Did we really ever look at weather forecasts? It is that time of eternal sunshine again. And a cloud of Smug hangs over Islamlar. We mountain dudes look down on the sultry heat of the coast from our breeze ruffled hilltop homes, swimming pools still refreshingly cool and air conditioning rarely if ever required.
Not that I want to knock the coast; we have a rental home down there in Kalkan and it is a great place to holiday. Just want to sing the virtues of Islamlar as a time-honoured summer retreat. Come November, when the evenings are still balmy in Kalkan and we are lighting fires, coastal dwellers get to look up smugly at cloud covered mountains.
Kalkan has been suffering because many of the British holidaymakers, upon whom the tourist economy is virtually completely dependent, have turned their backs on Turkey in its time of trouble. With headlines in some papers predicting Armageddon complete with pictures of SAS soldiers on standby to mount Entebbe style rescue missions for UK citizens, that is not surprising.
Were you to come here, however, hoping to be snatched, slung over his shoulder and airlifted by a burly, masked soldier prepare to be disappointed.
I don’t predict a riot.
Life rolls on as normal except even the most popular restaurants can probably accommodate you impromptu and you can even find a parking place in town. The political storm that has shaken Turkey following an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Erdoğan’s government has left this corner of this very large country fairly untouched. It will continue to play out, of which more later, but airlifts Saigon style from blazing buildings? Don’t think so.
Business people are pinning hopes on a September recovery and I suspect they may get it. Accommodation in Kalkan is apparently fairly well booked for September whereas in July and August bookings are 50% down. As long as the mass circulation dailies have other stuff to write about, like “UK August A Sizzler” or “UK August A Drizzler” we may be allowed to get on with nursing our wounds. “A period of silence from them”, as someone said of somebody “would be very welcome”.
Islamlar village meanwhile has not seen a downturn in tourism. Far from it; the nature of tourism has changed here in the mountains and Turkish visitors are coming in droves. Largely speaking they are of the conservative sort and the locals have been building villas to suit conservative taste. This means a villa with plenty of chrome and glass, then a pool with a magnificent view and last touch is to put up a frame work all around the pool and terrace, hang up huge privacy drapes and..er..block out that magnificent view.
Religion? No thanks, I am trying to give it up.
Local tourism is certainly bringing welcome income to the mountains (although for our splendid and renowned restaurants the average drinks order for a couple has dropped from a two G & Ts and a bottle of wine to a bottle of water). With a huge increase in the volume of building too a gold rush was looking inevitable but fortunately the authorities have now started clamping down with some eye watering fines issued last year. Not a moment too soon either. However, Islamlar’s success does underline the need for Kalkan to try and diversify its visitor base and attract a more varied range of tourists to enjoy its undoubted charms.
So that coup, what is it all about?
Well if you are struggling to understand it all you are not alone.
However, nobody is putting their hands up and regretting the coup did not succeed so a kind of unity has broken out. This is loosely around the banner of Protecting Democracy. And there have been and still are democracy rallies in towns and cities around the country every night. A huge one (between 1m and 3m depending on who you believe) took place in Istanbul 3 days go (click on picture).
But where is it all heading? Towards an Islamic state under an all powerful President? Or are there grounds for cautious optimism that a newly evaluated secularism could hold the balance between rival İslamic factions? I found this comment by a Turk (Ömerli) on an online article in the Financial Times about the same big rally and it seemed a useful summary.
“Certainly there are enough grounds for skepticism (sic) as well as more optimistic scenarios. Much will depend on Erdogan and here one really must stretch the bounds of credibility to see him emerge as a unifier. Then again one could not have believed such a rally was possible so despite all our nay saying friends below who wish the worst we remain cautiously optimistic having, of course, little choice. In the meantime it was sad to see how little western support Turkey got from beating back the coup but I guess all pretense (sic) at supporting democracy and its principles is long out the door of the sad spectacle that the EU has become.”
Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican CHP party, actually addressed the rally which marks a new departure for Turkey, although as well as endorsing the opportunity he regretted that the Kurdish party, the HDP, have been excluded.
So this is an important moment for the world and especially Turkey, which has acted as a buffer state between Europe and much of the Middle East for nigh on 100 years. Viewed optimistically, a president who once said democracy was “like a train that you get off once you reach your destination” may have had a moment on the road to Damascus; a realisation that he has the opportunity to embed a free, modern and prosperous Turkey under a secular democracy that is safeguarded not, as previously established by Atatürk, by the military but by the commitment of the people. The very people who proved their courage and vigour in coming on to the streets and defeating guns and tanks.
Only time will reveal the true state of affairs. This may look like foolish optimism in a couple of years. But I am a foolish optimist. Always have been.
In the meantime for those of us who live here I would say hope for the best but have a Plan B! For those of you who love Turkey from a distance, come and show your support by making your next holiday right here on the Turquoise coast. Fill up the taverns, restaurants, hotels and villas and help restore prosperity to this entrancing corner. The world needs Turkey and Turkey needs the world.
On 8th October for the 6th time I will be swimming the 5.5km from Mouse Island to Kalkan beach as part of a dozen strong group of Turkish and foreign residents and visitors. We will be raising money for new charity Kas4kids, supporting the local needy especially in their quest for education for their children. If you want to see us land on the beach and celebrate, be in Kalkan on Saturday 8th October. If you want to donate from afar I will set up a PayPal button on my blog page and tell you more about the work of Kas4kids in a future post.
Here’s to a new and democratic dawn for Turkey under a secular sky.
Spread the word. Turkey is back in business