“How was the season for you?” I ask Bora, a friend in Kusadasi.
He smiles widely, “For me it was good.” He says, “For me it was a very nice season.”
“You’re the first person apart from me I’ve heard say that!” I tell him, because basically, this October, most people I speak to in the restaurants and shops have been moaning about how bad a season it has been.
“Ahh” says Bora, “If you spend 2 million lira over the winter on credit and only make 1 million lira during the season then for you it will have been a bad season. But like I say, for me it was very nice!”
I guess it’s true, it’s an expectation thing and a need thing and a balance thing and those in the tourist trade, like farmers, are fond of a pessimistic approach. Like Bora we too in Kirazli had a nice season. Despite having our first insane guest (don’t ask, it was horrible but it had to happen one day!) we had a lovely season and the studio was booked from March through until end of October and the people were fun and interesting and stopped Nick and I from being isolated but reminded us why we stay here because “outside” sounds really weird!
However, Bora works in car hire and we, in renting out the studio, appeal to independent travellers and perhaps it is just this section of the market that feels good. Those whose livelihood has been hit by the all inclusive hotels (restaurants) and tourists who won’t spend a lot on gifts and souvenirs (shops) due to the recession in their home countries are clearly having a harder time of it.
I’ve stopped trying to find a pattern in the tourist season. Last year we had mainly Canadians and Australians passing through and we were busiest in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, this year has been mainly American and Indian guests and high summer was packed. The only commonality I see is that independent travel to Turkey remains strong and the timeless fascination of the ruins at Ephesus and the broad appeal and beauty of the Aegean region routes the independent and footloose through here as they tour this great big fascinating country in easy stages.
Now the season is winding down and the beautiful peaceful days of Autumn are here and the laundry is less and the countryside is still inviting and the sea is still warm and you can hear a collective sigh issuing from the expats and residents of the main resorts as they quietly reclaim their home territory.
This is my favourite time of year, I have more time and I have more inclination to get out and about because it’s so perfect even I can’t stay inside. The light is just wonderful and so I photograph everything because is all looks so good. This is the time of leisurely breakfasts in the mountains, long warm days on the sea and the pleasant cool of autumn nights where I sleep with the windows wide open and the stars burn with a particular ferocity. It is also the time of harvest gifts from the neighbours, daily deliveries of different varieties of grapes and every rooftop in the village is patterned with bright squares of peppers, grapes and figs drying in the sun.
October, definitely the best time to live here, be here, visit here. Enjoy!
By the way, please don’t think that this area shuts down at the end of October, 68,000 people live in Kusadasi alone without counting Selcuk, Soke, Aydin and the few million souls in Izmir, we’re not exactly into feral foraging for food once the charter flights from the UK stop! All the best restaurants stay open and even out here in Kirazli valley the sofrasi are open every day, they may close early of an evening if nobody turns up but in the towns normal service continues amongst all but the very specifically tourist haunts. Even my favourite fish and chip shop is open on market days in Kusadasi, Wednesday and Friday 🙂 All the main attractions like Ephesus are open all day every day so whilst the main tourist season has passed the best of the year is yet to come.
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I think the up-market, high quality sector in Turkey has always been strong and continues to prosper. Look at the investment in gulets in the last 30 years. The low-end sector will never be worth much as it panders to those worrying about one lira on the price of beer and a plate of chips. If you are counting your profit in 1 lira coins, the season is never going to be very kind. Sorry if this sounds harsh.
I’ve always thought the same, when Turkey had an identity crisis and started marketing itself as just a cheaper alternative to Spain was the day sustainable tourism took a nose dive. There are things here that simply cannot be duplicated, between the ancient sites and the amazing geography, and developing high end niche businesses around those is the way to establish an enduring business.
When I was a kid my sailing family talked every year of doing the Blue Cruise – many, many, many years later people are still aspiring to do it and treating it as a trip of a lifetime, that’s a real enduring attraction, I can’t imagine many people can say the same about your bog standard week somewhere hot with cheap beer.
Karen, I do wonder if the shops and some restaurants are their own worst enemy, I nearly died when in Kusadasi this year to asked the price of a fake leather bag and was quoted 500, I asked Lira and was told no pounds. Now I am a regular and experienced haggler, but there was no way the vendor was going to come down down to under 30 quid that I would have found acceptable. This was repeated in almost every shop I went to. The restaurants aimed at tourists are also grossly overcharging, some charging prices I would expect to pay for a much higher quality meal in London or Edinburgh, certainly not what I would be prepared in Kusadasi. I do find myself starting to gravitate away from the centre more and more as the quality and price are so much better.
It’s mad isn’t it, you’ve just got nowhere to start with a negotiation like that! Personally I don’t buy anything in Kusadasi, I go to Aydin or Izmir or even Selcuk, that 12km from Kusadasi to Selcuk brings you back into the real world. Other than the odd plate of fish and chips, a steak at BeBop a few times a year and a Pide now and then I can’t remember when I last ate in Kusadasi either, I think it must be three or four years since I had a meal at a tourist place in Centrum, mainly because the food is bad and I don’t care what it costs if it’s bad I’m not buying it. A quick look at the menu is normally enough to tell you if you want to eat there or not, if it has Indian/Chinese/Mexican dishes on the menu and more than two pages of options its never going to end well.
Just remembered – Mezgit – they have always been good because they don’t try to be something for everyone, they are what they are, but again, fish, very very pricey here, way more than one would expect.
Thanks for putting into words, what I have discovered in my many visits to Kusadasi. The best time to visit is outside of the main tourist season. My wife and I have only once visited Turkey in high summer, and this was no less than 14 years ago. We never repeated the exercise, Keep up the information service.
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