Sometimes, living as we do in a country stuffed full of biological, historical and geographical gems, a land so overflowing with wonderful, wondrous superlatives, we forget to look around our own ‘backyards’. If you live by the junction of the A303 and A360 trunk roads in Wiltshire (UK), I bet that it wouldn’t take long before you wouldn’t even notice that Stonehenge was there!!
So it was with a delightful little gem of a place in the village of Çandır just across the river from Dalyan.
Çandır was one of the first places J and I considered when we were searching for a place to call home here in Turkey. It was Christmas Day 1996 when we arrived, shaken and bruised from a grinding drive along broken tracks (it would be several years before anything remotely resembling a road broke through to the village), and we were ready for something to eat and a glass of tea. This photo is of the original road in to the village.
We found no tea house and the only ‘shop’ was a shack in some guy’s back garden opposite the village school. We piled into the shop and scanned the shelves – it was like the old Soviet Union on a bad day – they were bare! ‘Ne var?’ (What have you got?) ‘Beyaz peynir, efendim.’ (White cheese, honoured sir/madam) ‘Ekmek?’ (Bread?) ‘Hayır! Daha sonra traktör gelecek.’ (No! A little later the tractor will come) Our faces must have said it all. We were hungry and thirsty and very dishevelled and an audience of curious locals had gathered – it didn’t take long before the natural hospitality and kindness of our soon-to-be fellow country folk kicked in.
We were guided to a table and bench under a tree; newspaper was spread and plates began to appear with bread and a bottle of Fanta from the shopkeeper’s own kitchen, our white cheese and a bag of salted peanuts, olives from someone else and a couple of lemons from the branches above our heads. Whilst we sat chatting and eating a small procession of village ladies came by bearing plates of lokma (Turkish one-bite doughnuts), ‘Hoş geldiniz.’ (Welcome) Tea was brewed and kids from the school came by to practise their English, it was just an ordinary day for them – our exploration of an area turned into an exploration of a village culture that was to capture our hearts. It was also one of the most memorable Christmas Dinners J and I have ever experienced!
Charming as Çandır is, it lost out to Okçular as a place to put down roots due in no small part to its semi-isolation.
Over the years Çandır has changed little; the shack-shop has gone, there’s no shop at all now just a visiting van and the school has closed, a few more houses have been built and the road has changed out of all recognition, but the essential character remains. J and I enjoy walking the forest tracks and the ruins of Kaunos which are close by the village, although we haven’t paid much attention to the centre for some years, we had noted a ‘museum’ sign pointing at someone’s back yard. Recently we took some friends from the US on a ‘jolly’ that included the village and were delighted to discover that the sign really did point to a small folk museum and tea house.
Tea was served and we were treated to tales of this and that – friends from Okçular were recalled and it soon became apparent that they had heard of J and me and knew where we lived. We gave them a copy of the Okçular Book and it was wonderful to see their delight as they realised there were stories in there from and about folks they knew.
We, and our friends from the US had a wonderful time, relaxing, enjoying countless tales and glasses of tea – it proved the highlight of an already splendid day. If you are visiting or live near Dalyan, then do pop across the river to Çandır and do make a visit to the folk museum and tea house – ‘It’s Behind You’ right opposite the old village school.
Alan in Okçular