Faced with the belting hot weather of summer there is a place a little way up in the mountains that J and I love to slip away to for a late lunch, peace and some refreshing coolness. It goes by the name of Sarmaşık Restaurant on the Yuvarlakçay River, but we prefer the name on the original, hand-painted sign that first pointed us in its direction – Derin Vadi – Deep Valley.
. . down, down, diggery down – much improved these days
It’s all of fourteen years ago now since J spotted the board with its drunken lettering pointing along a dirt track to gawd alone knew where! We had two friends visiting from UK who were horrified, and I do mean horrified, as we turned onto a steep switchback that had been recently semi-carved from the side of a fairly precipitous valley. ‘We’re not going down there, are we?’ as knuckles whitened on the backs of our seats! Around the second hairpin we stopped by some young guys who were busy hacking out the track with picks and shovels. At our arrival they downed tools and galloped ahead down to a flattish plateau on which stood a simple, wooden shack where they promptly started to wash themselves down in a mini-waterfall that was splashing down the vertical side of the valley. ‘That’s not it, is it?’ gasped our traumatised and naïve guests. ‘I think it probably is’, said J matter-of-factly, ‘let’s go and have a look.’
water the colour of translucent aquamarine
Led by our freshly douched navvies now transformed into dust-free, spring-water dripping waiters we stepped around the side of the shack and were confronted by our idea of, if not paradise, a close-run second. There, under the shade of great Çınar/Plane trees, wooden platforms had been cobbled together over a fast-flowing little lake created by a home-made log dam. The water was the colour of translucent aquamarine from the malachite in the rocks. As we walked down the path that amounted to little more than a goat track the temperature began to drop the nearer we got to the water.
On the platform our shoes came off and hot feet were plunged into icy waters – our smiling navvy/waiter delivered four chilled beers and welcomed us to their family restaurant. I do believe we were their very first customers. So began a relationship that grew from regular customers to family friends. Now we get invited as honoured guests to the family weddings – with eight children it’s a case of three down – five to go!
‘Last of the Summer Wine’ or ‘One Foot in the Grave’ – with California hippy friend Lois
Sarmaşık/Derin Vadi is not a sophisticated place – the menu is simple and limited – trout; köfte (meatballs); chicken shish; delicious kid (as in goat) tandır and there’s fresh carp as long as you give them at least a few hours warning. There’s always plenty of fresh starters and salads and fruit for afters with a glass of rakı.It has changed little over the years – the navvies have improved the track a bit; the shack has been extended and made into a more practical kitchen and the toilet block is pretty decent and always clean. When you consider that but for the determination of the families of Pınar Köy, the local village, and a battle group of outsiders from around the area, all this would have been lost to the greed of big money that was hell-bent on destroying this beautiful place with a hydro-electric scheme. There is one thing that has not changed from that first day and that is the absence of concrete. Where others have sought to ‘improve’ their image with concrete terraces and water features, Derin Vadi has remained what it always was – an unspoilt bit of village culture and enterprise – family owned and family run. Long may the rest of the world continue to pass it by! I commend it to you.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü – or, depending on the time of day – Derin Vadi!
The restaurant is easy to find – leave the Köyceğiz-Ortaca road and drive through Beyobası. Immediately past the big fish farm and over the bridge bear left (there are signs). Drive for a few kilometres through the forest to a small shop/market and turn left (again signed) down to the restaurant. Tel: 0538 628 1540