“Raki, fish, salad”. The man on the scooter grins, pointing at the fish we just bought at the market. Turkish people love their food, and that particular combination is a real classic. The grin turns into a broad smile as the man drives away.
After a summer in Canada, I’m back in Turkey for 6 weeks. Again. This time in Datça, a small town on a peninsula that feels more like an island. On a clear day, you can see the white houses of Simi, the Greek neighbor but a few kilometers away.
In summer, when the mercury hits 40 degrees, the streets and beaches are overrun by Turkish retirees and holidaymakers. But come October and the whole coast switches into low gear. The Mediterranean is still pleasantly warm, but the crowds are gone.
“They are delicious!” The old lady at the Wednesday farmer’s market points at her eggs. She knows what she’s talking about. Color and size vary wildly from one specimen to another. Back in the kitchen, they all reveal the same deep yellow yolk. And a flavor that makes you wonder if you will ever be able to eat an industrial egg again. Those birds were meant to run around eating seeds and insects.
When I first visited Istanbul 4 years ago, all I could think of was to try a local kebab. It’s true, they do them very well. But I only discovered the real culinary highlights over my next 4 longer stays in the country. Turkey still has many small farmers producing an incredible variety of local produce. Year round.
Spoiled For Choice
In smaller towns the bazaar is where most families do their weekly groceries. Also, it’s by far my favorite day of the week. Strolling between the stands. Watching old men laugh and drink tea, their faces baked by decades under the sun. The smell of fresh herbs filling my nostrils. I sample dozens of different types of olives that the enthusiastic merchant keeps feeding me. Khaki season has begun. They are dark orange, soft and delicate to the touch. Perfectly ripe.
If you like to cook, Turkey is a paradise. Every morning I have this guilty feeling of leading an absolutely decadent life when I look at what’s for breakfast. Although it’s hard to be 100% sure, a lot of it is organic too. And everything for less than 5 bucks a day.
Turkey has become somewhat of an RnR stopover for me. A place to rest and relax between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The world-class rock climbing and paragliding round things off quite nicely. Datça is no different. An incredible cave of overhung limestone hides in the hinterland. And wind and kite surfers will be familiar with the area too.
At the crag, it’s rather quiet. A group of Turkish climbers shouts encouragements. “Haydi, haydi!” “Let’s go!” Higher up in the cave, three Russian girls do exactly the same. “Davai!” But only very occasionally do I hear languages from further West. Is it because of the news? Politics? Fear?
As this stay too slowly comes to an end, I keep wondering. Why are there not more digital nomads and long-term travelers enjoying the good life here? I can think of few places better suited to get a bit of work done or simply relax.
The little rental scooter slowly struggles uphill. The sun sets over the mountains. Time to head back to our apartment. It smells of pine. This week, Turkish friends are visiting. It’s nice to be the host for once. Suddenly, I giggle like a child. I vividly remember the comment I heard a thousand times before. “Frugality is deprivation”. Yeah right.
Datça Mini Budget Travel Guide
Accommodation. Plenty to choose from. Small apartments sleeping 2-4 people start at 500-600TRY per week. You can get rooms for less. Or the popular apart otel, basically a small holiday apartment with kitchenette. It’s ok to just show up and ask around, no need to book.
If you have a van or car it’s easy to find beautiful campsites on the peninsula. But please keep a low profile, take your trash out and no fires!
Food. Eat like a queen/king for 200TRY per person per week if you are self-catering. The Saturday market has more choice. But the Wednesday market is great too, just smaller. And get there before 11am. Good affordable restaurants in town.
Transportation. There are a few direct daily buses to and from Istanbul. A frequent dolmuş service (minibus) link Datça to Marmaris, the nearest bigger bus hub, and onwards to Dalaman airport. There are a few local buses around town as well.
Many short-term visitors rent a car, but for longer stays a scooter is much cheaper. Theoretically, you need a class A motorbike license (or at least A1/A2) to drive anything bigger than 50cc. In the past it wasn’t a problem with a standard car license, but nowadays rentals are more strict. It’s still possible though, you will just have to be more patient. We rented a 125cc moped from a local resident for 300TRY a week.
Climbing. World-class tufas and more, still quiet compared to nearby Kalymnos. There is enough to keep you busy for weeks, even months. A campsite should open here this winter, within walking distance of the main crag, Can Baba. Otherwise, you’ll need a vehicle if you stay in town.