Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Home for The Winter of Our Dislodged Selves

This is the best shot of Bodrum, Turkey I could find on the internet. It represents the town well. The others are too touristy. 

Jennifer has found us a place to stay for the winter in Bodrum. She did it in typical Jennifer fashion. She is a bloodhound when it comes to finding the best flight deals, the most fantastic restaurants, the most beautiful and romantic places to stay at reasonable prices.

After hours and days online, she found a place listed for summer rent by the week.

“Maybe I’ll just email them and ask them if it’s available for the winter,” she said.

“Go for it,” is my usual response to “Maybe I’ll...”

Turns out, it was available.

And turns out, it is the most beautiful and romantic place to stay.

It is a classic, white stone Bodrum home rebuilt from crumbling stone walls hundreds of years old. It is down a narrow, pedestrian alley. You go through a door and find yourself in a courtyard with a small, one-story guest quarters to the left and the two-story home on the right. Most of the courtyard has a vine-entwined pergola overhead. There is a cactus garden next to the guest quarters, a (now empty) relaxing pool made of concrete against the back wall, a tool shed in the corner, and just in front of the kitchen door, under the pergola, an outside teak table flanked by vine-circled columns supporting the pergola.

On one wall of the courtyard is a large ship’s wheel. Hanging next to it, descending from the pergola, are huge, pumpkin-sized ships’ blocks. I make a mental note.

You enter through the kitchen and then into a cozy, warm living room with a fireplace. On a bureau next to the fireplace is an eighteen-inch long wooden model of a pilothouse motor-sailor in a glass box. (Mental note.)

Up an open, wooden stairway is the bedroom which has windows and a doorway to a terrace overlooking the courtyard. It is a protected mini-castle within an ancient village.

So sweet.

The owners had listed the home as a weekly rental for the next summer. Jennifer emailed them and asked if it might be available for the winter. And indeed it was.

Hermann and Tina Fuchs are quite the couple. Both Germans, he is in his mid-sixties and she is in her late fifties. In 1972, Hermann came to Bodrum in his twenties and bought a boat, which, at the time, seemed totally outsized for him. But what could he do? He loved it.

Hermann is a tall man; deceptively slim for his large frame. He once carried a full head of wild, curly red hair, now tamed by age to almost white and combed straight back from the middle of his head to his neckline. An old newspaper photograph reveals that he has always worn a full North Sea-type of Walrus mustache.

Yes, he says, the ship’s wheel is from a ship he once owned. With the precision of intonation that reveals naked pride, he tells me that his boat was a 1942 “Kriegsfischkutter.” A wartime fishing cutter.

As can been seen in the poster-sized photograph in the kitchen, it was a gaff rig, cutter-ketch with a supplemental square sail on the fore. With a length-on-deck of 75 feet (100’ LOA) and a portly displacement of 120 tons, this ship was designed to be an agile motor-sailor which could assist with wartime duties and then be converted to fishing purposes once the Reich had subsumed control of all the seas in addition to the cities, fields and mountains.

This production line became the largest German commissioning of a series ship, according to my research on Wikipedia.

Kriegsfishkutter "Barracuda." A 1942 warship cutter. Shot taken from the internet.
Hermann bought this ship, “Barracuda,” and ran a sailing vacation business in the day when chartering was still young and new to Turkey.

“In those days,” Hermann said, squinting his eyes behind the coke-bottle thick glasses from the smoke of his pipe, “we were the only ones.”

We were sitting in their living room, getting to know them over coffee and tea.

“We were the biggest yacht in all of the harbors,” adds Tina, in a German accent just as thick as Hermann’s. “At the end, with these gigantic gulets, you had to look to find us.”

The end, of which Tina spoke, was marked in wet footprints across a searing hot deck on day in 2007.

Ever since he was 20, Hermann has suffered from diabetes. Back then, he was slowly dying with an undiagnosed organ problem. Lying on a gurney, down to 110 pounds from not eating for weeks, practically dead, a doctor finally cut him open to pull out a huge cyst on his pancreas. But in the process, he nicked the pancreas, which produces insulin. Hermann was granted life at the price of being diabetic.

But he’s never complained. When Jennifer mentioned she was a bit depressed about the never-ending boat search, he said, “I don’t believe in being depressed. Look at me!” he said as he pointed to his slim belly where the scar surly still is proud.

His diabetes led to his creeping eye problems and to numbness in his extremities. Which brings us back to that fateful day in 2007. He was walking barefoot across the deck of his ship, which became searing hot in the daytime temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50C) and he noticed wet footprints. He reached down to touch his feet and his hand came back up with the skin of his sole.

Third degree burns on both feet put him out of commission for all of, well, two weeks.

“I had to get back up. We had a charter. Everything was booked. I walked with lots of bandages around my feet.”

But after that, health considerations and lifestyle choices led them to slow down.

Tina took a deep drag on her cigarette and exhaled toward the ceiling, laughing.

“It was hard work. We would be up with our guests to three in the morning!”

Tina is a slim woman with an even slimmer face and youthful hair. She has a fresh and sassy attitude, which is why I first assumed she was a native Berliner, the hometown of my mother. But it turns out she’s from Munich.

She came to Turkey on vacation with her sister back in the 70s and met Hermann for a week or so. Apparently that was enough to entice her back. She returned and created three decades of history with Hermann.

A few years ago, they sold the boat. You can still charter it if you want. According to Hermann, the only thing to survive the rebuild is the ship’s name “Barracuda.” The pilothouse was cut off.

“Sssst!” he hisses and strikes his flat hand sideways across the imaginary deck. “And the bow. Sssst!”

Then this, then that. Everything was rebuilt: A new pilothouse. A new bow but with a different sheer. A different this and a different that. Now it is a luxury charter boat operating in Italy.

This is "Barracuda" after her renovation. If you compare the two photos, you can see the more steeply-sloped sheer towards the bow. The pilothouse, once metal, is now wood.
“Terrible,” he concludes and leans forward from the couch to knock out his pipe on a cork island in a glass ashtray.

The model in the glass box? Yes, of course: a perfect scale model of Barracuda. The story of that will have to wait for a future blog entry.

Hermann and Tina spend summers in Bodrum and winters in Berlin, close to family. Which is why we have the good fortune of being able to rent their home.


abbot said...
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abbot said...

in reading this entry, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, this place seemed too perfect and surely the big twist was coming in the next line or paragraph....

ancient building with fireplace and terrace.....
a courtyard with vine entwined pergola...

it's all just too good to be true, all that build up led me to think the shoe was gonna be an extra large, dropping from great height

happy to find that not having a big letdown was the twist this time :D

glad you found such a great place, must be fate...sail to med, get a place in Turkey for the winter while the boat's on the hard, relaunch in the spring and go cruising..... (save one minor glitch) everything's going along as planned,

Julie said...

Where are the photos of this adorable house?!!! It sounds fantastic!