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9 September 2021

Summer Holidays at Datcha - Not to Be Confused with a Dacha

Fires, quakes and party-crazed fellow tourists can’t spoil a family holiday for Azerbaijani blogger Nailya and her family in southern Turkey.

Mugla, Turkiye

An aerial view of Datcha (not a Dacha), in the region of Mugla, Turkiye. Image: YusufOzluk/Shutterstock 

So, we have just returned from three weeks, yes whole three weeks, of family vacation in Turkey.   

I know. We were very fortunate to have been able to go anywhere, and most importantly, to return in one piece. I’m sure you heard about the forest fires.     

I had not been in Turkey for many years. Last time that my mother and I were planning to meet up she had suggested Turkey. She had wanted to go there for a while. For me, however, it was not on the priority destination list and we ended up in Georgia. The reason, I guess, was that I didn’t find Turkey different enough from Azerbaijan. There were too many cultural and culinary similarities, and going there didn’t feel “exotic” enough. That’s how I would explain my reluctance to spend my precious annual leave days in Turkey.   

Nowadays, however, every country has a Covid colour list, and, “coincidentally on purpose,” they never seem to coincide. I.e., if some lovely holiday destination is green on your home country’s list, it does not mean your country is green on theirs. So, you are welcome to go there, but you are not really welcome there. In the end, with not many options, and most importantly, with a very generous offer from my cousin to stay at their fabulous duplex apartment in the middle of the cutest seaside town I’d ever seen, I thought – “fine. Let’s try Turkey. And my mother can also finally spend some time with the grandkids.”   

So off we went.   

It was an interesting vacation.   

First, never in over twenty years of marriage (sounds scary to even type this), has my husband had to spend his holiday with my family. As I was thinking about this, I realized, in a way, that he is quite fortunate. I come from a small family without any serious family commitments or obligations- quite unusual for an Azerbaijani girl. The only person I have in my life who I want to see regularly and take care of is my mother. Other than that, I have two cousins with whom I am close but don’t see much of, and that’s about it.   

One of these cousins, who I hadn’t seen for six years, and whom the beautiful apartment in Datcha belongs to, arrived from Canada to spend the holiday with us. She couldn’t stop herself from blabbing away in Russian to my mom in the middle of dinner. In these moments, as my husband threw funny glances at me, I just thought about how lucky he was.   

A table full of food

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Turkish breakfasts are famous for full tables and endless glasses of tea. Image: BURCU ERDILMEN/Shutterstock 

Look, I said, imagine if you had married someone else, someone with a huge, loud extended family with a culture to match. Say, for example, Italian. It would be like they show in movies, everyone sitting at a long table shouting and talking over each other, and on top of that, I would be expected to see them every Christmas and Easter and at a whole lot of other traditional gatherings. In our case, I am always available to attend holidays with his side of the family. That Italian scenario would be painful, I pointed out. Or what about – say - Japanese, with some intricate, complicated culture, where he could have probably gravely offended my great uncle by simply holding a teacup in the wrong way. “Just count your blessings,” I told him. “This is once in twenty years, so you can put up with an occasional barrage of Russian, mixed with Turkish (my cousin’s husband is Turkish) and enjoy your amazing holiday that other people are jealous of.”   

My cousin’s husband is extremely hospitable. Every dinner out was a fight over who would pick up the bill. Every morning we came down to find that he had set out a full Turkish breakfast, with eggs, spicy sausage (sojuk), olives, and at least five different cheeses. One thing my own husband was most excited about, which he only discovered in Turkey, was a combination of cold sweet watermelon and stinky cheese (Ezine, made from goat’s cheese). Surprised and impressed at how well that union worked, he indulged in the dish almost daily.   

We had stayed in an apartment right in the middle of a town called Datcha. Google photos and my cousin’s stories had misled me. I had imagined that, being a two-hour ferry ride away from Bodrum, this place would be peaceful and idyllic. Now I know the truth. Datcha is anything but peaceful. I had guessed that Bodrum would be packed with annoying tourists.