One for the road in Bogazici
THE sky is big, the heat is dry and enervating and buzzards are circling. It suggests a scene in a western movie but the olive groves and grain fields, and the name on the gunshot-addled sign outside the village, locate me firmly in the Turkish heartland.
I am in Bogazici, a sleepy waystation on the Lycian Way longdistance walking trail that unfurls around southern Turkey’s magnificent Turquoise Coast.
One of the pleasures of this trek is mingling with the locals. Viewed through weary eyes misted with sweat, the quartet seated beneath a vine trellis outside a rickety grey-timber house looks a good place to start.
Moreover, judging from the cry that goes up, they seem pleased to see me. I watch in astonishment as a comely young woman dashes into the house, only to reappear brandishing a hand-painted sign reading ‘‘Pension’’, which she promptly hangs over the gate.
I am soon established at a plastic-covered table under the disconcerting scrutiny of four pairs of dark eyes. The woman’s husband regards me haughtily from behind the large silver samovar over which he presides. With round protuberant eyes and a black toothbrush of a moustache, the man bears an uncanny resemblance to Gomez from The Addams Family television series of the 1960s.
Seated beside him is an elderly woman with a chiselled teak face who wears a faded print dress and an expression of puzzled inquiry. Next to her, and beside me, perches a frail old man, a wizened bird-like figure with a vacant gaze and an impressive absence of teeth.
‘‘Boom!’’ he shouts as gunfire erupts across the valley, slapping me firmly on the knee and wheezily laughing.
Heat drips from the vines and hens peck in the dirt at my feet as the Gomez lookalike dispenses tea, cocking an inquiring eye in my direction before spiking my glass half-full of sugar. His wife, who has vanished again, reappears with a bowl of watery yoghurt that she thrusts before me, sprinkling it with salt and crushed oregano.
Then the inquisition begins. It is conducted in breathless Turkish that sails well clear of my head. In vain I consult the glossary in my guidebook. Snatched from my hand by the young woman, the venerable tome is passed around the table.
She and the older woman converse in raised voices as if one, or both, is hard of hearing. As sweat trickles from my armpits, I am reminded of a pair of hysterical doctors discussing an interesting, but possibly hopeless, case.
Neighbours appear, a woman and her daughter, to see what the fuss is about.
‘‘Boom!’’ shouts the old man as distant gunfire crackles and pops.
I enjoy some success. Knowing my name. Writing my age and nationality on the guidebook cover, then correctly interpreting the gesture of two fingers being rubbed together and declaring my unmarried status. Finally I produce a photograph of my girlfriend, which raises smiles all round, seeming to prove that I am not, after all, a total idiot.
But my fame is fleeting. It is curtailed, predictably, by the Gomez chap who, resenting the attention I am receiving from his wife, poses a curly question. He seems to think the answer is important. The others appear to think so too, and all wait with bated breath.
But it soon becomes apparent I have played my last ace. An air of deflated expectation settles around the table as the neighbours depart, Gomez gloats, and his wife, whose pretty eyes have reflected such high hopes, sighs, as if she might have been mistaken about me.
I rise and, feeling I have disappointed my hosts, regretfully depart.
‘‘Boom!’’ I hear behind my retreating back.