Yesterday was the final, chaotic, day of the 9-day Şeker Bayramı holiday. Over the last week, Kaş has been practically under siege.
Essential grocery shopping trips were restricted to a small hour-long window, post 8am opening, before the hordes of holidaymakers from the big cities were awake and taking over the town. It wasn’t just parking that was an impossibility, getting into town at all was simply a non-starter. On arrivals weekend, queues of traffic backed up for over a kilometre either side of the main roundabout. As the town was physically unable to absorb any more cars, they simply ended up crawling along the main road before eventually passing the people queuing up in the other direction. If it hadn’t been so frustrating, it would have been quite comical.
Turkish city-dwellers are not prepared to walk. Anywhere. Not even 20 steps. Instead, if they can’t see a parking space directly outside the place they want to visit, they simply park their cars in the middle of the road, preventing everyone from going about their business, with not a thought to the fact that a fire engine, ambulance or some other essential vehicle would not be able to pass. Roads were gridlocked, tempers were frayed, resentment was certainly felt by those of us who live here.
Our friend Zuzu did point out to us yesterday that actually we should feel sorry for them. They make the 12-hour drive from Istanbul in order to get away from the bustle, the crowds and the horrendous traffic in their city. They arrive here to find the same bustle, the same crowds and the traffic is worse, because they’ve all brought their cars. On top of that, there is nowhere for them to stay, because – oops – they didn’t bother to pre-book. Tents were pitched on grass verges and traffic islands, and the grounds of the old hospital looked like a refugee camp (in a way it was, I suppose). Anywhere that had access to a tap and wasn’t too far to walk to a toilet was occupied.
Then they discover that because almost everything has to be brought in to Kaş from elsewhere in Turkey, prices are much higher than in Istanbul. Food, drinks, petrol and supermarket bills are all a great deal more expensive than in the cities. It isn’t possible to get a table at any of the restaurants, supermarkets begin to run out of stock, ATMs run out of money, petrol pumps run dry and the electricity grid can’t cope. It would be almost impossible to fit a very small mouse between the towels on the beach – and the other people surrounding them are the very people they’d hoped to leave behind. Welcome to Kaş folks, have a nice stay!
As if that is not enough to keep all but the most determined holidaying Istanbullu away, over the last week, driving on the roads of Turkey has had slightly worse odds than playing Russian roulette. As of yesterday, 144 had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in around 550 traffic accidents (and that’s not counting the ones where no-one was injured). Many people will have travelled back overnight last night, so those figures will rise considerably yet.
To put this in perspective, Turkey has a slightly bigger population than the UK and its land area is three times as large. Despite that, Turkey only has just over half the amount of vehicles on the road as the UK, but the number of traffic accidents involving fatalities is more than four times higher.
Cars are over-crowded, seatbelts are largely shunned, children are not restrained – you see them standing up, hanging out of windows and climbing through to the front seats. Babies are routinely bounced and dangled in the windscreen by their adoring, but naive, mothers.
Attitudes to such frivolities as brakes and tyres, and the use of rear view mirrors and indicators, are relaxed to say the least. No-overtaking signs, blind hills and blind bends are seen as a challenge – even better if all three are present at once. And, of course, make sure you have one hand on the phone and one on the cigarette lighter – none of that namby-pamby holding the steering wheel malarkey.
Yesterday was shaping up to be the nadir of an already difficult week. There was only one thing for it – to take a boat out on the water and hope that the crowds had left by the time we got back in to Kaş.
Days out on Ece K have the ability to make you so relaxed that you feel like you’ve had two weeks on a beach in the Caribbean. Drifting around the islands, swimming with the turtles and dropping anchor in a deserted bay – just time for another swim while Captain Apo gets the grill going and Apo’s wife Şerefe, sometimes with Apo’s Mum, puts the finishing touches to the mezes.
Lunch is followed by a snooze, another swim and then a sail back to Limanaĝzi – a beautiful bay just across the harbour from the town, home to dozens of loggerhead turtles – for a final dip, followed by tea and cake.
Yesterday, there were ten of us plus Apo and his crew, so one cake was never going to be enough. I made my life easy by producing two versions of the same frangipane sponge – one with golden plums, the other with the juicy dark cherries which are in the markets at the moment.
This cake is so easy to make – no need to get machinery out – and always looks and tastes stunning. Each cake cuts into 12 small slices. I have given you the recipe for one cake, but it can easily be doubled or tripled. (I have also tried making this cake using ground walnuts instead of the almonds and replacing the white sugar with brown – it was totally different and absolutely delicious – dark, sticky and gorgeous).
Some of you may be horrified that I use margarine in my cakes. I honestly think it gives a better texture and rise, though I always use butter for making pastry. If you decide to use margarine, stick with a good brand and obviously avoid the ones with the nasty trans fats.
Fruit-topped frangipane cake
Serves 8 – 12
You will need a Victoria sandwich tin, lined and greased
150g very soft margarine or butter
100g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
A good splash of almond extract
4 plums – I used golden plums, but any kind would be good
A couple of handfuls of cherries (blueberries, blackcurrants, apricots and raspberries are all good here – use a mixture if you feel like it)
Flaked almonds for scattering
Icing sugar for sifting
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a Victoria sandwich tin (if your tin is loose-bottomed, make sure the lining paper comes at least a little up the side to stop any fruit juice escaping and making a horrible mess in your oven).
Put the margarine or butter into a large bowl, together with the eggs and sugar. Using a wire whisk, beat thoroughly until the mixture looks smooth. Switch to a spatula and stir in the ground almonds, flour and almond extract. Mix until smooth.
Spread half of the mix over the base of the tin.
If using plums, cut them in half, remove the stone and slice each plum into 8 pieces. Arrange half of the pieces over the mixture in the tin.
If using cherries, stone the cherries (you can get a gadget for this job – they cost a couple of pounds and are worth the money – you can pit olives with them too). Cut some of the cherries in half and arrange over the mixture in the tin and then proceed as for the plum cake.
Carefully spoon over the rest of the cake batter and spread over the fruit, then slice the the rest of the plums and arrange neatly on the top.(If using cherries, stone them, but leave them whole)
Sprinkle some flaked almonds over the top of the fruit and then liberally sift over some icing sugar – this helps the fruit and the almonds to caramelise and will give you a nice sticky topping.
Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes, or until the cake is starting to slightly pull away from the sides of the tin and the top feels firm to the touch.