Sunday, November 05, 2006

“Bodrum, Bodrum”
That famous song by Turkish trio MFÖ has always romanticized my vision of Bodrum, a resort town on the craggy Aegean shores of western Turkey. With a medieval Crusader castle dominating its harbor, the picturesque town of whitewashed houses certainly lived up to my expectations when Anastasia and I arrived this weekend. We were invited to give a presentation at the Marina Yacht Club for the 7th Annual Ladies’ Lunch, organized by and for the local expat population. The area has about 5,000 foreigners in residence.

Dubbed “the next St. Tropez” by the New York Times, Bodrum may be a summertime hotspot for Turkish and international celebrities and the paparazzi who love them, but its bold-faced history reaches back a millennium and a half. Founded as Halicarnassus by the Dorians in 450BC and ruled by Persians, Macedonians, and other renowned civilizations, Bodrum’s ancient treasures are still being unearthed-- often unwittingly during the construction of new houses, says Chris Drum Berkaya of the local English language newspaper The Bodrum Observer, whose archaeologist husband is often called out when an antiquity is found.

Anastasia, fortunate enough to spend most of summer in Bodrum, gave me a tour of the place. Though to a Michigan girl like me November means dreary cold, the town’s citrus trees were heavy with fruit, and the quince, olives, and pomegranates were ready to harvest. Bright bougainvillea blooms, jasmine bowers, and other flowers still radiated colorful halos around the houses. Hard to believe it was snowing back home in Istanbul!

Despite heavy thunderstorms early that morning, 120 women streamed into the event as rain and clouds gave way to sunshine. During the Buck Finns cocktail hour on the veranda, Anastasia and I signed books until they sold out. We were thrilled to meet so many of Bodrum’s energetic and enterprising foreign women. Among them were event organizers Jane Baxter, Christine Davies, Leslie Joy Rhoades, and Priscilla Windsor Brown, whose voluminous rolodexes played a part in the inception of this annual event; Dina Street of Zephyria Yachting; chef Angie Mitchell, whose book Secrets Of The Turkish Kitchen has been known to save cross-cultural marriages; Victoria Boz, an adventurous New Zealander; translator Antonella Culasso who claims to be “the only Italian in Bodrum!”; various longtimers like Nikki, who’s been in Turkey 17 years, our good friend from Istanbul, real estate agent Robi Olson (11 yrs), and Julie Aras (16 yrs) who finds Turks everywhere, including a McDonald’s in England!; then there was fiesty Lucy Nazim, a Turkish Cypriot/British repat, who is following a path in neuro-linguistic programming; Duygu Nayir, the owner of seafront cafe Kırmızı; German yoga instructor and writer Monika Munzinger; one of the four Gillians present was inspired to begin writing the book she knows she has in her; and mercurial New York animal behaviorist Rosemary Tramantano is sure to inspire someone else to write a book about her! We met these ladies and so many others. We were thrilled to speak to such an enthusiastic crowd and look forward to reading their stories when we begin the second edition of Expat Harem.

At the marina mall we stopped in at Iki A Books, where a very friendly Ismail Bey immediately ordered the English and Turkish editions of our books. Afterwards, we strolled down what’s known as Barlar Sokağı to Harmony Books, who are pleased to take special orders for the anthology.

Thanks again to Gül Kaynak, manager at The LifeCo Bodrum Detox Center in Göltürkbükü, which generously provided our serene accommodations this weekend. At the purification spa set amidst mandarin orange groves, we took full advantage of the facilities –a hamam, an infra-red sauna, a steam bath and an invigorating yoga class on Saturday morning with Melek hanım! We refreshed with wheatgrass and orchard-fresh drinks at the juice bar.

We had a media lunch on the bay with the Bodrum Observer’s Chris Drum Berkaya, and Gökmen Yücel from the local Bodrum Yarım Ada newspaper and the national news agency Anadolu Ajansı. Our interview appeared today as breaking news on the front pages of Milliyet and Hurriyet national newspapers! It was certainly the first time we have ever shared headline space with Saddam Hussein!

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