I had parked myself at a little table on the wide stone veranda outside our room in Kusadasi, Turkey, determined to stay at my computer until I had completed a story about our transatlantic cruise. I’d gotten to the most delicious part of the article – the food – when I heard a familiar click. There was a brief pause, another click, and then a low chuckle. I glanced over the second floor railing, which was draped with a gorgeous silk Turkish carpet we had been admiring all afternoon. The hotel owner and another man sat under a broad-leafed tree playing backgammon so fast that I could hardly see their hands move.
After winning a brief struggle with my work ethic I marched down the broad stone steps to the table, explained that I was an enthusiastic backgammon player, and asked if I could watch the match. They politely agreed, and beckoned for me to sit with them. The next 45 minutes were outrageously entertaining. Both men were experts and it was evident that they had played hundreds of games together. They passed the smallest pair of dice I had ever seen back and forth at blinding speed, making savvy, dangerous moves that I would never have thought of trying. We didn’t chat at all, but I think they secretly loved having a tall blond enthusiastic American lady for an audience, so they played even more aggressively than usual. They seldom spoke, but smiled when one or the other made a particularly delicious or sometimes a bad move.
Finally, my guilty conscience propelled me to trudge back up the stairs to my task, and a few minutes later I was surprised to see the owner coming across the terrace toward me. I was alarmed when I saw the board under his harm. “Oh, my God,” I thought, “he wants me to play backgammon with him and I will be humiliated.” I have played the game for decades, and can win often, but he was on an entirely different level. He held out the board and said, “This is a gift from the hotel. Such a devoted player deserves a proper board.”
I was speechless. It was one of the nicest surprises and certainly the most charming gift I could imagine. Although we travel light, the backgammon board from the Caravanserail Hotel is one item which has earned its place in our caravan of luggage no matter what!