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Surprise Ramadan in Ayas

July 20, 2013

Heather and I took our leave from Cappadoccia via a five hour bus ride down to the large, sprawling coastal city of Mersin. On the bus, I picked a little dot called on the map called "Erdemli" that Lonely Planet had apparently not considered important enough to be elaborated with a description and list of accomodations. From Mersin we caught a smaller bus to Erdemli, and after another hour found ourselves standing on the side of the road with no concrete plans. I asked a kind-looking young woman where to find a 'pensiyon.' She respnded in Turkish, of which I caught about two words. I stood there looking confused (I was); she went talk with a minibus driver who spoke about 5 words of English. A muddle of talking and gesturing ensued. Heather, seated on a nearby bench with our backpacks, gave me a raised eyebrow as if to say, "Do you have any idea what you're doing?" I shrugged.

In the end we went with him because he said he could show to a house near the beach for 30 Lira per night. He proceeded to show us to a small house near the beach... that seemed like his. At this point Heather let me know in no uncertain terms she did not feel comfortable staying in a house that belonged to a strange man, and what if he came in at night with a second key? I concurred, but was not sure how to communicate that to our would-be host. Next thing I knew, he was handing me the phone to talk with someone, who spoke English. It turned out to be his aunt. I explained to her that we are two women traveling alone and cannot stay with a man, figuring a woman in this culture would certainly understand that. I passed the phone back to him so she could convey the message. He listened and nodded and was not upset with us. But that still did not solve the problem of where to stay.

Next thing we know, a car pulls up with a couple in front and two little girls in back. The woman is the very aunt I just spoke with. She and her husband say they can take us to a hotel. It will be slightly more expensive, but we are willing to pay for something a little less sketchy. We pile into the back seat with their girls. On the short ride to the seaside hotel (which is owned by the man's sister), they invite us to join them for dinner - it is almost time to break the Ramadan fast. Umm... Yes.

We arrive to the man's older brother's house where a long table is set up outside. There are perhaps 15 extended family members and 15 pounds of food. Chicken soup that tastes like home. Rice with shredded chicken that tasts of butter in the best possible way. Vegetables stuffed with a tangy rice mixture. Lamb moussaka which, upon first taste, my and Heather's eyes almost pop out of our head because it so savory-good. (And all the while I am pointing and trying to learn Turkish words corresponding to various items on offer-- eggplant / patlijan, onion / sogan, pepper / biber...) We communicate in a mixture of broken English, German (the older brother knows some), Spanish/Italian (a cousin has studied in an Erasmus program in Italy), and gesture (Heather's unrivaled specialty).

At the beginning of the day we had no idea where we would end up, and my only real goal was to get OFF the Lonely Planet map. At the end of the day, after a scrumptious meal with a big warm Turkish family followed by a large tray of fruit (think melt-in-your-mouth, in-season, just bursting with delectible flavor) and of course the omnipresent tea ("chay"), we install ourselves in a hotel room with a balcony overlooking the ocean for just under 30 USD per night. I think the town is called "Ayash," but it is not even a dot on the map we have. The beach adjacent to our hotel has Turkish tourists, Turkish food stands, and no real hint of Western world infiltration. I would call this a success.

Posted by sbw2109 10:20

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