It came as a surprise to me when, in adulthood, I realized that many people (let’s admit it: women) grow up harboring ideas of their “dream wedding.” REALLY? Never once, in any fashion, as a child, teen, or adult, had I envisioned my potential wedding. For me, the dream was about finding someone to love. After that, all cravings ended.
In similar fashion, I’ve never fantasized about a particular vacation and how it should look or feel. Better than pinning hopes on a certain set of days in a certain place is the idea that every single day of life can contain three minutes of “holiday,” and in that way, all of life is a dream vacation.
While I still think dream weddings are nonsense, I’ve changed my chorus about vacations. For, after our recent ten-day stint on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, I am so blissed out and dreamified that I may never get over it. I now have, for the rest of my life, a dream vacation. On one hand, there’s the fact that I’ve experienced the complete happiness that comes from a worry-free week and a half; on another hand, I now have a notion of “ideal vacation” in my head–of a place and a feeling–that I will pine for year afer year until we can come back (at which point, doubtlessly, everything would feel bad and wrong because nothing ruins anticipation better than the arrival of a long-hoped for reality).
The upshot is that we had the. best. time on the Turkish Mediterranean and that we are already hoping that our lives will allow for a return one day because it was–how to say it?–ah, yes: a wondrous paradise.
We started the trip with a ten-hour bus ride from the nearby city of Nevsehir to the large Mediterranean metropolis of Antalya. There, we stayed in a pension in an old Selcuk house that has high ceilings and doors and approximately the most disappointing showers I’ve taken in this country of crummy plumbing. However, I quickly forgot how cold and unrinsed I was as I sat on the bed and watched Byron eat kokorec (pronounced ko-ko-wretch): a traditional street stand sandwich based around seasoned and grilled lamb intestines. He described it as both “earthy” and “not the worst thing I’ve had on a piece of bread this year.”
We really loved our two days in Antalya, largely because they were a perfect counterpoint to our usual Life in the Sticks. In Antalya, there were modern-looking people, tramlines, beaches, Starbucks. After two days, when it was time to hop on the bus over to our next stop, the village of Cirali, we were already contemplating a return to Antalya for the last couple nights of the trip.
But then, well, came Cirali, a village of two roads, multiple family-run pensions, a scattering of restaurants, and three kilometers of beach. Within fifteen minutes of arrival, the most particular stickler in our family (that’d be Haakon) announced, “This is my favorite place in Turkey.” Indeed, the laid-back vibe, lack of crowding, immense beauty, and easy welcome of the place charmed us one and all. It is Cirali that turned a great vacation into a dream.
We stayed three days in Cirali, during which time I had two massages from a woman named Irina who spoke no English (except she was able to say: “Irina massage is laser,” and holy crap, it was). Having been plagued with a month-long headache that seems tied into muscle tension coming up my back…the kind of headache that had me wondering how to get through each hour, much less each day…the kind of headache that sent me to a Turkish government hospital to see a neurologist…I was transformed by Irina’s laser massage and appreciated that her hands peeled apart my anatomy and made me come off the table as she grabbed the deep-seated pain and brought it to the surface. The fact that she couldn’t stop marveling at the crazy beefiness of my calves was icing on the massage Twinkie. In addition to the massages, we all swam every day and had a lovely late afternoon walk through the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Olympos (site of the first Anatolian Olympics!). One night, our pension owner’s son drove us up the road to the trailhead for The Chimera: the eternal flames popping out of a mountainside that used to be visible to sailors at sea thousands of years ago (and readily available to light the torch for those first Anatolian Olympics). We managed the challenging hike well enough and then stood in the darkness, mesmerized by the various places where flames licked out from underneath rocks. As it turns out, amazing natural phenomena are a key ingredient of my dream vacation.
After Cirali, we had plans to stay three nights in the fishing village of Kas, which is actually more of an expatriate haven than anything. It took us a few hours to adjust from the floaty happies instilled by Cirali, but once we copped to the feel of Kas, it was lovely: good restaurants, fun shopping, and a terrific day-long boat tour. The boat tour included three swimming stops, when the crew would drop anchor, and we’d all climb down the ladder into the sea; the tour also included a nummy lunch onboard–it’s pretty easy to douse the coals on the grill with seawater when everyone’s eaten his/her fill!–along with a float next to and over the ancient city of Kekova, which was felled by an earthquake um, some years back, like, er, before I was born. A big highlight of the tour was our stop at Simena, a town only reachable by boat. There, we climbed around the ruins of a castle built by the Crusaders (also something that happened roughly “before I was born”) and walked a long path amongst stunning tombs from the Lycian civilization.
As we neared the end of our days in Kas, we had to make a decision about where to spend our last couple of nights before flying back to Cappadocia. It was a no-brainer: we returned to Cirali and tried out a different pension, this one on a working farm (homemade mulberry jam!) with free bikes for us to ride into town and back. So we rode, we swam, we read, we ate, we listened to the roosters crow and the turkeys gobble, I got another massage, and Byron and I took turns hiking a bit of the Lycian Way, a 509 kilometer trail that runs along the coast.
The last day of our trip was spent the way much travel in Turkey is: hopping from shuttle to plane to shuttle to plane. Our flight from Antalya left a bit late, which meant we were barely, if at all, going to make our connection from Istanbul to Kayseri. However, after we landed in Istanbul, a team of men in suits with walkie talkies were standing at the bottom of the stairs, ready to get all 8 of us Kayseri folks onto our connection. We were loaded onto another shuttle, driven around the airport, led into the terminal, literally run down the moving walkways (I knew it was serious when Turkish Airlines Man in Suit grabbed the baby from Fellow Passenger Called Woman in Headscarf and started running with the kid towards the plane). Breathlessly, we hustled into the plane just as the doors were being sealed. I leaned back, cracked my Cleopatra biography, asked for a cup of tea, and realized: It had all worked out perfectly.
It had to. That’s what Dream Vacations do.