Yesterday afternoon we were invited into the boat of a Bodrum local. We spent 45 minutes paddling around the Gundogan shore, discussing politics, the US mission to Mars, and Gundogan as we sipped beer in the warm sun, surrounded by sparkling blue water. All around us people were laughing, swimming and lounging.
Gundogan is a small town in the Bodrum Peninsula, which for me has come to epitomize Turkish summers, family gatherings and the very best life has to offer. Since I first moved to Istanbul, we have escaped to Gundogan for Seker Bayram each year. On Seker Bayram, the entire country comes together to be with family. Many families celebrate the end of Ramadan. My family celebrates summer and uses it as an excuse to be together, lounge in the sun, swim in the sea and indulge in the most amazing of meals, together.
The man who invited us into his boat is infamous in Gundogan. He is a retired military official and police offer. He knows everyone. He rows his boat to the town center each day. His rooftop is covered with solar panels and special devices to collect water. He originally bought a house in one of the holiday cooperative that lines the rocky hillsides of Gundogan. He now calls it home. While most people only escape to Bodrum for a few days or weeks each year, he has the unique luxury to call it home. He told us that Bodrum is his paradise and he could not be happier. I accept this with a tad bit of jealousy, but complete understanding.
As I look up, crisp white houses line the rocky hillsides. Purple bourgonvilla covers each gate and doorway. Yachts fill the bay. Docks lead swimmers to the cool, teal water. Fisherman pass through selling their catch of the day. Other vendors sell ice cream, corn, fresh mussels and iced almonds. The shore is covered with shady refuges from the sun. People sit, eat, drink, chat and sit.
Every morning we wake up to a beautiful breakfast complete with Turkish gozleme, homemade jams, 5 different types of cheeses, a unique egg dish, specially prepared olives and more. We indulge ourselves with each bite, and then retreat to our books, studies and writing. Around 1 or 2 PM we prepare to go to the beach. We swim, eat and lounge until 6 PM. Then, we prepare for the next meal. Numerous Turkish appetizers and salads cover the table, along with fresh fish caught only hours before or barbecued meat. We sit, drink and toast as we eat and enjoy the meal. Traditional Turkish music plays in the background. The stars pop out, the club lights appear and a light breeze passes through the balcony. Life is good….