Kusadasi – a long 8 hour bus ride south from Cannakale through some lovely rural communities, along the Agean seaside. As we approached the big city of Izmir we started to see small unfinished seaside communities with half finished three and four story condo buildings. I imagine this is what the south of Spain looks like with the deflation of the British and Irish holiday home buying markets. Those same tourists have frequented this part of Turkey for the last twenty years as package tourists and had just started to put down serious roots with second homes. Then the bubble burst leaving lots of unfinished buildings and a rather sad looking landscape in a few places. Kusadasi was neither sad nor unfinished. In fact we found it quite delightful – a medium sized city filled with funny Brits – mostly from Manchester north and lots and lots of Russians and Eastern Europeans. These two groups have so much in common – they are really 'what you see is what you get' types of folks with few pretences making for great people watching. The women also share a love for bizarre hair colors. The Brits seem to love the fire orange/emergency sign yellows and the Ruskies reject any color that might occur in the natural world – they love candy apple reds and fire engine oranges, blue and combos of all of these. Both groups seem to have really embraced tattooing – here and at home. We saw many tattoo parlours promoting some of the most disgusting designs I have ever seen. After a first night in a cute Guesthouse we found a nice little apartment to rent for 5 nights. It had a lot of room and a kitchen which we wanted for popcorn and other stuff, and we were able to negotiate a pretty sweet deal – breakfast included. Even though the city looked like it had a lot of tourists, we realized that the capacity was far greater and this city had lost a substantial share of the tourist traffic to new and upcoming areas. We were pleased.
Feeling left out of the fashionable hair colors – I decided to join in and have my hair touched up – I didn’t want to return to the Russian orange I was left with in Mexico, or the very temporary brown hair I left the salon with in Lima Peru, which quickly changed to blonde within a week. My hope was to try and achieve a natural blonde look this time. Again, back in the chair with a salon lacking any English stylists……another crap shoot – I told them the only thing I didn’t want was chunky stripes…….yup…….got chunky stripes……at least in colors naturally occurring on other heads: brown and blonde.
Also in Kusadasi, Jan was putting the final touches on a job offer she had received while we were in Canakkale. She had been seeking another teaching job – first in Iraq and then on sober second thought she accepted a job to teach in East Java Indonesia with a start date of early July…..leaving us with a few less weeks to travel together. Good for her though to have a plan for the next year and as an avid diver, Indonesia is a perfect location. Exciting. So lots of our time in our swell apartment was seeing to the phoning/faxing/scanning and emailing of documents and contracts to get all that sorted out. We did get out to the beach and the twice weekly gigantic city markets, held on our very own street, were really exciting as we could see them develop from our balcony. The work that went into setting up these massive markets for only one day was remarkable.
Also from our balcony we noticed a lot of activity two doors down – there appeared to be a considerable number of men frequenting the bar (which seemed misplaced in our residential neighbourhood) – going in, coming out, going in…….far too much male foot traffic for a normal bar. It didn’t take too many minutes of dedicated surveillance to determine that our neighbourhood bar was no ordinary pub, it was a brothel! Yippee – more interesting viewing and of course we had to go down and see the action inside for ourselves.
We entered the little exterior courtyard through the gate and were met by numerous bewildered stares from the few girls sitting outside. The owner of the place asked us what we wanted and we told him we wanted a drink. Inside the place had mostly sad looking trashy eastern European girls – all ages – from about 17 to 50 years old. Only a couple of tables of leacherous drooling men were occupied. They were looking more like junior high school boys at a school dance than sophisticated buyers of flesh by the hour. As the evening wore on, and as we were starting to really enjoy our voyeur based entertainment, the front door swung open and in dashed a bunch of men. Behind them they locked the door and one of the more macho looking guys yelled ‘Raid’. The music stopped, the energy of the place escaped like a balloon bursting, and tension filled the room. It took the two of us a few seconds to realize that these guys were the Police and our brothel was being raided…with us in it! When the reality sunk in, Jan could not help herself by laughing hysterically. As I scanned the room – a few of the girls across from me were making little signals to us that it was going to be OK. The rest of the girls were obviously very stressed as they dug into their purses to find the identification cards the police were demanding. Jan continued to laugh, not cluing in that the rest of the room was silent – very silent. I looked over at the big guy who was obviously in charge and he was not happy – not happy that Jan was laughing. "SHUT UP!!!!!" he yelled over in our direction and again Jan was not looking that way…still laughing which made him even more angry. Once I brought her attention back to the task at hand, she realized how silent the place was and that she had better shut up. The few plainclothes cops went around to every girl, collecting their laminated ID cards. Only the girls were asked to produce ID, the men were not. When the main guy arrived at our table, he was both angry and confused. Jan and I had just come next door in our shorts and flip flops – we didn’t exactly look like the tarted up ‘talent’. He grunted to us about producing ID, of which we had none as we had not expected to need it. He motioned over to the owner, grunted something in Turkish – I assume wanting to know where the hell we had come from – and it was obvious the owner told him he was as baffled as he was – we were just Brothel tourists. We told the cop we had no identification but that we just lived next door….again he grunted something to us and continued to gather ID cards. It was really sad to watch the anxiety grow as the girls waited for the main cop to return with their fate that evening. It seemed to take quite a long time for them to return with the ID’s and some of the girls actually let out a little shout of joy when their cards were returned to them. No arrests that night. After the police left there seemed to be a lot more energy in the place – the girls were happy for a few minutes until……the boss arrived. A pit bull mean old Ho – when she walked through the door and as each girl noticed her, the place was again put on alert. This woman was a tough old broad and you could tell she was a tough manager. The girls jumped up and started working (dancing and chatting up the guys) – they had not really been working the guys in the room – they had been spending their time visiting each other, dressing up the new kid, comparing outfits, gossiping and just hanging around. The guys were just trolling, hanging around in groups discussing the possibilities. It was really interesting to watch this manager stop at every table, check out each girls wardrobe, discuss some things and basically crack the whip in the room. Cheap entertainment for us, pretty shitty sad life for the rest of the girls in that bar. Again we had a gratitude discussion – we are so lucky to have the choices few women have. In this part of the world that is even more apparent.
Even though we spent nearly a whole week in Kusadasi, there was so much more we could have done. It is a little mecca for English and Irish second home buyers and those people alone provide countless hours of entertainment just listening to accents….even more fun listening to the market guys mimic them in a Turkish Cockney brogue.