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An olive-tree-shrouded haven that protects people from pirates in ancient times, Mazı is perhaps Bodrum’s least known village. Consequently, it is still quiet, peaceful and unspoiled.
The silence is broken only by the crunch of the pebbles under my feet. Permeated by utter tranquility, mother nature slumbers on under the sky’s blue dome. The sun, which rose only moments ago, has not yet bathed the cove of Taşlı Yalı in all its colors. Stirred by a light breeze, the rhythmic beat of the waves rushing to shore drowns out the sound of my footsteps. The water’s ebb and flow becomes a playful game with the pebbles. I bend down and pick up a handful of these tiny colorful stones that we used to skip across the surface of the water as children. The designs on their smooth surfaces astonish me. Beaten into shape by the tempestuous waves, each stone is unique in shape and size. Just as the cycle of life shapes a person’s life with endless possibilities, the pebbles too are tossed hither and yon, continuously washed by the sea’s salt water.
I came to know Bodrum’s village of Mazı on one of my travels in search of undiscovered spots. As I proceeded down a road lined with olive trees, it suddenly appeared before me after a bend in the road with its white houses and red tile roofs. This charming village, perched high on a hill for defense against pirate attacks in ancient times, has looked out over the Bay of Gökova for centuries. The village of Mazi, in whose streets aged women wind wool on distaffs, where everyone joins together to pick the olives, where the old days are remembered in mosque courtyards, and where the children have not yet lost their innocent smiles, is greeting another quiet day. The economic benefits of tourism are the new hope today of homes that depend on carpet weaving, olive growing and fishing for a livelihood. Famous among the many lovely villages surrounded by the Aegean’s sparkling waters, this settlement hopes every summer season to make its dreams come true.
Mazı is quite different from the usual vacation spot. Don’t expect to find any boutique hotels, discotheques or resort villages here. This is a place to satisfy only those who seek peace and quiet and a refuge from the crowded city. Serene coves, as calm as can be, with a few simple hotels and restaurants nestled in the bosom of nature, fish restaurants offering the fruit of the sea, and the crystal clear waters of the sea. That’s it!
IN THE SHADE OF ORANGE TREES
Awakening in the morning to the putt-putt of the fishing boats going out to collect the nets, you greet the day. A scent of geraniums wafts through gardens shaded by olive leaves. You cast off your slumber in the cove’s cool waters, which is transformed into an artist’s canvas in tones of green, blue, turquoise and azure. A rich breakfast follows, enhanced by the delicious flavor of the local olive oil. If you’re feeling lazy, a hammock awaits you in the shade of the orange trees, or a chaise longue at the shore. If it’s stimulation you seek, you can enjoy the pleasure of feeling the cool blue waters on your skin, or pursuing a school of fish through the rocks with a snorkel. At evening when moonbeams scintillate on the water, heed your inner voice and drift off into a peaceful sleep to the accompaniment of the waves’ lullaby. A holiday dream in which your weariness is all washed away as you abandon yourself to the slow pace.
Forking at the place where it leaves the village, the road takes me to still more coves, each one a virtual paradise. The road to the left ends at the coast of Hurma, where a plain covered with citrus orchards and groves of pine and olive meets the sea. A few scattered pensions dot the quiet beach, which looks across to the Datça peninsula. As I wander idly on the shore, I notice some children playing with a seal at the water’s edge. It seems Badem, a rehabilitated baby seal that has been returned to the sea, can’t tear himself away from the human warmth to which he’s become accustomed. Displaying all his charming skills, Badem has made friends with the holiday-makers. I climb a rocky promontory hollowed out by the Knights of Malta to conceal their vessels full of gold, and drink in the landscape. Hurma on one side and Ilgın Cove on the other embrace Gökova’s pristine waters. This rock formation, thought to have been a Leleg or Carian Altar, has been dubbed ‘The Rock of Tears’ by the local villagers. Resembling an altar, it certainly must have a story worthy of the name. Who knows?
In the afternoon I return to Mazı. Following the fork to the right this time, once again I come to the sea. The village of Taşlı Yalı (Stone Mansion) with its two lone pensions is peaceful beyond belief. White caps cool the pebble beach under the scorching August sun.
İnce Yalı cove, separated by pine trees on the other side of the headland, is a little more lively with a few tumbledown pensions and restaurants. A beach at the foot of a hill covered with olive and locust trees is enveloped by nature like a child with a chill. The guests at the pensions, which are separated by wooden fences, quickly make friends on the tiny İnce Yalı beach where they meet every day.
TOURING THE COVE BY BOAT
Jumping into a fishing boat the next day, I set out on a tour of the oft-rhapsodized Mazı coves. The Ilgın fishermen’s refuge behind a breakwater, and the coves of Sedef, Kargılı, Feslikan and Çökertme where icy underground streams mingle with the sea, are the beauty spots on the east side of the village. Çökertme especially, with its pristine sand beaches and quiet coves offering overnight moorage for yachts, is a stop on these daily boat tours. And the view of Gökova Bay and Çökertme Cove from the top of Sivri Kümes in the village of Gökbel is unsurpassed. Alakışla Bükü, with its Şeytan Deresi, Çamlık, Çatal and Akarca coves where pink and white oleander grow down to the sea, forms the itinerary of a blue cruise on the western side. The Adalıyalı and Kissebükü beaches especially on Alakışla Bükü are favorite spots with sea lovers. Adalıyalı cove, where rocky formations seem to float like water lilies in the shallow water before disappearing a few meters later in the azure depths, is reminiscent of an artist’s palette with its rainbow of colors. And Kissebükü, an old Carian settlement with the ruins of a bath, a church and a cistern, affords blue cruisers a taste of history.
THE VILLAGE MARKET
The next day the village market is set up on the square. Stands bursting with ‘sele’ olives by the basket, fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the field, and a host of herbs that add flavor to salads and olive-oil dishes form a magical environment in which to lose yourself. Following a brief shopping expedition, the village women return home to their work at the carpet looms set up on balconies and in front of doors. A veritable maze of motifs, these rugs and kilims, woven by two or three people working together, have been a local source of livelihood for years. The lovely Milas kilims and carpets, with their predominating yellow, cream and brown hues, unfortunately fail to fetch the prices they deserve when sold at the market.
With its coasts that are practically deserted even at the height of summer, Mazı is just the spot for those who dream of a quiet holiday. A place that radiates peace like the touch of a familiar hand on your back.