What a day Saturday 21st May was!!!
The Muğla Chamber of Commerce and Business had invited lots of us on a free day out to show us some of the local area and join in on a cultural day trip out. There were quite a few of us leaving Dalyan from the turtle roundabout at 10am and there were several buses and coaches ready to take us. Victoria Louise Scott and Alp Aslan had been instrumental in organising us and it looked to be an interesting day out. I was lucky enough to have a bus buddy, Linda, sit beside me, my parents were across the aisle and Mark & Kate behind me. Lots of familiar faces and friends were there too as we took a short drive to our first stop in Gokova. We spent about an hour exploring Idyma Antik Kenti, the ancient city of Idyma, where there was restoration work and amazing views from the ruins of a castle. Some of the group were more adventurous than others and spent time walking through the site. I’d worn sandals and didn’t want to risk slipping now that my leg was almost back to normal so I took it steady. The guide was very informative and there was tea or coffee provided in a shaded seating spot as well as toilets (both squat and western style). It was easy to spot our hosts Victoria Louise Scott (VLS) and Alp as they had outfits on that stood out. The sun was out, it wasn’t too hot to be sight-seeing and everyone seemed to be finding it interesting so far. We got back on our respective buses and we were off to a famous town in the Muğla area.
Our next stop was a place that my parents and I had been to more than once but we were still looking forward to it. The Azmak Turu (meaning Azmak creek) in Akyaka flows from Gokova and so a free boat trip was organised for everyone before lunch. We saw lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife, even some turtles. I took a few photos of the river and the people on our boat then relaxed and enjoyed the ride. We saw Adam and Kath who were there on a separate trip and they were coming in on a boat as we were leaving.
I had a feeling we might be running a bit off schedule as we were meant to be at another place of interest for 1pm. We were lazing down the river at 12.40pm but we were still all enjoying the free day out.
From Akyaka we went back on our buses to Thera Antik Kenti in Ula where we were the first tourists to see some important excavations. Very recently some ancient coins had been discovered and we were also able to see the team of archeologists at work at this ancient site.
When we arrived the road was not fit for the big bus we were on so we all had to get off and on to a rickety old dolmuş to take us ‘1km’. There wasn’t enough seats for everyone so I thought my parents were getting a lift in a car with the tour guide. Unfortunately, they were expected to get on with us and there was only standing room. My Mom is awaiting a hip operation and my Dad has bad knees but I could only choose 1 person to switch my seat with. Mom squeezed herself in to my seat behind a metal sign at the front of the bus and I stood at the back with Dad. The doors didn’t shut, my Dad’s eyesight is poor and I was worried he would fall out. The journey was certainly longer than 1km and was incredibly bumpy and windy – I was having trouble holding on and keeping upright.
By the time we arrived we were definitely running late and everyone was hungry. There was lunch provided and we got in the queue for a spinach and cheese pancake and an ayran (yoghurt drink). I had to be careful as both of these things can affect my stomach so I gave my Dad the ayran and just had the one pancake, my Mom had 2! We had a short but good speech from the mayor and then we went to find out more about the ancient site and have a look around it. We volunteered Mark to go to have a look beyond the path, with a police escort and when he came back we joked how funny it would have been to have brought some old coins and pretended to have found more. By this time it was noticeable that we were miles from anywhere with alcohol – a cold beer or a glass of wine would have gone down well. It was getting hot now and we were ready for our next sightseeing stop, after the rickety bus back to the big bus of course. This time we made sure that my parents and I had a seat but unfortunately this meant Chris and a few others had to stand up. I put my facemask on because of the amount of dust but they are no longer needed on buses in Turkey. We were meant to have been at our next stop a while ago, we didn’t eat lunch until 2.10pm and we were just back at the big bus at 3pm – about an hour over the scheduled itinerary.
Our next stop was only 15 minutes away and still in Ula, at a lovely wedding venue with a lake and a zip wire. Mark and Kate were off the bus before us and as I got to the door of the bar area Mark asked which wine I’d prefer. By this time we were all quite ready for an alcoholic beverage so I said I’d have any, not realising Mark was joking! There was a Turkish wedding taking place but there was no alcohol and there were a few disappointed faces. Someone asked the guide if there was any chance of a cold beer and suddenly the queue for the zip line turned in to the cold beer queue, as a crate was brought out. People grabbed seats where they could and had a chilled out time while watching others go on the zip line. My mom had to go off in search of a glass for my Dad as he won’t drink out of a bottle, he didn’t look too impressed that she could only find a water glass. The place was lovely but I only had time for 1 beer before it was back to the bus for our next part of the tour – it was proving to be the cheapest day I’d had for a while, as we only had to pay for our drinks. The Muğla Chamber of Commerce and Business really were giving us a very full day and there was much more excitement to come.
Our next delight was to visit the old village of Ula and join in on a procession through the main street to lead to the village square. Once there, we were ushered in to a shaded seating area to watch some folk dancing, amongst other specially arranged entertainment. I will be honest, I’m not a lover of organised fun and I could also see my Dad’s interest was starting to wane somewhat by this stage. The male folk dancers were pretty good and not dissimilar to Morris dancers in the UK, without the bells on. The female folk dancers looked less enthusiastic and gave the impression they would rather be getting back to cook dinner. There were free Turkish teas and ice creams going round but for some reason only Mom got an ice-cream out of the 3 of us. Some random savoury treats came round and we all got one but I gave mine, which was on the spicy side, to Little Corduroy. By 5pm we were watching with intent as volunteers from the crowd were asked to bite an apple on a string without using their hands. Next, there was a competition to see who could get a coin out of a dish of yoghurt with their mouth. By the time musical chairs was being played my Dad had decided he’d had too much fun for one day and my parents took themselves off for a walk. Amazingly, Kate and a Turkish man were the last to dance round the one chair and, when the music stopped, the man pulled the chair from under her for himself to win. Being in the teaching profession this neither surprised nor phased Kate and she accepted defeat gracefully to the cheating man, who happened to be one of the big wigs in Ula. His cheekiness was not ignored and Kate was awarded the winners medal – I never thought I’d be friends with a real-life musical chairs champion! There was a Turkish version of master chef next, where VLS made us chuckle by doing her impression of Greg Wallace (from MasterChef), trying to eat as much of each dish as possible.
As the day’s schedule continued to run over time, my parents had returned to sit on a bench behind me. I spotted one of our group, in fact a man who likes a drink now and then, stood behind an ambulance but in front of a building and decided it might be wise to see what he was up to. A few of us had struck gold; he was outside a pub, obscured by the ambulance, and they sold beer and wine. We didn’t intend not to go back but we just really fancied a nice glass of wine so Lily Fish ordered wine for us ladies while I popped back to our Dalyan audience members, including my parents, to let them know where we were.
Before too long the rest of our friends had joined us and the pub staff were like deers caught in headlights as we all tried to order first and second beverages. As Kate and Mark tried to leave to join us, Kate got asked to present another winner with their award so was delayed. This was fortuitous for us in the pub, as when she left, the dinner buffet had already opened so she brought us all some bread. Without further ado Chris was off to the nearest shop to buy crisps and, to top off our day of culture, we all had crisp sandwiches and another beverage.
We took over the beer garden and had a lovely time, even Alp and VLS arrived later, probably to check we were behaving. When Mom and I went to replenish stocks of bread we felt a little guilty as there were so many local people queuing to eat the free buffet dinner, so we just got a small amount of bread to keep us going.
After another crisp sandwich, one more beverage for the road and a good old laugh about our amazing day out, it was time to get back on the buses. I don’t recall if we saw the educational film about Ula but it was just after 8pm when we set off back towards Dalyan.
I may have nodded off slightly on the way back from Ula to Dalyan. When we got off the bus, my bus buddy, Linda, headed straight to the bakery who had stayed open for her to collect her lost purse and she was very grateful to get it, and the contents, back safely.
I had a spare breadcake in my bag and we had decided we were going to have a drink in Sofra bar. My parents, Linda and I tootled off to the bar where it was already heaving and we had to wait for Şükrü and Davut to sort us out a table. Mark and Kate were worn out, well that musical chairs medal must have been heavy, so they went home.
By 11.15pm Alp was doing ‘Tequila’ on the karaoke and rocking the place. Linda didn’t stay out, on account of her having to get back home and we only had a couple before realising we were tired. It had been an incredible day, something for everyone to enjoy and it had cost us only the price of our drinks. We were very grateful to all of the people involved in the organising; Alp, VLS and the Muğla Chamber of Commerce and Business.
Photo credit – from various attendees of the day trip including Alp Aslan and Victoria Louise Scott