It all started, of course, with Turkish Delight. A single powdered square before take-off, and a glass of opalescent raki. Two hours and a heart-stopping lurch later, and the rest of my senses caught up with these delicate, decadent flavours as we touched down in Dalaman.
In fact, stepping through the sliding doors was immediate overload as the steamy stench of petrichor raced into my lungs, and the song of a thousand hidden birds rushed to fill my racing mind. Before I could truly take it in, we were ushered into a long, leather-lined taxi and driven deep into the darkening mountains that had long lurked like dragons on the horizon.
Sinking deeper into the mist-laden landscape, my stomach lurched to realise that we were chasing a storm. Through tinted glass we watched lightning momentarily differentiate dusky sky from dusty road, before casting everything back into uniform blackness.
When the rain came, it was a sheet of sound – ten minutes of pushing through a waterfall before, just as instantly, it was gone again. By the time we reached the exotic familiarity of our temporary home, the ground was dry again.
Mere moments later, a gin in one hand and a bowl of fresh green olives in the other, I breathed in the sacred scent of night-blooming jasmine – the scent I wake craving still – and watched bats flitting in pairs across the rugged patch of wasteland as thunder roared deep within the mountains that ringed us. It was a perfection of sorts.
After much news and laughter with the family, we sauntered down handsome streets where modern design met an ancient way of life – chickens darting in and out of gateways and families gathered around ornate semavers – and found a harbourside seat for supper.
I slipped off my shoes and, with a sense of ritual borrowed from my strange and solemn surroundings, stepped down from the terrace into cool, ankle-deep sea. From this vantage there was no horizon, only darkness punctuated by strings of distant lights. A weight drifted from me and into the the obscurity of night and hidden mountains.
I woke the next morning more rested than I had been in months, and lay with my eyes closed, listening to the continuing grumbles of monstrous mountains, lifted occasionally by the harrowing, hopeful call to prayer. I was truly here…
I basked in coverless coolth until Sam surfaced from sleep, and together we indulged in the infinite pleasure of bare feet on marble stairs and extravagant, endless breakfast. Sated at last by fried eggs and fresh fruit, sesame cakes and dark, bitter coffee, we returned to the harbour to at last pay homage to the towering mountains that we had only sensed the night before.
Their immediacy made my heart leap, and their all-encircling mass was both a comfort ad a distant terror. Between them sat the sea, still and impossibly clear and waiting. The whole landscape was waiting, as the mists rolled in and the air grew somehow swollen. A strange hush descended over the local families drinking çay and playing tavla.
As we reached the corner where the sea turtles feed, the spiced metallic tang of approaching chaos became feverish, and a rush of thunder startled us. The mountain dragons had truly woken, and the sea awoke to greet them. What had been crystalline stillness was now a thick, churning green, mottled with the motion of pelting rain. We ducked under the canopy of the nearest coffee kiosk, and sipped thick black sin as electricity raged around us – a symphony of spice and solder and saline air.
What may have been hours later, the clouds began to break apart. We strolled, sodden, back to the house as the cry of the muezzin rang out. The single voice that filled the air, matching the single beam of sun that made its way through the grey, created a surreal sense of triumph that followed us home.