Why do I live in Turkey?

I tried to learn the language of the land and visit all tourist attractions, I didn’t mean to be an expat therefore I settled in Tire. The people of the country who make the most of the simple pleasures of life are rightfully inspiring.

I first came to Turkey aged 21 in 1971 during a post Oxford University gap year. With a male friend, I drove an ancient Bedford van and we slept in the back. We arrived in Istanbul late one night, parked up in Bakirköy and went to bed. My wake up call was provided not by the muezzin but a policeman’s truncheon on the roof and we hurried off to Beşiktaş where I met a 14-year-old boy who is still my friend today. His mother gave us food and çay and later took in my girlfriend for a fortnight as I meandered my way back from Japan. That hospitality, plus the wonders we encountered in Sultanahmet and later in Cappadocia, Konya, Diyarbakır and elsewhere cemented a love affair that continues to this day. I began to holiday in Turkey every year, attempted to learn the language (difficult from afar) and visited most of the country’s attractions from Nemrut Dağı to Lake Van. In 1989 we bought a holiday flat in Şile, Istanbul, where my wife and I became mini celebrities. For several years I was a judge on the Miss Şile beauty contest jury. We were there with our two children during the horrendous 1999 earthquake when our building shook like a washing machine on full spin. It was always my ambition to retire to Turkey and although I still work as a journalist and media trainer in 2014 we took the plunge. We bought a 3,000 sq m plot of land with three derelict buildings (I soon learned the word “harabe”) in a traditional village called Kaplan near Tire, Izmir a few metres away from my long standing pal from Beşiktaş. By then we had taken in two rescue dogs and now feed three street dogs, too. People often ask: “Why Tire and not Fethiye or Kalkan?” Well, we wanted to immerse ourselves in Turkish culture not live an ex-pat life. I would rather read Nasrettin Hoca stories than watch the TV soap EastEnders. Tire is awash with history and full of beautiful old buildings, many lovingly restored. Apart from an idyllic climate and breathtaking views, Kaplan also has three incredible restaurants, one reviewed in the New York Times. Having hardly anyone who speaks English has forced us to learn the language. The Tireli friendliness is legendary, from the taxi driver getting up a 4am to drive me to the airport when my car had a puncture to the terzi refusing to take payment for a dress alteration. Saying that, a woman passenger on the metro in Istanbul once took a needle and thread out of her bag and did a running repair on my wife’s dress when she noticed a gap in a seam. I suppose I was always fascinated by why Turks, despite often lacking money or possessions, invariably seem far happier than their more affluent and privileged European counterparts. It’s because they correctly see value in life’s simple pleasures: respecting family, fussing over babies, cooking delicious meals, repairing broken machines, growing fruit and vegetables, or helping a friend. Two women neighbours, both in their mid eighties, work every day, cleaning and collecting sticks for the soba. Inspirational!

By: George Dearsley

*This article was  published in the  November– December issue of Marmara Life. 

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