Ah, Marmaris is beautiful. Nearby Turunc is beautiful. Everywhere I went was beautiful. On a jeep safari I saw sweeping, dusty fields, lit by the sun like the Benicio del Toro bits in Traffic; lush green forests winding over rugged rock; the snaking mountain roads skirting panoramic views you would be happy to fall towards to your death, spending your last moments snapping like some demented Japanese tourist. Out on the boats there were beautiful bays (to call them sun-kissed would be a cruel underestimation – the bays were sun-fucked); gently swaying palm trees planted in hot, jagged sand; giant, hazy-green hills standing guard over the coast-line in the distance; and water at the beach so pure, clean and clear you’d have thought it was invisible.
Turkey has a secular government, but culturally it’s predominantly Muslim: although you won’t find much evidence of this in Marmaris. Unless the Qu’ran’s been rewritten to include passages like this: ‘Blessed are they who cut about with their lips hanging out of their bikinis and drinking alcohol until they projectile vomit in each other’s mouths’.
You’ve got to love the woman on TripAdvisor who raged about her experience in Turkey, drawing particular attention to ‘the bloody singing from that mosque at half four EVERY morning!’ Love, I’d be annoyed if I had to put up with that racket outside of my window in Grangemouth, Scotland. Multiculturalism or no multiculturalism, I like my sleep, and if it was disturbed by a recording of some bearded Brian-Blessed-alike booming out holy shite even before the seagulls had started their daily wailing, then those speakers would be getting chucked into the River Forth. (so too, probably, would my dismembered, headless corpse, but at least I’d meet my death after a half-decent night’s sleep) But you’re on holiday in an Islamic country. Thomas Cook can’t make the Muslims renounce their religion and stop praying for a week just so you can have a nice, quiet holiday getting drunk and reading Jackie Collins’ novels by the poolside with your tits out.
Och Noo the Aye
On my first night in Marmaris, a Turkish tout asked me where I came from. ‘Scotland,’ I replied. He then made a particularly eerie noise. ‘I’m sorry?’ I asked. The penny soon dropped: he was trying to say: ‘Gonnae no dae that.’ Excellent. He then implored me to ask him, ‘How no?’, whereupon he ejaculated: ‘Just gonnae no!’ (allow me to make it clear that I’m using ‘ejaculated’ in the sense of ‘issued forth’, rather than suggesting that the poor little man was so excited by the prospect of imitating Ford Kiernan that he shot his bolt).
Another chap could tell me all about Falkirk, as ‘one of his ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex girlfriends (his words)’ was from there. As usual, the Marmaris definition of relationship is stretched to its very limits.
In the idyllic, sun-soaked bay of Turunc I encountered a man who could do a more impressively accurate Glasweigen accent than anyone of non-Scottish extraction in the history of the world. I wanted to take him home and place him in a circus somewhere. These people had done their homework. But you know why they’d done their homework, right? Correct. Every one of those cunts was trying to get money out of me. Which leads me to this next section…
The Real Hustle
Yes, Marmaris – and I’m sure all of Turkey itself – is beautiful. And, despite it being a relatively poor and horrendously corrupt country (if this piece was on Wikipedia, this is the point at which it would say: citation needed), the people are generally nice. But they do want your money: all of it. And the ingenuity they display in trying to part you from it is breath-taking.
It begins at the airport where you have to hand over an English tenner to a highly-uninterested and award-winningly grouchy customs officer. This is a down payment on all the rest of the money you’re going to have to spunk away over the course of your holiday.
My coach driver stopped off at a small café bar about an hour out of Dalaman, where I experienced my first taste of Turkish creative accountancy. Gambling correctly on me being a clueless first-timer with no idea of New Turkish Lira’s value, the little boy behind the till (well, nobody seems to use tills – they rack up your bill on a calculator) lovingly sold me two cans of juice, a large packet of crisps, one packet of chewing gum and a bottle of water for the equivalent of 7.50GBP. So much for Turkey proving dirt cheap, as I’d been promised by all who’d been before.
Then there’s the constant touting, more bloodthirsty than anything you’ve ever experienced before. One typically sunny day, my then-girlfriend and I decided to eat at a restaurant by the marina. By the time we’d downed our hideously expensive Cokes, we were being frogmarched to a jewellery store by a wee guy who spoke no English. This was after listening to a long, eloquent speech by the proprietor about how in this small world, this global community, we must all be brothers and help each other out – ostensibly by buying hideously expensive Cokes from him, and then diamond rings and leather from some dodgy cunt mate of his in town. We managed to get free glasses of water from the jewellery store owner before he sussed out we were paupers and swiftly sent us packing. I think the look in my eyes that said ‘How fucking much?’ tipped him off.
Speaking of tips, there are tip boxes everywhere. On the sides of buildings, in the backs of taxis. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them in the backs of Turkish ambulances. ‘That’s 7.50GBP for a fractured wrist, and an agreement to buy a diamond bracelet from my dodgy mate for a broken leg.’ It’s like Turkey’s handed over the responsibility for its economy to Ryanair.
Although most of the bar workers are genuinely friendly people, you won’t remember – or care about – this after day three. Certainly my tolerance to touting underwent a radical transformation. I went from cheerfully engaging in banter with every touter who chanced his luck, to imagining their sweet, sweet collective deaths at the bottom of the ocean.
People, Turkish jaikeys presumably, even crashed roll-ups from me as I walked down the street. Not that such occurrences are unheard of down Falkirk high street, but still. Which reminds me: if you can find it over there, which I managed to do, don’t buy any tobacco. The packet may say Golden Virginia on it, but you can bet your bottom dollar (it’s all you’ll have left after a week) that the contents have been swept up from a barber’s-shop floor and cut with desiccated camel shite.