauty, of profound emotion with total strangers; how we start as strangers and leave embraced in hugs as friends. These are the moments I live for in travel, the moments that change you on a deeper level.
That afternoon we hit the shops and picked out some of the beautiful wares at last that had caught my eye since I set foot in Turkey. I couldn’t take much with me, but I simply couldn’t resist a few special pieces and gifts. Some delicately hand painted ceramic bowls for my mom with a matching Turkish hourglass tea cup and saucer; a new leather bound journal with the Evil Eye nestled in the leather folds on the cover; two plush velvety red pillow cases; a Turkish towel and a sparkling blue ring as a treat for myself. It was so exciting to finally purchase a few items of the thousands I had seen in the last week throughout Turkey that had been beckoning me.
In the evening, our troop headed down to Buyuk Cakil (Big Pebble Beach) for some swimming, paddle boarding, sun tanning and a delicious dinner. Several of Butch and Brenda’s friends from Kas and the surrounding area joined us for the feast, and we all sat together at a long table outside near the ocean front, eating ourselves into food comas, sharing stories and laughter, among food and wine. In the morning, Leah and I walked out to a beach about 5km from the hotel just outside the city, passing old ruins of an amphitheater on our way. The beach was a little patch of small white pebbles spilling into the sapphire sea, completely deserted. Leah went for a run while I laid out my yoga mat and lost myself in a healing practice of Sivananda yoga for the next hour. It felt so good after weeks without my practice (and far too much indulgent eating) to ground myself again. When Leah returned and I finished my practice, we both dipped into the ocean, cleansing the sweat from our bodies, the cool waters rejuvenating our worked over bodies. The salty water buoyed us lightly as we swam and tread and chatted about life and health and travel. It was such a lovely way to end our few days here in the coast.
We bid goodbye to Kas and the coast and hopped into another van for a couple of hours drive heading towards Antalya to catch a flight to take us back to Istanbul (only for a connection) and then far to the East to our last stop, Cappadocia. On the drive we stopped at a hot spot restaurant on the side of the road for delicious trout and later at the Myra ruins, rock tombs carved into the side of the mountains. Upon leaving, I felt like I would always be able to return to Kas and be welcomed with open arms from the warm friends we met. It was a fast three days, but there was one more stop on our jam packed adventure awaiting us, the grand finale, if you will – The Michelle Dream Cave Hotel in Cappadocia!