This article was written for Fethiye Times by Casey Russell
I’m a sailor and a photographer, (that is – I take a picture then turn it into an image). I’m a cyclist and a writer but above all these things, I would pointedly say that I am a traveller. From European road trips to Mediterranean cruises, living aboard our families 45-foot yacht obviously makes this a way of life for me, rather than a luxury.
Whilst sailing upon a friends boat at the start of the season this year, he happened across a pile of old books left there by the boats ex charter agent we presumed. There was one book in particular which stood out and he gifted it to me for further investigation. It wasn’t a historical relic worth thousands, it was a Turkish guide book published in the happy, hedonistic days of the 1980s, written by Daniel Farson.
It’s interesting to note that Daniel Farson relished life on various levels. He was the son of an American foreign correspondent and, like myself, he travelled through Europe as a child. Farson was then evacuated to America and Canada during the war. He pursued a journalistic career after attending Cambridge then signed up to the merchant navy and washed dishes as he sailed the rest of his way around the world! He became renowned in the world of television and was one of the first ITV personalities recognised for various shows, ” Farsons Guide To The British” and ” Time Gentlemen Please,” amongst others, he then turned his back on his TV career and began writing. His books were somewhat varied, his best seller about Jack The Ripper being worlds away from the prolific travel articles which he wrote, largely for The Daily Telegraph.
Farson was one of the first travel writers to forecast the popularity of Turkey as a new centre for holiday makers, his book Traveller In Turkey (Routledge 1985) expressed his love for the country and its people. He came to regard Turkey as his second home “not just for the beauty of the country, which is infinite” he said “but because of the friendliness of the Turkish and the rewarding bonus of their humour.” The book which I had managed to lay my hands on was a battered copy of Farsons Independent Travellers Guide to Turkey 1988.
Looking at some of his writings about the, then, newly discovered tourist destinations of the 80s and comparing his descriptions to the places which we regularly visit for ourselves today can show how the naivety of a newly recognised area of interest can and will develop steadily into a hotspot for tourism and exploitation.
Let’s take our own town of Fethiye
Farson writes that Fethiyes’
‘Spacious gardens and waterfront promenades give an air of pleasant relaxation, but the town of Fethiye is new. The old one [town] was largely destroyed in the same earthquake that decimated Marmaris, it lacks the sophistication of that resort [Marmaris], and certainly that of bustling Bodrum’
Fethiye today raises a pinky finger slightly higher in the sophistication stakes than Marmaris in my opinion. Anyone who has traipsed the exhausting hike along Marmaris’ “Long Beach” from Içmeler into the old town itself might struggle to discover a level of sobriety let alone sophistication along that stretch. Here if we sample a similar stroll along the Kordon and the harbour front of Fethiye we observe relaxed, picnicking families, buzzing tea shops and bustling restaurants amongst a throng of cosmopolitan peoples and travellers and visitors from all over the world. Fethiyes nod to its historic Lycian roots is apparent right through the old town and the new areas making the up coming city much more culturally rich than it’s night clubbing neighbour.
Bar street in Marmaris could easily be a rival to a drunken Ibizan sundowner session (every night from May until September) and probably gets through the same amount of jäger bombs as the whole of the afore mentioned island whereas “bar street” in the Paspatur in Fethiye is a much more civilised affair. Quantity of jäger bombs aside, things are a lot more relaxed here and are without the air of tension which accompanies a visit to Marmaris’ bustling, heaving nighttime streets.
Farson does seem to be having an illicit affair with Marmaris in the 80s and Bodrum features greatly as a favourite destination of his too…..maybe I’m biased, but as far as I’m concerned Fethiye offers much more to a visitor than either of these destinations, in fact it heaps style onto Marmaris’ charisma and adds an eclectic village mix to Bodrums simple charm then adds a sprinkling of cosmopolitan sassyness all of its own…..although I could be somewhat biased!
Closer to home Farson comments on Gemiler Island, Patara and Ölüdeniz.
It would seem that there may only have been an odd motel or two over there at the famous Blue Lagoon in Ölüdeniz back then in the 80’s, but one thing there was plenty of, it seems, was camping sites. What a far cry from this is the town of Ölü today! Hotels and apartments and villas abound and huge amounts of holidaymakers to patronise them too…..it’s not until you head up the winding mountain roads after the beach that you encounter camp sites today, and you generally find that it’s Turkish people and folk of an altogether more bohemian ilk, that today frequent these.
Gemiler is described as a “sleepy, mysterious, little known island….due south of Fethiye….. and [somewhere] where you can enjoy a sense of exploration” this, indeed, remains the same today but let’s add into the mix an occasional speedboat (or 4 or 5) each towing all manners of rings, lilos and bananas plus screaming holidaymakers, all intent on sampling some high speed water action and noisy adrenaline release, and we can see a bit clearer the Gemiler Island of today. Captain Jacks ” Black Pearl ” makes its way into the channel every afternoon at four pm as well, accompanied by the melodious strains from the motion picture itself at full volume with various shouts, screams, hollers and laughs accompanying the tune as the mast on board the ominous looking ship produces alarmingly high fountains of foam which squirt into the air and then plop down onto and over the partially dressed, bopping holiday makers – young and old alike.
Patara is described by Farson as “the finest beach in Turkey, like a desert by the sea” a truly befitting description and one which remains unchanged today. Eleven miles of beautiful, unspoiled, white sand can’t really alter, even over time, can it?
Although Farson circa 1980s does make an interesting observation upon some of the common sea routes around there; Farson mentions that the “only eyesore is the mess of floating plastic,” and he blames it on “the curse of the charter boats…” Its interesting to recognise that this particular similarity is something which shows no signs of abating…..but therein lies an article for another day……
Daniel Negley Farson, photographer, broadcaster and writer: born 8 January 1927; died 27 November 1997. His obituary in The Independent read:
“Mythomaniacal, egotistical, and often unable to tell the truth or the difference between it and fiction, the character of Daniel Farson – photographer, writer, and drunk – is redeemed by at least one grace: that of self-awareness: “
Farson was famed for saying that “One of the more bizarre aspects of my life is the way it has veered from triumph to disaster without my seeming to notice the change”
If Dan Farson was still alive today I wonder if the changes in his beloved Turkey would be more easily recognisable to him.
A word from Casey
“I am Casey Russell, a 14 year old home schooled traveller, writer, photographer and sailor.
I live aboard my familys Oceanis 45 foot sailing yacht and travel extensively throughout the mediterranean for most of the year exploring the lost islands and hidden archaeological treasures of the region.
Photography is a hobby of mine and this year i am keen to explore new techniques and effects, the articles that I write are always accompanied by awesome images.
So, Come along with me on my travels and let me show you the hidden corners of this magical region…”
To read more articles by Casey please visit his blog, “Adventurer in Training”