Ahmed very kindly took us all souvenir shopping the next evening to Mavişehir (Blue City), famous all over Turkey for its sunsets. There was also an undercover market selling a variety of goods including various knock off designer goods, which was situated a few yards from the beach. A short walk away there was also a row of small beach cafes with crudely covered terraces, a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. Despite the plastic chairs and tables together with the rudimentary menus, these restaurants had their own unique charm and the views were picture postcard perfect.
Ahmed’s brothers and the terrible twins tagged along again and this time the girls were dressed in miniscule booty shorts that even Kylie Minogue would have been embarrassed to wear. The boys took great delight in haggling on the girls’ behalf and I have since discovered that there are three prices for most things in Turkey; one for the tourists, one for the expats and one for the Turks. So if you are ever fortunate enough to find yourself in a Turkish market, ensure that you take a Turk along with you. The girls’ squeals of delight, when the boys had successfully secured a good price for a desired bootleg item, could be heard echoing throughout the market. Although I suspected that the girls’ probably needed new clothes as much as the Pope needed a new balcony.
I was mesmerised by the whole market experience, and content to wander from stall to stall absorbing the atmosphere, the sounds, the bright colours and the enticing smells of the Turkish food stands; pancakes, fresh juice, baked potatoes and doughnuts. One of Ahmet’s “friends” was working on the pancake stall so, of course, for a small price we were invited to sit and eat a pancake with our chosen filling.
After we had eaten, we continued our stroll around the market. I had to smile as the generator stalled constantly throughout the evening causing brief blackouts but as the resilient market traders switched on torches, I assumed that this was a regular occurrence. I loved the colourful displays of various goods, the rows and rows of fresh fruit and vegetables and had to admit that the clinical displays in the supermarkets back home weren’t anywhere near as appealing.
As I wandered around the market with Ahmed, I lingered at one fruit and veg display, where an elderly stallholder and his traditionally dressed Turkish wife enjoyed some banter with the locals over their purchases. The wife caught my eye and grinned at me and as she did her entire face radiated joy. As she served Ahmed, she continually gestured to me throughout their conversation. She must have liked what he told her as the next thing I knew we had been invited to share some çay. We sat down on some upturned plastic crates in the middle of the market chaos, behind this little fruit stall whilst the wife attended to the çay, constantly chatting away to Ahmed, who in turn translated for me. She said that they owned a small holding a little further along the coast and their family had been coming to this market to sell their produce for as long as she could remember. She said that they were simple folk and unlike many of the stallholders, they came even throughout the winter. She apologised as she said she had never finished school and could barely read and write. I asked her through Ahmed, what differences she felt there were between English and Turkish women. She paused briefly before saying that in her opinion Turkish women were more content and I realised that I was in the presence of someone who had found the meaning of true happiness. When we had finished our tea she took my glass and turned it upside down. Smiling at me, she said to Ahmed that I would return to Turkey for although I had a foot in one place, my heart was in another.
As we said our goodbyes, she touched a lock of my hair with her weather-beaten hands and smiling shyly she removed her headscarf to reveal newly set and coloured auburn curls which she proudly patted. As we turned to leave she called out to us “veda arkadaş” (farewell friends).
We have returned to see her many times since and there is always a smile and glass of çay waiting for me. Each time we sit with each other a while; neither of us understanding each other’s language yet we manage through shared photographs and the odd word or gesture. Each and every time is a moment of sunshine happiness for me and the simplicity of sitting on those upturned crates throughout the changing seasons is another treasured memory that I will add to my scrapbook of golden days.