Photo: Marmaris, Turkey. Credit: L. Borre.

Around Town in Marmaris, Turkey

The kebab shop owner was happy to have a new fan.

Logbook Entry

Date: 3/21/10
Location: Marmaris, Turkey

On aspect of our cruising life is getting to know where everything is in the many towns we visit. It’s like a treasure hunt finding our way around a new town and figuring out where to buy groceries and other necessary supplies. We also search for reasonably-priced restaurants and shops to sample the local food specialties. We spent this winter living on land while Gyatso was hauled-out in Marmaris, Turkey, but the process of discovering our temporary home was no different than when we’re living aboard.

The search usually begins with where to buy fresh bread. As David likes to say, “Life is to short to eat day-old bread in this part of the world.” Lucky for us, a busy Gül Ekmek bread bakery was just across the street from our “self-catering” apartment in the Marina Apart Otel that we rented while Gyatso was hauled-out for maintenance and repairs. They seem to be hard at work baking bread 24-7. When we stop in to buy our bread, we always peak through the window into the bakery to see what’s fresh from the oven. The space is just large enough for their long-handled wooden paddles to reach deep into the ovens to retrieve the loaves. They make many varieties of bread, from cimits, bread-like sesame ring snacks (like a round pretzel or a bagel with a large hole), and slightly sweet sesame swirl rolls, to the pide (pita) or the basic wheat and white bread loaves. Small delivery trucks and even a three-wheeled bicycle help deliver bread all over town, including the marina, although there seems to be some debate on the VHF radio net about the size of the holes in one of the varieties they deliver there. The bread bakery is not to be confused with the other bakery on the same road. Ekin Unlu Mamulteri cafe and patisserie specializes in sweets, such as baklava, but also makes cakes and wonderful whole grain bread varieties. Occasionally, we get off the dolmus (minibus) one stop early for a treat.

Next, we go “hunting and gathering” for basic provisions. We found the Tonsas supermarket near the city center too much like the mega-sized stores that we tend to avoid at home, so we did much of our regular grocery shopping at the smaller Pehlivanoglu in the city center. They have a decent selection of Turkish foods and basic provisions as well as a deli counter with a good selection of local cheese and olives. Just across the street, we found a small restaurant which specializes in rotisserie chicken. We’d order one of these small, tasty roasted chickens for take-out along with a few side dishes, such as dolmas or couscous in tomato sauce, and then serve it with a fresh salad back at the apartment.

Because we were working on the boat in the yard every day, we couldn’t get to the weekly Thursday market in town. A fruit and veggie stand was conveniently located across the street from the apartment. The owner appeared to serve as a local supplier for restaurants and didn’t always have as much diversity as we liked. Lisa had to ask around before finding Koylu Manavi, a great little shop selling fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs just a few blocks from our apartment. One day she brought home fresh dill which inspired several dishes but was especially good with cucumber and yogurt. Another day it was mint which was used in making tabouleh salad and homemade lentil soup. The shop also sells fresh eggs with dark, yellowy-orange yokes that make the most delicious fried or scrambled eggs for breakfast. When we’re back onboard, Lisa is looking forward to an outing to the weekly market. From Yacht Marine, she’ll take a free ferry to town in the morning and then ride the dolmus back.

Although there is nothing like the Grand Bazaar in Marmaris, the city is large enough to support many specialty shops with very good quality products. Several shops sell only Marmaris honey. Another tiny storefront sells only yogurt. Others specialize in spices, dried fruits and nuts, or olives and local cheeses.

Last but not least, we go in search of good restaurants and cafes to sample the local cuisine. Our favorite restaurant for Turkish food in Marmaris was Memed Ocakbasi, just two blocks from our apartment. We were treated like regulars after our first visit, and enjoyed several resonably-priced kebab dinners there. The friendly waiters always brought a sampling of meze (starters) informing us, “It’s on the house.” You can watch them making many different varieties of kababs through the window into the kitchen — all are very good.

It took a bit of sampling to find the best döner kabab in Marmaris. There were many leading contenders for this lunchtime snack, but in the end, our favorite was Yilma & Iskender Salonu, a small place located a half block off the road to the big Tonsas supermarket. The shaved lamb or chicken döner platter includes a fresh salad and rice. We noticed all of the locals drinking a frothy, white beverage from a glass mug, so David pointed and said, “I’ll have one of those.” The owner poured it from a special tap on a tank which is constantly circulating the yogurt “shake” into a cool, light froth known as ayran which tasted like a salted lasi that you can find from Iran to India. We had a couple of very good pide lunches at Kirçiçegi which is also located near Tonsas. The pides are baked in a wood oven with toppings, making them distant cousins to the thin crust pizzas we had in Italy. Many places serve Turkish tea and coffee, and one even specializes in tea from the Black Sea, the favored variety for Turkish men who seem to be the main clientele at the busy café. On the main shopping street, tea runners provide Turkish tea delivery service to the shop owners.

For one special occasion, we ate lunch at Nil, a seafood restaurant along the waterfront where we hand-selected the sea bass which they cooked under salt. Thirty minutes later, the waiter returned to our table with the fish on a tray straight from the oven. He then set about preparing the fish for the table in an elaborate display of performance art that began with a burst of flames, followed by a very precise method for cracking the hard salt shell off the fish and then serving the moist white meat onto our plates. He showed us how to drizzle the herb-infused olive oil over the meat. We were totally salivating by the time we took the first bite — it was a memorable Valentine’s Day lunch.

We have enjoyed getting to know Marmaris which is similar in size to two other places we’ve spent the winter: Lagos, Portugal and Gaeta, Italy. Each has its charms; the fun part is discovering what they are.

See the photo gallery of our time in Marmaris.