Villa Huzur, A Portrait of Place

Early Fall

This year, early fall in the deep south,

I steep myself in the sea, sand, and sun
in trees
and apples as if in honey.
At night the air smells like harvested wheat --
the night sky meets the dusty road
and I blend with the stars.

~ Nazim Hikmet

We've spent two restful and invigorating weeks at Villa Huzur, the Turkish home of Alicia and Solihin, our new friends and extended family since my brother Matt married their daughter Rebecca this past summer. They currently work and live in Moscow and wanted a get-away within direct flight range so they built this traditional travertine stone house here last year. They graciously opened up their home to us when they heard we were coming to Turkey and joined us for a three-day weekend.

Situated in the tiny rural town of Islamlar set in the Taurus mountains above the resort town of Kalkan, Villa Huzur is a calm retreat on the Lycian Coast with a view of the sea and the mountains. Huzur means "peace" in Turkish and it definitely lives up to its name.  We have the best of both worlds: Kalkan is close by for entertainments and up here we have a cool breeze, the mountain streams provide excellent drinking water and the locals stock their ponds with fresh trout.

We wake up in the morning and throw open the balcony doors to greet the day. We go down the curved staircase to open the four sets of double doors to the terrace to bring the outdoors in. The first pleasurable task of the day is to manually squeeze fresh pomegranate juice with the industrial Az-Yildiz hand-juicer (Turks like to mix pomegranates and oranges, but we prefer straight pomegranate as it is such a rare treat). Then on the sunny terrace, we have a leisurely Turkish breakfast of toasted simit bread (sesame rings), cheeses, jams, sesame butter, honeycomb and cream, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs and coffee. The rest of the morning we work, write and read while Xavier naps.

View from the kitchen window.

A champagne lunch Alicia threw together.

Christian, Xavier and Solihin swimming at Kibutas Beach

Kas Market with Alicia

Alicia and Solihin built this house with an eye for the details. They've built a well-stocked library of Turkish cookbooks, novels, guidebooks, art books and history. Kilims cover the radiant-heated floors and beautiful calligraphy hangs on the walls. Mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture and fluffy white Turkish towels are beautiful and functional touches. The kitchen is spacious and full of everything one could possibly need for a dinner party, including plastic popsicle molds for little boys and Lomonosov Cobalt Blue coffee cups.

A corner of the living room.

A tugra, the sultan's signature

Table grapes hang in heavy clusters on the arbor over the raised divan in the back garden, the perfect partially shaded reading/napping/lounging spot. I've spent a lot of time here.

The call to prayer, the ezan, comes five times a day from the mosque minarets. At 9:30 am we hear the kids from the elementary school across the street laughing at recess and when we walk by they call out in unison, Merhaba! Bees buzz as they go about their daily route collecting nectar, birds sing, roosters "oo-oo-OO" (as Xavier says) and two grand white turkeys grumble to each other in the vineyard. 

This October, the weather has been in the 80's and everyday we swim either in the Mediterranean or the sea-water pool at the house. The crowds of summer are long gone and many of the restaurants and shops are now closing up. We like having it all to ourselves, or mostly all to ourselves. At the UNESCO World Heritage site of Letoon, we were the only visitors and after chatting in my broken Turkish with the one man working at the ticket counter, he gave us some pomegranates from the trunk of his car as a parting gift. Within an hour in any direction there are local markets, ancient ruins, hikes, beaches and islands to explore in the afternoons. We've discovered Xanthos, Tlos, Termessos, the Greek island of Meis, Fetiye's fish market, and hiked part of the Lycian Way.

Neighbors have been picking, packing and stacking their grapes in wooden crates along the mountain roads for the trucks to come collect. Pomegranates hang heavy from the orchard below the house and we've watched women use wooden spoons to whack piles of them over big plastic bowls to make nardik, the thick pomegranate syrup used on salads and fish.

In the evenings we swing by our favorite casual restaurant Hunkur Ocabasi to have Iskendar Kebab (Alexander's Kebab with yogurt, tomato sauce served over cubes of bread) or we pick up fresh sardines, sea bass or sea bream to grill at home.

As the day winds down and Xavier falls into a heavy and happy sleep from playing outside all day, we wrap ourselves in blankets and go star-gazing. In 300 B.C. Herodotus called Kalkan "the place nearest to the stars." Sitting out on the terrace in the dark, listening to the night sounds and watching the innumerable stars light up, I do feel nearer to the cosmos. We blend with the stars.

Below you can see and hear a happy moment in time at Villa Huzur.  A million thanks to you, Alicia and Solihin, for your hospitality and friendship!

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