Saturday, October 1, 2016

Everybody's Friend, Umit

Turkey has so many beautiful beaches, but one of the best is Cirali.  Our research had revealed that this beach was a prime stop and still not overrun with sun-seeking tourists.  Every article written by travellers spoke praises, and we took a look using Google Earth and it looked perfect.  Backed by the green hills, the beach stretched for miles and near the village had many beach side restaurants.  What google couldn’t show us was a man standing at the gate of the restaurant called Ikiz, which means “twins” in Turkish.  That man made a striking impression with us through his ambitious work and his pursuit of making our visit a memorable one.

Two years ago
Meet Umit.  Umit the manager.   Umit the translator.   Umit the concierge, the helper, the friend to all foreigners, the hardest worker with the longest hours in Cirali.  He’s the guy at the gate, and when you come to know him you find him to be a funny person balanced with grown responsibility and caring for the people who visit his restaurant and pension owned by a local family.  

Umit made sure we enjoyed the regional products and led us through the menu each day as if he knew where the treasure was buried.  When we left Cirali it seemed like we had been on a road trip with a true friend.  The thing that comes most to mind is that right now, Turkey needs more men like Umit, because he shows the best part of Turkey, the heart.

Umit is kind of like Food Network’s Guy Fieri, you know, the kind of person you could come to know and like right away.  Built like a brick house, like the majority of Turkish men, he makes a striking impression with his gentle and kind way.  If Umit would wrestle Guy, The “Road Stop” guy would be on the mat begging for mercy.  

Every question we had about Turkey, about cuisine, about life in general for Turks was answered.  We discovered that Umit was learning Russian to help the hoard of Russians who were coming to Turkey.  (Now they are not coming due to the plane shot down.)   Once away from the beach work it was hit the books, a complete immersion into hotel and restaurant management.  I admire his pursuit of contentment for his customers. 

xray showing titanium and bolts
But it was a moment similar to a car crash with a freeway pileup that brought Umit’s quick thinking and care into reality.  It was when my wife accidentally fell and crushed her right knee.  The village has no doctor, no clinic, and no pharmacy, and we were about one hour from the nearest hospital.  Within minutes Umit had an ambulance on its way.  Umit made all the necessary arrangements got our bags packed and ready, and made sure that she was as comfortable as possible.  Without Umit, it would have been so much more difficult to get help so quickly.  The knee was so bad that the hospital began surgery immediately.   He brought an oasis of calm into an unexpected disaster.  

Mr. Cirali, Umit
That was two years ago, now the knee is healed with titanium, and we have been back to Umit’s Cirali beach.  Nothing has changed, it was still a calm and magical place. We found Umit smiling at that gate, and our memorable road trip began again.  At the end of the week, it was difficult to leave and fly home.  Umit has made plans to visit our home in the Spring.  I hope that you, dear reader, will visit Umit and his Cirali Beach someday.  

My Road Trip Restaurant


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