A lovely article from the Mail on Sunday
By any standards it was a tough decision. Should I swim in the private pool on the terrace outside my hotel bedroom, or should I plunge into the pool by the bar? I chose the latter, only to find myself with another tough call.
Should I order a glass of the local wine, or a bottle of local beer? Life at the Asfiya Sea View Hotel in southern Turkey is full of such tough decisions. Sometimes, it’s simply easier to order both wine and beer.
The Asfiya is the newest hotel in Kalkan, a historic fishing port that’s stacked up against the surrounding mountains like some Turkish version of Polperro. This is the Med as it used to be. No nightclubs. No karaoke. No hassle.
It’s understatedly authentic and filled with some of the friendliest people on the planet. The hotel has a view to die for. Fling back the curtains and you find yourself with a operatic backdrop, all mountains and sea.
The Mediterranean looks so inviting, you simply want to take a running jump and plunge in. Not for nothing is this area known as the Turquoise Coast. It’s a place to relax, unwind and shift into a very low gear for a week or two.
Like the town itself, the hotel is built into the rock, with little private pools on several levels and a main pool by the bar. It’s informal, friendly and intimate: there are only 30 rooms, 16 of which have their own pools. Next year, it will also have a spa.
This stretch of Turkey has become increasingly popular with holidaymakers in recent years. Charter flights to Dalaman from Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Gatwick have made the resort towns of Fethiye and Marmaris extremely accessible.
Kalkan is rather different. It’s a 90-minute drive from the airport and this acts as a filter to the number of tourists coming here. It has also enabled the town to remain unashamedly upmarket. If Fethiye is Blackpool, then Kalkan is Southwold.
When you summon the energy to struggle up from your sunbed, it’s a ten-minute saunter into Kalkan’s bustling little centre. It comes into its own at night, when the lights twinkle like it’s Christmas.
Virtually every building in the old town is a bar, a restaurant or both. Choosing which one to eat in each night is not easy. One night I plump for Trio, for no other reason than that I’m told by the owner I won’t regret it. ‘Why not the one next door?’ I ask. ‘’Cos it’s terrible,’ he says with a loud belly laugh.
I think he’s joking. I decide to ‘go Turkish’, starting with mezze. And thus begins an endless procession of thick minty yogurt sauces, houmous and fried aubergines drenched in olive oil, served with puffed bread the size of a balloon.
As I knock back a few glasses of the local white wine, I chat with Murad, the owner. He’s keen to show me a promotional video he’s just made – five minutes of people eating, drinking and swimming. It seems to capture the place perfectly.
The main course arrives as the video comes to an end. Murad serves me a lemony grouper, lightly grilled and served with aubergine ratatouille. Another glass of wine and I return to the hotel to join guests at the bar.
After a couple of days spent unwinding on the sunbed, I sign up for what’s known as a ‘Lazy Day at Sea’. It’s a day aboard a gulet, a traditional wooden boat that takes you out across the bay. There are ten of us on board, all guests at the Asfiya Sea View or its sister hotel, The Likya.
They’re a friendly bunch, most of whom have been coming here for several years – and they’re keen to keep the place secret. ‘Tell your readers it’s horrible,’ they say. ‘Tell them it rains, the hotel’s rubbish and the food’s lousy. That way we can keep it our little secret.’ I assure them I will.
As we chug out into the Mediterranean, Kalkan recedes into the heat haze until the town and the mountain are almost indistinguishable. The sea is turquoise and the sun’s beating down as if on a mission.
‘Beer or wine?’ asks one of the crew. Another tough decision. We spend the whole day pootling from cove to cove – swimming in the glassy water, dropping anchor at Mouse Island, and admiring a vast floating gin palace that passes by. ‘Russian oligarchs,’ we chorus.
There’s a succulent lunch served on board, followed by a siesta under one of the ship’s canvas awnings. In Kalkan, siestas are de rigueur.
There are other excursions on offer for those who have the energy. Most people spend at least one day at nearby Patara Beach, an eight-mile stretch of sand so white and powdery it could be flour. But be warned: you must leave by early evening, for that’s when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
Patara Beach has one secret I wasn’t expecting. Nor, for that matter, were the archaeologists who started to dig here in the mid- 1990s. This is the site of one of the great cities of the Lycian world, a massive, wealthy, 2,500-year-old metropolis complete with theatre, parliament and main street lined with tumbledown shops. It’s not often you get to have a classical ruin to yourself, but I had just that.
The only other visitors were green-backed frogs. Even if you’re not tempted by ruins, it’s worth spending an hour or two picking over the mass of old temples and villas. It’s strange to think such a huge city can just die. But this one did, in the Middle Ages, when the Turks booted out the Byzantine inhabitants.
Another must-see excursion is the Saklikent Gorge, a 14-mile-long, 1,000ft-deep canyon scoured out over the centuries by the River Xanthos. The drive to the gorge is the stuff of picture-postcards. Pink oleander bushes, yellow gorse and majestic pines that grow to an enormous size on improbable bluffs.
A raised walkway leads you into the narrowest part of the gorge. Then, when it comes to an end, you have to wade across the torrent and continue for about a mile to a spectacular waterfall.On a hot day, it’s the perfect place to cool off.
Back in Kalkan, the evening sun sinks like a punctured balloon – slow at first, and then a sudden dash to the horizon. It’s time to head back to the bar and join the others and discuss the day. ‘Beer or wine?’ asks Andrew, one of the guests. I’m tempted to say both.
Resource : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2652119/Turkey-travel-Revel-quiet-delights-Kalkan.html
Written by : Nick Wrightman – Director