David Pierce // Matematik (Mathematics) // M.S.G.S.Ü.


Orhaniye, 2001

Originally composed Tuesday, April 24, 2001

One of my email friends wrote last week that snow was falling and sticking where she was. I also saw snow last week. This was good. The snow was on mountain-tops. The mountain-tops were seen in the light of the new day as our overnight bus was nearing the Mediterranean coast. We were to spend five days by the sea.

In our travels about Turkey in the last few years, we have used the appropriate book in the Rough Guide series. This book does not write enthusiastically about where we went this weekend. Indeed, if you are visiting the country for just a couple of weeks, you may want to do more than hang out on the rural shore of a bay. But this was just what we wanted, and it is why we picked the place out of a Turkish-language hotel guide.

We stayed at a locale called Orhaniye, on the western coast of the Marmaris peninsula. Marmaris itself is the site of a large harbor for yachts, and is home of a lot of touristical development. The peninsula itself has seen little development. Actually, it has seen some attempts at development. We saw the skeletons of a couple of large hotel complexes. The projects had been begun illegally, on protected land, so they had been halted, years before.

The small bay where we stayed features a submerged spit called “Girl sand” (kız kumu). You can walk to the middle of the bay on it, pretending to be Jesus. The story is that a girl fleeing rapists created the partial causeway out of the sand she carried in her skirts; when the sand ran out, she drowned herself to protect her virtue. I don't know why the spit should remain without artificial replenishment; perhaps it is somehow maintained by tidal flows and the way the mountains catch the wind.

More fruitful for idle dreaming is the island whose rocky summit is ringed by the walls of an old fortress. How old? We don't know. Maybe the Ottomans built it, or maybe the Knights of Saint John. Possibly it's older than that. It is not spectacular enough to merit a mention in the Rough Guide. If we visit again in warmer weather, we'll swim out to it.

Something else not worth mentioning in the Rough Guide is a tomb, halfway up a hillside, over in the next valley. I'm guessing it's at least two thousand years old; maybe it's Lycian. It's just a box with a tall pyramidal top. Down by the road, the peasant woman tending her goats said that when she was a girl, they used to go up to the tomb to pray for rain. If Taliban-like fundamentalists took control here, they might want to destroy such old places, even if they don't feature human images.

That peasant-woman,—I might have guessed she was sixty. Ayşe suggests that she might only be 40. The peasant life is a hard life. I try to remember this, because romanticizing it is easy where we were. It was springtime on the Mediterranean. Everywhere on land was green—everywhere that wasn't the petal of a wildflower or the skin of an orange. We walked all around the two valleys adjacent to our hotel on the shore. Each is thoroughly developed for agriculture, but it seems to be an age-old style of agriculture. The lower hillsides have been levelled into a series of terraces held up by walls of the local stone. The terraces hold olive or orange-trees, or just provide a flat patch for grass on which to graze sheep and goats. Water is diverted from the valley bottom to feed the lower terraces. Ranks of beehives are everywhere.

Monday was a national holiday, and we saw few people about. Higher up in the valley though, men were loading logs onto a truck. Ayşe wondered whether they might be logging illegally. I don't know, but when we got higher up into the pines ourselves, we found a few stumps here and there. This suggests sustainable logging to me: that woodcutters now and then go up into the forest to select just the biggest trees. (One stump seemed to have 70 rings or so.)

I'm guessing that the peasant life of the region hasn't changed much since Herodotus lived up the coast a ways. Life may be have become safer; there's less risk now from marauding warriors. Life may nonetheless have become harder, if population density has gone up. Maybe the density hasn't changed; but on the other hand, maybe those terraces were not built until the twentieth century, when there was no other decent agricultural land available.

After the war re-establishing Turkey as a republic in 1923, there were “population exchanges” with Greece. We don't know how much these exchanges affected the area where we were. Supposedly though, the local old-timers can remember illegal bartering with the Greeks in the islands: exchanges of dynamite for chewing gum, for example.

Somebody else told us that the local people had come from central Anatolia; this might explain why they didn't seem to be fishers. But this particular informant was suspicious of our questioning.

Our hostellers—whose only guests we were—came from Ankara, like us; they had been spending all of their holidays in Orhaniye, so they decided just to move there. A local friend of theirs took us on a driving tour of the peninsula (for a fee added to our bill). The friend wasn't really local either; he was from İstanbul. The real locals couldn't understand what he was doing there; they all wanted to move to İstanbul. I think I can understand why he would move; but then the peasants might not understand why I have moved to Turkey from the US.

The hard peasant life. Maybe some of the oranges went unpicked because the young people had moved to istanbul. The old folks just went on doing things in the old way: cutting hay with sickles, hauling it on the backs of donkeys—or their own backs. I don't know what our tour-guide was living on: savings for a while I guess. He had been a hairdresser in İstanbul, and was hoping to make a living dressing tourists' hair. Good luck to him. If you can go to the region by choice, then perhaps you don't need much else to live on. I'm wondering what is the nearest university to that peninsula that will give us jobs.

Son değişiklik: Monday, 09 April 2012, 16:59:44 EEST