Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Heart Şarköy

I am in a village.  In most summers that we come to Istanbul, if long enough, we try to head out to my mother-in-law’s summer place in Şarköy. (pronounced Sharkoy).  There are no sharks     We have come here for many summers and after the modernisms of Dubai, it is a welcome break.  

While many Turks like to holiday for the summer in Bodrum or Çeşme, sometimes we enjoy the downtime here. Don’t get me wrong, those places are incredibly awesome, and we also enjoy them, but Şarköy is still simple and not crowded. It is not the posh Riviera that the other places have become as Istanbul flocks to the latest and greatest. At the end of the day, it is a village. I look to my left and see the Marmara Sea, to my right a field of sunflowers. The occasional shepard passes by. There is nowhere to go and be seen, no need to dress up. Everything is natural.

Şarköy has been around for a while. Like many cities in Turkey, it has some ancient history connections. I know Wikipedia is not a real reference, but I’ll invest faith in that statement that there have been discoveries in this land that date back to 1200 BC. With Troy not that far away, it is no surprise.

In Ottoman times it was a source of produce and wine to Istanbul. Wine is still produced here today as well as some of the most amazing produce. (Note to wine drinkers, there is a fall wine festival.) Much to my surprise it has the longest beach in Turkey and the 12th longest beach in the world.

It is about a 3-hour drive from Istanbul toward Gallipoli. I call this “Where the sunflowers meet the sea”. After you exit the main road, you must drive about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) through rolling hills of farmland - grapes, olive trees and sunflowers. The landscape is very Tuscanesque, and it really is a village. The local farmers all come by and sell their goods, or have roadside stands. If you need more you can walk or ride your bike to the nearest market. When necessary, go into town, or go once a week for the Tuesday open market.

The view on the way to Şarköy
The last time we were here it was only for 3 days, but we felt so rested we realized we needed more. So this year we were here for a week. And, in our quest to ensure that Erin does not grow up thinking that everything is shiny, modern, new and easy like Dubai, it is a good place to just be.

My mother-in-law’s home is in one of the sites, or neighborhoods by the sea where the same people have come every year for many summers. They bought this place when their children were small - all are now grown and come with their children. There are maybe 20 homes here. Neighbors are always incredibly friendly offering to bring something from the market for each other. Passing the time drinking tea or Turkish coffee, playing card games. Everyone here has a story. They are the most interesting characters!

Typical highlights of the week for us included:

  • Eating the amazing, local fresh fruit and vegetables 
  • My mother-in-law’s cooking that included many amazing olive oil dishes with that fresh produce 
  • Sitting in the hammock (which I did not get to do much – perhaps had something to do with me working remotely from here) 
  • We got my son his first bike. It’s a perfect place for it. 
  • Taking trips into town to go to the local market 
  • A visit to one of the neighbor’s properties. He has collected over 99 different types of grapes from all over the world and grows them in his garden. A lovely afternoon. 
  • Walking to the local “café” for tea. Or in Erin’s case for ice cream. On our last day he decided he could stay here because they have chocolate ice cream, his latest food interest. 
  • The night time carnival in town 
  • The day trip to Guneyli, another nearby seaside holiday town. The water is so cold and clear, and it is not that crowded. It is as clear as Oludeniz, but without the crowd. 
  • The trip to the local barber. 
  • A day trip to the local wineries and a seaside drive that led us to the most secluded village. 

It was pretty busy for a week in a village! I am tired and think I need one more week!

Mısrcı (the guy that sells corn) on the beach in Guneyli - really some of the best corn I've ever tasted!