I was enjoying a simple but tasty Turkish breakfast the other morning in Gümüşlük.
Even there we’re in peak season right now the tourist swell doesn’t descend onto the harbor until the last vestiges of last night’s Raki hangover has subsided. So if I get to our local Belediye cafe at early enough, there’s still a chance of securing a harbor-front table to enjoy my breakfast in peace.
I was half-way through my eggs when wisps of smoke got between me an my village eggs. I quelled the urge to turn around and glare and the casual smoker behind me. Having spent a couple of decades in Los Angeles, where smoking is banned around all public places (in some city districts you can’t even smoke on the outside balcony of your own home) I’ve got used to being able to enjoy a meal without smoke swirling around me. But this is Turkey, and even if there’s a no smoking sign, it gets ignored.
I settled back into my contemplative mode, determined to focus on my breakfast and the view, but the smoke got worse and I pictured a table of Turkish fisherman behind me, all sucking on local cigarettes, eyes blearing from an all-nighter trip out on the high seas. Would they be withered by my stare? Or should I just move?
When I turned around to deliver a withering stare to the guilty parties, I saw a hive of activity and a plume of smoke behind me … the local Kofte stand was on fire.
This little stand is sequestered under the Belediye roof, and has been there ever since we first started visiting the area. It’s no bigger than Superman’s phone box, but they do a roaring trade in Kofte. Even though Gümüşlük is known far and wide as the location of expensive seafood restaurants, it’s places like the Belediye Cafe and Kemal’s Kofte stand that keep Gümüşlük firmly within the realms of affordable eating. Both the overpriced and inexpensive eating establishments co-exist within the close confines of the harbor area and Gümüşlük is still a place where well-heeled tourist city slickers rub shoulders with the locals.
People from the nearby restaurants were happy enough to survey the morning’s excitement from a safe distance, until it became evident that the chimney could set fire to the bamboo roof of the Belediye cafe – and then suddenly it was all-hands-on deck to save the area’s favorite tea house.
For a few harrowing minutes it didn’t seem like the team of volunteers would be able to get the blaze under control.
But team work and sheer determination successfully saved this corner of Gümüşlük from disappearing beneath a acrid blanket of orange flames.
When you’re a transitory visitor to an area, it’s so easy to forget that the places you visit are micro-communitioes within larger communities. When the tourists dwindle, what’s left are the long-term residents and locals who rely on these inexpensive restaurants and tea houses to act as the stage to play out local interactions and dramas.
EastEnders has the Queen Victoria and Coronation Street has the Rovers Return … and Gümüşlük has the Belediye cafe. It lives to fight another day. But it was a close shave!