Tales From Turkey,  The Seasons

Remember The Summer?

Written with tongue firmly in cheek, photographs by Mike Vickers

With the winter solstice and Christmas fast approaching, the weather has turned distinctly  damp and chilly, so to cheer us up perhaps it’s time to cast our minds back to summer, for some now but a distant dream.

Oh, gentle reader, let me refresh your memory.

To be honest, summer in Fethiye is a paradox. It can be genuinely gorgeous – and it can be horrible at the same time. Not dreadful, not fearful or nasty, nor dangerous nor disagreeable, just – well, horrible. It’s horribly hot, horribly humid and horribly crowded. This is not heresy. I am not in any way denigrating this most lovely of towns and the place in which I’ve chosen to live, but I’ve experienced four summers here and my abiding memory is a lasting astonishment at just how much perspiration a human body can produce.

I’ve a friend back in the UK who on a number of occasions has assured me – with the misplaced confidence of someone who’s never actually experienced Fethiye in late July – that he could handle a Turkish summer. Foolish boy.

He didn’t believe me when I offered a few observations of what it’s actually like to endure summer here. Endure, yes, that’s the correct word. We endure it with stoicism knowing that the relentless heat will eventually subside as the seasons move on and sonbahar arrives. To help pass the time and looking on the bright side (through industrial strength sunglasses), the heat can facilitate a number of jolly seasonal games. I’ve listed three of my personal favourites:

Places Into Which Sweat Can Trickle. This is a very democratic game. Everyone can play!

How Many Droplets? A particularly entertaining game that involves the accumulation of a sufficiently large enough quantity of sweat droplets to weigh down the eyelashes to the point your eyelids can no longer stay open. I used to play this a lot during August. Not recommended whilst driving!

Stroll & Shower. See how far you can walk in full sun before your clothes become so drenched in perspiration you need to strip off, shower and re-dress in dry clothing. My shortest distance was about two hundred yards, an achievement of which I’m immensely proud – and that was in Ovacik, 1000 feet up in a mountain valley and generally a few degrees cooler than Fethiye.

Here’s an observation worthy of some thought. Our genial hosts, the Turks – who, let’s face it, have been here for quite a few thousand years – are STILL not acclimatized. Turkish friends are perfectly comfortable up to about 35C, above that, they start to glow, just like the rest of us. You know it’s getting warm when you see a local with damp temples!

Top of the Charts

To help manage expectations in summer, I’ve created a Top Of The Charts list of activities and places to avoid. For your entertainment and in classic TV pop show format, they’re presented in reverse order:

A non-mover still at No.5 – waiting at a dolmus stop. If at all possible, seek out any shade available. If you’re lucky enough to be able to resist chocolate, you can hide behind an electricity pole. Sadly, I personally find this entirely unsuitable. Some stops now have proper bus shelters, which are most welcome. If there’s no shelter, discreetly position yourself in the shadow of the largest person (possibly me – but I’ll be behind someone else) and move with them. In this manner a queue will form, something of a comfort to us British. Tip: If this person becomes suspicious of your proximity, claim you’re training for Strictly Come Dancing.

Climbing six places to No.4 – riding a motorbike in shorts. The hot air crisps your knees. Enough said.

Last week lurking just outside the chart, now rising to No.3 – travelling in a car that has no air conditioning. It’s like driving in an oven, but at least your knees don’t get burnt.

Unchanged at No.2 – Fethiye Market. A sweltering tented city. There’s a reason the locals have done all their shopping by 8am.

New in at No.1 – being anywhere in direct sunlight. Why do you think Umbrella Street in Fethiye is so popular?

By way of balance and to maintain journalistic impartiality, here’s a run down of five cool places to visit in summer, again in reverse order:

542 weeks in the chart and still hanging on at No.5 – Migros. Where would we be without their blessedly cool cavernous interiors. Other air conditioned supermarkets are available.

A seasonal re-entry at No.4 – yaylas. Any of these elevated valleys nestling among the mountains will do. Elmali, for instance. Many sensible Turks have summer homes up in the yaylas.

That classic honeymooners favourite at No.3– cooling off with a cold shower in the middle of the night. Essential to encourage sleep on nights that are almost as hot as days.

Straight in at No.2 – reclining under a sun umbrella on the beach, allowing easy access to…

…Unassailably No.1 – the sea. How lovely it is to slide into those crystal clear turquoise waters, especially from the back of a day cruise boat anchored off one of the 12 islands. Throw in lunch and you have a strong contender for the winner of Finest Day Possible To Have On Earth For £15. Hang on, I feel a sea shanty coming on…

Oh, blessed ocean, twinkling and blue,
You offer succour, so we love you.
From Çalis beach to Patara’s surf,
Your cooling balm is always enurf (hey, I’m not the poet laureate, ok?)

A North Sea paddle will likely freeze,
Inducing numbness below the knees
In England, where seas are unkind.
February in Skegness comes to mind.

For all of the above frivolity, summer does bring its own real and genuine pleasures. The settled weather means you can plan ahead with absolute certainty – the sun shines virtually every day from the end of May to the middle of September, facilitating outdoor living in all its easy-going glory. The days are full of colour from bougainvillea and hibiscus and the nights heady with the lingering fragrance of jasmine. Fethiye hums and bustles, all the shops and restaurants are busy and the town is full of happy summer visitors.

A few days ago, snow appeared overnight on Çal and the nearer peaks behind Fethiye. It’s now only a question of time before Babadağ and Mendos sport their seasonal white crowns. The winds will howl and the rain will come at you sideways, but don’t complain too much.

Remember the summer!

Karşerbert. Crushed mountain snow mixed with pekmez (grape molasses). Most welcome on a steamy hot summer’s day. Brain freeze is an ever present threat.
Umbrella Street in Fethiye. Welcome shade for the determined shopper.
Çalis Beach from the shade of a restaurant terrace. Those are sun umbrellas, by the way, not giant cocktail sticks.
What’s there to do but relax. Red Island from the beach at Yonca Lodge in Yaniklar. Search all you like, but you’ll not find a cloud.
Just bobbin’ around the bay…
…and stopping for lunch.
The evenings offer relief after the heat of the day. Everyone comes out to enjoy the sunset and cooler temperatures. Especially the bin men!

During winter, it’s only natural to look forward to summer, although I’ve just offered up a timely reminder of what it can sometimes be like. So, when next summer arrives and we’re all standing barefoot in bowls of cold water to facilitate the HOTS (Helping Overheated Toes Survive) expect a follow-up article imaginatively titled, REMEMBER THE WINTER?

Happy Christmas Everyone!

PS: I’m writing this while a storm rages outside. The pounding rain is torrential, the garden flooded. The pregnant clouds are so low none of the hills around Fethiye are visible and our cat – not exactly the brightest energy saving bulb in the pack – has just discovered the difficulties of changing direction while running at speed on a mud-sodden lawn. Think Bambi trying to stand up on that frozen pond and you get the picture…