Jacqui Hogue, Not a “Typical” Tourist

On ZemZem Boat Kaş, Turkey

Dreaming on the Mediterranean

I first came to Kaş 9 years ago during the summer of 2002, working at Bougainville Travel to help out wherever needed (I believe the endearing term at the time was a “slave”). I fell in love with the natural beauty of the place, the adventure sports that went with it (scuba diving, canyoning, sea kayaking, paragliding, trekking…), and Kaş’s laid back “vibe” uncorrupted by mass tourism. Now, nearly a decade later, I came back for a three week stay.What has changed? Well, almost everywhere you look on the surface, not much seems to have changed! Our first night here we were a bit struck by the number of tourists we saw gathering around the bars near the main square and Ataturk statue. Perhaps there are more tourists, but if so, there are still not enough to take away from Kaş’s charm.

View of the Mediterranean from Kale Hotel Kas, Turkey

Mediterranean View from our room

I spent the first week in this Turkish paradise with my other half and another couple, friends who had never been here. Our base for the week was the Kale Hotel, a wonderful find to the far western edge of central Kaş, just before the Antik Amphitheater. We had arrived very close to midnight after having travelled all day from Brussels to Cologne, Cologne to Antalya, and Antalya to Kaş, so waking the next morning and opening the curtains to see an unobstructed stunning view of the Greek island of Meis and the coastline was a pure delight. Our friends decided right then and there that they were going to love it here.

Canyoning with Bougainville Travel Kaş, Turkey

Canyoning with Bougainville Travel

Via Bougainville Travel we did some scuba diving (three PADI open water divers + one Discover Diver), canyoning (always my favourite!), and rented ZemZem boat for a day. We explored the city’s restaurants (gözleme, menemen, pide, fresh salads, and meze!) and its stone beaches, my friends rented a scooter and headed to Kaputaş and Patara beaches, we pampered ourselves with a relaxing aromatherapy reiki massage by Özlem at Kaş Camping right there along the water, and of course we shopped and haggled jestingly with the merchants too.

Hideaway Cafe Kaş, Turkey

Hideaway Cafe with friend

Our last night out together before my three companions were to return to cold gloomy Brussels I dragged them around to a few of the bars where I had memories of spending some of those hot summer nights dancing the night away. Some HAD changed, catering to a younger, “hipper” touristy crowd. But not Hideaway Cafe or Red Point bar. Erdem’s selection of blues music at Hideaway coupled with Nur’s decorative skills and comfy garden chairs with plump cushions, not to mention the home-made bloody marys (with fresh tomato juice!) won us all over.

Red Point Bar Kaş, Turkey

Red Point Bar

Maybe Red Point had changed too, but I had too much fun to notice and was thrilled to be once again dancing the steamy night away until the çorba (soup) urge won me over. (Lentil soup, definitely an after-bar Kaş tradition!) To this day I still don’t understand why the “drunken çorba” idea has not spread to the rest of Europe. It seems to me to be far more effective as an alcohol absorber than your typical European kebab, at least in my own experience… Before retiring for the night we wandered through the streets taking long pauses to pet some of Kaş’s friendly communal dogs and cats along the way.

Cukurbag village near Kaş, Turkey

Cukurbag village fountain

My friends and other half had to eventually return to Brussels, they were probably slightly more tired than when they arrived due to the 4:45am call to prayer from the neighbouring mosque, sleeping in a different bed with different pillows, as well as the general sun, beach and water fatigue. I stayed on and joined my parents, retirees in their sleepy village of Çukurbağ, returning to Kaş every couple of days or so. Their village is up and over the protective Sleeping Giant and across the mesa just a few minutes’ drive away. In their house I unwillingly discovered a 10 cm long camel spider, otherwise known as a “ten-legged spider”, even though it only has 8 legs plus two thick antennae that look like legs. Trust me, if you are not used to seeing this type of thing, you do not ever want to see it in your house. They can be up to 15 cm long—Google it! “Thank goodness my parents have four cats…” I told myself. My parents like to tell me about the scorpions they find there too, but fortunately I did not cross paths with one of those. The donkey calls and goat herders along with other various village sounds are enough to run the imagination wild.

Kas Turkey Culture House (Kültür Evi)

Kaş Culture House (Kültür Evi)

One night my parents and I decided to check out a movie at the Kaş Culture House. We were running late due to an impromptu gathering of some of the “Monday night crew” over Efes beer (what else?), but that was not a problem for the gentleman in charge of running the movie. Upon entering the theatre we saw that even though the room could accommodate many people (60+?), there was only one other person who had shown up. As we had the entire place to ourselves the man simply rewound the 5 minutes we had missed to restart the film, only for us! Imagine that happening in your own city or town… And never mind that the power went out four times while we were watching the movie—we just skipped the official movie intermission, as is standard when watching films in Turkey. The gentleman called the local electricity authority who told us they were doing some “work” in Antalya which was affecting all of Kaş’s electricity. I think there was not a single day during my 3-week stay that the electricity didn’t go out while we were there. Some people buy generators, a UPS or have their own alternative energy/power sources as a back up. You just have to brush it off as another example of Kaş’s “charm”.

Ancient Patara city gate Patara, Turkey

Ancient Patara city gate

My father happens to know an archaeologist by the name of Peter Talloen who kindly offered to show us around any of the neighbouring sites of our choice. We chose Patara so we could cool off in the sea afterwards. This was definitely the right choice—it was pushing 40 degrees C that day! Peter really made our Patara visit a special one, and we were enlightened by his seemingly unending knowledge of the Lycian/Greek/Roman/Byzantine history of what the archaeologists were unearthing and rebuilding there. Of course, the restoration part is not without controversy, but this is Turkey… The dip in the sea at Patara, along with the very large waves were a delightful surprise—I have never seen waves so big in the Mediterranean! They reminded me of the waves at Carolina beaches along the East Coast of the United States. Patara is one of Turkey’s longest coastal beaches and is also known for the many sea turtles who go there to lay their eggs. Sea turtles are protected by the government, allowing only turtles on the beach at night and closing the beach to the public.

Uzun Çarşi (Long Market) Street, Kaş, Turkey

Uzun Çarşi (Long Market) Street

When we would leave the seclusion and peace of Çukurbağ village for what some may call “civilisation” in Kaş, we would usually find a moment to share a tea or beer with the locals: merchants, expats, new and old friends too. I found it delightful to stroll through town and run into a familiar face, often someone who is still doing the same thing he was 9 years ago, and who is still very content to be here. Despite the seemingly unending hours they work during the high season, and the penny-pinching they have to do during the low season when wages are hard to come by (if at all), I can certainly understand why. This is a happy place.

There are other adjectives to describe Kaş, but the bottom line is that this is a place that makes people happy. Many expats and Turks alike who pass through choose to stay here, whether they are only adding more days to a finite trip, or whether they choose to move here indefinitely or to retire here. And you, the tourist who has just run out of vacation days, can’t help but envy them. It was a wonderful trip and a lovely visit with my father and step-mother, whom I don’t see often enough. Well, there is always next year. And maybe next year’s visit will be more than three weeks. Maybe next year will be all season, or all year, or… Well, I can dream can’t I? There is something about Kaş that inspires dreams, and so many before me have chosen to make the dream of settling here a reality.  Until next time, my beloved Kaş!

Kaş Turkey Town Square (Meydan)

Kaş Town Square (Meydan)