Why MICHAEL BUERK is dreaming of southern Turkey 


A toast to the Turquoise Coast: Why MICHAEL BUERK is dreaming of southern Turkey

  • The Daily Mail’s Michael Buerk recalls the beauty of Cold Water Bay near the town of Fethiye, southern Turkey
  • Ali’s restaurant, up on the hillside, serves ‘Turkish stuff to a high standard’ combined with Thai influences
  • The town of Kayakoy with its five hundred ruined houses is one of Turkey’s most extraordinary historic sites 

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There is a moment in the early morning, as the blood-red sun comes round the towering bulk of Babadag mountain and sucks up the mist, turning the sea to beaten pewter, when Cold Water Bay seems like the most beautiful place on earth.

It’s a small cove, a nick in the rugged, pine-clad range of capes in southern Turkey that make up what the tourist board people call the Turquoise Coast.

It’s near the town of Fethiye (about 45 minutes from Dalaman airport) and it’s Ali Tuna’s kingdom. My wife and I have been coming here since Ali was little more than a lad doing barbecues on the beach.

Comely cove: Azure waters greet visitors in southern Turkey, also known as the Turquoise Coast

Now he and Pavarotti, the singing donkey who does all the fetching and carrying, have built an alfresco restaurant up the hillside, decked with bowers of bougainvillea and Maltese plums.

There’s a snake in this paradise. In the late morning the tourist boats arrive, with their music and their hordes from the honeypots of Oludeniz and Hisaronu. They come for the beauty and, for a time, ruin it.

In the heat of the day, they jump off the cliffs into water that pulses with icy currents from the freshwater springs that give the place its name.

And by five o’clock, thank goodness, they’ve gone. By then, Ali himself, under his trademark sombrero, is out in his launch helping customers moor up.

Time for a quick dive off the stern, a glass (or two) of Villa Doluca, zingiest of Turkish white wines, then the row ashore in the gathering dusk and the climb up the path towards the lanterns of Ali’s restaurant.

He still does much of the cooking on a large open fire; Turkish stuff to a high standard — fresh fish, lamb, wild boar casserole — supplemented by more exotic fare from his partner Leck’s Thai homeland.

The Daily Mail's Michael Buerk visited the town of Fethiye (above), which is about 45 minutes from Dalaman airport

The Daily Mail’s Michael Buerk visited the town of Fethiye (above), which is about 45 minutes from Dalaman airport

There’s the comradeship of sailors round the dying fire before the rather less steady row back to the boat guided by the moonlight.

Up early in the morning. Breakfast at Ali’s, with its heartstopping view of the blue, blue cove below now lit with gold.

And then a stiff walk up the wooded mountainside to one of Turkey’s most extraordinary historic sites. Kayakoy was a Greek town for millennia until its population was ordered out at the end of the Greco-Turkish war in 1923.

Extraordinary: Kayakoy is an abandoned Greek town made up of around five hundred ruined houses

Extraordinary: Kayakoy is an abandoned Greek town made up of around five hundred ruined houses 

Five hundred ruined houses, untouched for almost a century, a monument to belonging and loss.

Back down for a quick coffee, casting off before the tourist day boats arrive, punctual as Cinderella’s midnight.

I need to keep this dream intact until next time.

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