Quirky Turkey

Once Seen Never Forgotten

Photographs by Mike Vickers

Feature photo above: Stunning Kaputaş beach in winter

Anyone visiting Turkey becomes very quickly aware that it is different to the UK. Very different. Sometimes gloriously, breathtakingly, gorgeously different, and sometimes hilariously different. In the latter case, it is a reminder, perhaps, of how formalized and hidebound life has become ‘back home’ where the drive for health and safety has encouraged the mundane and extinguished some of the joy of witnessing the surprising or unexpected. Not so in Turkey.

I’ve been carrying my little pocket camera around with me religiously for the many years I’ve lived and worked here, and still continue to do so now I’ve retired to Fethiye. Frankly, I have to because I just have no idea what little gem of eccentricity I’ll see, often a fleeting gem as well. Experience has taught me to strike while the iron is hot or the moment is lost forever. For instance, last week I saw a mannequin in a lingerie shop in town wearing the skimpiest of alluring, semi-transparent, fiery red and very sexy underwear, the sort that begs to be teased off with your teeth whilst blindfolded (or is that just me?), but because we’re now in winter, she was also wearing a pair of warm and sensible scarlet socks. That image would definitely have been included in this album, but I was unable to take the photo at the time and on returning a few days later, discovered she’d been re-dressed in a practical pair of wincyette teddy bear jim-jams. Ah, well…

So, here’s a selection of memorable images which I’ve had the pleasure to witness over the years, each stopping me in my tracks with its beauty, or making me chuckle or warming me with that simple and joyous Turkish humour and eccentricity we all know and love so well. Once seen, never forgotten.

“Oi! Put your crown on straight. How many times have I told you – Caesar you may be, but I won’t have my husband going out looking like a scruff bag!” Some things never change. For me, this superb statue unintentionally captures a very human moment. It is one of many housed in the wonderful museum at Aphrodesias, a city renowned for its sculpting and statuary and one of the finest ancient sites in Turkey. If you ever get the chance, go visit. The place is just fabulous.
The best Loo With A View I’ve ever seen. This barely functional and very draughty building was once the only facility at the summit of Babadağ. Basic it may have been, but second to none when it came to location. Thankfully, the new restaurant complex now up there is much more pleasant, but back in the day, this was your only option. No wonder so many people jumped!
I don’t know this man, what his name is or anything about him at all except that he had his shopping hanging from the handlebars of his bike, but when he saw me with my camera in central Fethiye he struck a pose and gave me the loveliest of smiles. The friendliness of Turks is natural and spontaneous. Cracking bobble hat, by the way.
Saklikent gorge. I was a fair way up the gorge by this time, splashing through the shallows, when I turned and found myself alone. Looking up, the walls were so close and uneven the sky was hidden. All I could hear was chattering water. There was something unnervingly primeval about the moment. The low level of the stream indicates this was taken in late summer. I would imagine it would be an entirely different scene after the winter storms.
On the ferry out of Kaş and heading towards Meis. This was taken almost exactly a year ago on a beautifully sunny and calm day. Remember when it was actually possible to visit the island? What a topsy-turvey year it’s been. Yes, the sea was that blue.
And while we’re on the subject of December, here’s one of Santa’s Little Helpers taking a well-earned tea break at last year’s Çaliş Xmas Market.
Köyceğiz, years ago, and Jan is attempting to order lunch with Jane, our Kiwi friend. We decided to stop at one of the lakeside restaurants, but our Turkish wasn’t up to much in those days. We always found gesticulating helped. The waiter kept saying, ‘yılanbalığı’, which we finally figured out was ‘snake fish’ when translated into English. I caught the moment Jan finally realised he was describing an eel, hence her finger sign. Jane’s expression says it all. She didn’t go for the eel, you may be surprised to hear.
Winter in Fethiye can be really lovely. Orange trees and snow, what more do you want?
The Eşrefoğlu Mosque in Beyşehir is famed for its truly wonderful interior. The roof is supported by 48 slender cedar columns, each individually carved in a different pattern and over 700 years old, yet showing no signs of deterioration. The reason for this is the karlık, or open well, located in the centre of the mosque. Snow fell into this deep stone pit through an opening in the roof and accumulated throughout winter, only to melt in the summer, humidifying the interior and preventing the timbers from drying out and cracking. Now, how clever is that. As you would expect with all that cedar timber, the scent inside is fantastic.
The half-submerged Lycian pillar tomb in Kekova, one small part of the city that sank beneath the sea after a major earthquake. You can still see some of the buildings down there if you take a day boat out from the village. We’ve always found it a very tranquil and lovely place to visit.
Hey, the tree was there first…
DNA inspired topiary at the Esnaf Hospital in Fethiye. You can tell this was taken during the pandemic!
We live in a country where lettuces are bigger than heads! When I first saw this beauty down the market I thought it was a funky 70s disco wig!
High summer, and here’s a shady view out to sea from Kalkan.
A delightful display of İçli köfte for sale in a pop-up market in Fethiye last year. We’d stopped by to stock up on cheese and came across these tasty torpedoes of deliciousness.
Why buy market leader Schweppes when you can have Turkish brand Weps…
The spectacular Dalyan delta from Radar Hill. In a country noted for its fine views, this one’s up there with the best.
Don’t you just love a country where you can have your name baked into a loaf of bread!
Surprisingly erudite graffiti on a water bowser in Üzümlü. You can wait all you like, but…
‘O Mighty Blue Prince, upon my honour I will ride my faithful steed, Buscopan, day and night across many perilous lands to deliver your message.’
‘Or I can send a text!’
Close Encounter Of The Weird Kind at the 2019 Kaya Festival.
And finally, on a seasonal note, you know those poinsettia potted plants that are given as Christmas gifts in the UK and struggle to survive until the end of January? Well, here’s one of many stunning poinsettia trees that are scattered in abundance around Fethiye. This robust specimen is tall enough to reach the second storey eaves!

First published for Fethiye Times 23 December 2020