Chapter Forty Four  January – February, 2009

 

Did we say work? Impossible. We’re having way too much fun to manage work, too. Priorities, priorities. Retirement allows us to choose. So we have. Fun. Fun. Fun.

 

Upon returning from a family Christmas in Germany, we received an impromptu invitation to Istanbul. Within days our bags were packed and we were enroute to the big city. We didn’t do major tourist sites like the previous trip. We visited with our friend’s family, cooked in, strolled the neighborhood and really got a feel for the place. It was wonderful. We were guests of Banu.  Her father was an avid sailor, in fact quite well known in the Turkish sailing community. Her mother’s home is filled with trophies, impressive photography and a world of memories from her early days of sailing which began when Banu was only two. It’s no wonder Banu is herself an extraordinary single hander. She is a gracious hostess, and her newly refurbished pad is out of this world.  From the living room window we could watch the ships plying the Bosphorus while staying warm and dry behind the huge sliding glass doors.  (Yes, it was cold and wet, but who noticed?)  Check this place out.

                  

Note:  Anyone interested in spending time in Istanbul?  This place is for rent at very reasonable rates.  Banu’s father built the building sixty years ago when it was a small residential neighborhood.  Now it is a little like being in Tribeca with chic cafes, restaurants and retailers.  We loved it all.  

Of course we did revisit the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. There’s just no other place like it in the world. It’s all very captivating. The salesmen are relentless but that just adds to the overall flavor of the experience. We walked into a “notions” shop where Sharon thought she died and went to heaven. We learned almost immediately that it was a wholesale operation. Despite this, we were given a tour of the six floors of buttons, laces, ribbons, you name it. There is no end to the kindness of the Turks.

                                                

 

And we did take a drive to the Black Sea followed by a long lunch of kofte (spicy Turkish meatballs) and chips by the fireside. It was a perfect way to spend a cold rainy Sunday.

                               

We were no more than back in the marina when the next excursion raised its ugly head.  Selçuk. Here we were entertained by the ancient winter sport of camel wrestling. Of course the sport is created by human beings (male that is). It’s no surprise that John was fascinated by the sport and Sharon was fascinated by the hand-made and embroidered costumes worn by the animals. We arrived early to secure a good table as close to the front row as possible. The traditional dress for the attendees is a large plaid fringed scarf which you wear around your head or shoulders, a “must” in being a supportive fan. Two camels enter the arena. They twist their necks around each other, eventually one pins the other and a winner is declared. We never quite understood which one was the winner; the rules are a bit of a mystery. But there is endless chatter, cheering and hoopla and the day is truly not about the sport. Well, not for tourists anyway. It’s all about the people and the food and the sounds and the mood. And it’s so Turkish and so wonderful. You only need to go once and we’re sure glad we did.

                                                 

                                                                                     

 

The atmosphere is invigorating.

                                                     

Really, why work when you can have this much fun?

                                                                                             By the way, that’s camel sausage draped behind the happy crowd!

 

The “side story” to our camel wrestling adventure goes like this. It happened to be our 12th wedding anniversary. Now in the scheme of life, camel wrestling would not have been our first pick in celebrating the event. But friends encouraged us and we were told it was a “do not miss”. So off we went. We spent two nights at “Jimmy’s Place Hotel”. Jimmy himself is a retired Turkish backpacker who is a hard-core rug merchant and a lousy hotel entrepreneur. (We nearly froze to death.) In fact we went outside to get warm. Jimmy only turned on the hot water heater in the mornings and that would be fine, if he had only told us! It made for a lot of laughs - mostly afterwards! Check out this suite!

                                     

So now it’s late February and are well aware that we have to “knuckle down”. We study the Winter To Do List. Nothing looks very appealing. So we procrastinate. Fast forward 2-3 days and we get a call from a friend seeking our help. Here’s what happened: Two friends are sitting at the bar. They both own Portuguese Water Dogs. One says “My dog’s bigger than your dog.” The reply “My dog’s faster than your dog”. The bigger dog, Vasco de Gama, is four years old and male. The competitor is one year old, female and is called Ada. After a few minutes and a few beers a challenge is issued. The owners call John and ask if he will “market” and advertise the First Annual Marmaris International Water Dog Race. John takes it on. (Ask a retired ad guy to put on his old suit and, boy, did he ever!)  Every day announcements were made on the morning radio net. The tension builds. Who will earn the first title of “Top Dog”? Five days later the race is on. John notified the local newspaper and nine reporters are the first to arrive, one hour before race time. (No KIDDING; must have been a slow news day!) The owners, trainers, cameramen, announcers, judges, marina management, staff and spectators begin to arrive. Hundreds.

                                                                                          

The owners get into a dinghy; the combatants will follow it to the Finish Line. Ada is teased on by her favorite water toy; Vasco is bribed by large chunks of beef being tossed in his direction. The race begins. The press is all over it.

                                 

They’re off!  It is immediately neck in neck. There is no clear leader.

                                                                                                                 

The pressure is riveting. The cheering can be heard in the next town. Until disaster strikes. The dinghy engine has drawn a plastic bag into its propeller and stops. The dogs flounder. Where to go? Ah, but the astute owner of Ada hurls her toy over the finish line and Ada takes off. Ada is declared “Top Dog”. All this was followed by a Trophy ceremony and barbeque.  (“News at 11.”)

                                              

Could this mean we now have to get to work? Possibly. Alas, a fellow yachtie calls and tells us we need to see a new marina for consideration for next winter. Phew. That was close. So we gather our maps and guides and off we go. Three ladies, a gentleman and a dog. Top Dog, to be exact. 1250 KM in three days. It was fun, informative and very beneficial. One marina under consideration is also under considerable construction, as in “being built”. We’re promised it will be complete by May for annual contracts. We’ll wait and see. We were impressed with the setting, the town and the location. But toilets would be good, too.

                                                

So it’s now mid February and we’ve hunkered down. The 30-year old faucets have been replaced in the head.                                                                                                                                                                         

Varnishing on companionway screens, cockpit table and wheel is complete. The new dodger is in place. The masthead light will be installed tomorrow. We did it. We finally began. I think we’re on a roll. More work reports to follow. Stay tuned.