'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Moonshine!

Those who follow these witterings with any regularity will know that I enjoy a drop or two of rakı in the evenings. My taste-buds became attuned way back when we first migrated to Turkey. I still recall clearly the initiation process. There I was with a couple of local gentlemen who set out two glasses in front of me. One glass was half-filled with the colourless liquid then, as I watched, water filled the other glass before it was added to the rakı and the magic began. as the spirit mysteriously turned white my host turned to me, beat his chest and boomed ‘Aslan süt!’ – Lion’s milk! The die was cast!

Back then, 1997, the state-owned Tekel company produced the goods and the tax was non-existent. A bottle cost next-to-nothing! All that changed after Tekel was privatised and our government began to harden its attitude towards alcohol consumption. Taxes began to rise until today they represent an eye-watering 80% of the retail price. From pennies to 100+ lira in the space of a little over ten years for a litre of rakı is no laughing matter!

What is a chap to do? The answer is that ‘When in Rome . . ‘ Turks are amazingly inventive and creative, They know how to turn any situation to their advantage. You only have to think about how quickly the verges of a new by-pass are turned in to rows of stalls/restaurants/farm shops. ‘In every situation lies the seeds of an equal or greater benefit’ to quote some positive-thinking author or other.

And so it was that I was introduced by a friend to something many Turks have been doing for quite some time – making my own and saving a pretty penny or three. I’m not here to encourage anyone else to do this – if you too want to know how to turn out 2.25 litres of excellent rakı in the space of a couple of hours for just under 30 lira per litre then contact me individually. Here’re some photos of the ‘kit’.

spring water, aniseed oil, a little sugar, ethanol/ethyl alcohol, mixing jar

the end product – 2.25 litres of excellent tasting rakı

Cheers!

In case you are worried, I didn’t go blind from moonshine and here’s the sunshine to prove it!

Alan, wondering what to spend my tax rebate on!

ps With so many Turks going down this path, foreign tourism down, Turks taking holidays in Greece in ever increasing numbers, now the minister responsible for these taxes has said that they are far too high on booze, tobacco and cars. Is a reduction likely? Don’t hold your breath!

Stuff

‘ands, Knees And Bumps-a-Daisy

Regular readers will know that the only fly in my otherwise idyllic ointment of life is . . . decrepitude! Bits, usually with bones attached, keep wearing out, seizing up or generally failing to be fit for purpose. I last moaned about it a few months ago – if you can be bothered here’s a link.

Anyway, having got my right knee sorted after months of treatment J and I were looking forward to traipsing hand in hand through the flowers of many a mountain meadow.

the dream

. . was short-lived! Within days the Happy Wanderer was feeling like an instant train wreck.

A period of self-doctoring à la must-be-the-same-as-the-other-knee proved to be time well wasted! So, it was bite the bullet and let the real doctors do their job. Various scans showed that the joint was a right mess and an operation to clean out, scour, polish and generally tidy up the site was advised. Apart from the fact that the national holiday got in the way it was, as is usual here in Turkey, a next day job!

Following the whole procedure on a tv monitor is part of the fun – like taking a virtual boat trip through some weird, underground labyrinth full of stalagmites and stalactites. All it needed to complete the illusion was coloured lights!

So, where are we now? Pain has gone and I sleep at nights which means I’m not as much of a grumpy old bastard as I used to be. We are back up at the cabin, I’m mobile after a fashion and it’s only a matter of time before those mountain meadows will once again be in range. I’m happy and it only leaves me to thank the skill of the medical staff and the efficiency of the health service here in Turkey.

Alan – life, ain’t it great!

Stuff, Wanderings

Several Birds . .

J and I have travelled much of Turkey in the twenty-odd years we’ve lived here but we’ve never made it across the Hellespont or Dardanelles  as it is known these days. European Turkey remained a place unexplored to us.

one of the most strategic waterways in the world

Our Turkish ‘son’ was recently appointed to an important post near the Greek border and so, as we hadn’t seen him and his family for a few months, we needed no further encouragement than an invitation to a local rice festival. The area is one huge paddy field and supplies much of Turkey’s domestic rice needs.

2 kilo bags of ‘Festival Rice’ proved to be welcome gifts

Now, we had other friends whom we had not seen for a while who were holidaying near Ayvalık so what better than to combine a visit with them! They were delighted and promptly suggested that we all traipse off to Bozcaada (a small island just off the coast) for a couple of days.

Bozcaada is very pretty, very popular, the resort of choice for the ‘beautiful people’ from İstanbul and very expensive! Let me give you a couple of examples; what amounted to no more than a decent lokanta meal for four, admittedly with 3/4 of a bottle of rakı thrown in, was over 400 Lira! A double rakı weighs in at 40 Lira – although they do ‘give away’ a small bowl of nuts when you sit down! Now, if like me you enjoy your daily dose of duble rakı then forking out the price of a bottle for a couple of doubles rather takes the shine off.

Meanwhile, a few impressions:

the most splendid of friends

As I said, it’s a most beautiful place and with friends such as ours there is nothing more to add!

Bozcaada behind us we motored on and crossed the Dardanelles at Çanakkale, the narrowest part. It’s a busy place . .

Our ‘son’ was working much of the time so as is usual on these occasions we amuse ourselves most days and fit in the socialising when we can. The highlight was joining him on a trip to Edirne where I was able to fulfil a long-time desire to visit the Selimiye Imperial Ottoman Mosque. Said to be the finest masterpiece of one of the greatest architects to have ever lived – the Mimar Sinan – it was commissioned by the Sultan Selim II and built between 1569-1575. It is a remarkable sight to behold!

 

 

the massive main door – these pieces fit together like a jig-saw – no glue or nails

Look carefully at the image below and you might just make out a relief carving of an upside down tulip. There is a story; the woman who owned the land where the mosque now stands repeatedly refused to give it away for the greater glory of God or Sultan! She used it to grow tulips on the site which you may recall were worth more than gold back in those far-off days. Anyway, she was adamant until eventually she was assured that there would be tulips inside the mosque and so she agreed with that as guarantee. She should have known better than to trust the elites because all she ended up with was this one ‘dead’ tulip! If you go back four photos you can see someone pointing out the location.

There is a small but very interesting museum attached to the mosque with lots of amazing examples of Ottoman craftsmanship. It also has a disturbingly realistic figure of the great architect Sinan – J freaked out!

Koca Mi’mâr Sinân Âğâ – Mimar Sinan 1488/90 – 1588

Now, Edirne is famous for something else – liver! Whenever a Turk, friend or stranger, heard we were off to Edirne we were told that we simply had to eat the famous Edirne Tava Ciğer! So we did and they were right, sliced thinly before frying it is delicious!

Edirne Tava Ciğer

We did a number of other things and went to a few other places but this is enough for now apart from one other thing. On the way back we stopped briefly at Ezine a town famous in Turkey for its cheeses. There we bought Ezine Göbekli Kaşar Peynir (cheese with holes) which is OK if not special. (J and I are in dispute over Ezine or Kaşan – whatever!) The prize, however, goes to Peynir Helvası a not too sweet cheeeezy-as-anything pudding – wonderfully delicious!

Peynir Helvası

If you plan to ‘go’ this is the way to do it!

Alan, having got several ‘birds’ with one stone, back at the cabin with J making chutney and pickled cabbage!

Cabin Life, Stuff

Long Time No See

‘Where’ve you been?’ I hear you say, ‘I’ve missed you!’ Huh, pull the other one!

Truth to tell, life just got filled up with stuff – like much loved friends arriving for a visit after too many years; then we were off to the UK for family and SPGB Summer School, sans computer. Before we knew it a month had gone by and, back up here at the cabin, we were buried under mounds of courgettes and tomatoes. You can’t give this sort of stuff away because everyone else is trying to dig themselves out from under as well!

So, what to do – make chutney! Green tom chutney; Red tom chutney; Spicy green/red tom chutney; Spicy garden veg chutney – chutney! 

Oh, and then there are sun-dried toms . .

Hard to believe that 5 Kgs of toms will only fill two medium-sized jars once dried. J stores them in olive oil and adds peppers or garlic and the resulting oil is scrumptious!

Then, of course, we have been facilitating friend Jane Akatay who is producing articles and a book about the region, with the emphasis at this time of year on the wonderful Lisinia Project and the lavender harvest and processing. Lisinia is multi-faceted and is focussed on saving and, when possible, rehabilitating injured wildlife; creating, with the help of government, thousands of acres of organic lavender in cooperation with villagers; cancer awareness and the production of pure, organic products that sustain the project without any outside donations/funding. The Project deserves a post of its own so here are just a few photos:

 

Even the hills in the distance have been recently planted – in a few years the sight and scent is going to be amazing!

Jane with Lisinia Project founder Veterinary Surgeon Öztürk Sarıca

‘Still Life’ with Products

A few of Lisinia’s ‘patients’. There are wolves, wild boar, jackals, storks, various raptors, herons, etc – some will be rehabilitated and released – most have been too badly damaged to ever lead an independent life.

Mother was shot and this lady has no fear of people!

What other excuses have I for neglecting you?

 

Well, we’ve just ‘invested’ in 2xtwo hundred amp hour gel batteries – now, these things are monsters weighing-in at 88Kgs each but they have given us a comfortable excess of power storage. So much so that instead of driving down to Okçular every fortnight we can now tune-in and watch MotoGP up here without fear that the lights will go out!  Then there’s reading – loads of reading. And actually making time to do nothing more than watch the Water Lilies blossom – Life is Good!

Alan Fenn

Stuff

Amazing, Really!

The world, it seems, is going to hell in a basket! The trashing of the means of survival is a uniquely human trait – apart from lemmings we appear to be the only species that thinks there is a better world on Mars or in the afterlife!

Actually, that is not strictly true (or even true at all), there is no real evidence that lemmings are as stupid as humans! And despite our moronic, blinkered belief that we were granted this world and all that is in it to trash as we please by some imagined Abrahamic deity a  few thousand years ago, by and large, and unlike lemmings, we have failed to grow up into adults.

Meanwhile, Mother Earth-Toprakana-Gaia – struggles on and still manages to amaze us if we bother to notice. Yesterday she provided just such a display of the ‘Amazing! Just amazing, really!’ J and I were walking along the amazingly white beach of our amazingly (nearly) unique magnesium lake. It is my habit to dawdle and poke about in the undergrowth in the hopes of finding creatures and/or flowers that pique my interest.

this is the beach habitat/environment

There, in bunches of sedge scattered between fifty and two hundred metres from the water, were thousands, possibly millions of dragonflies bursting out from their larval stage into the full glory of adulthood. Truly ugly ducklings (for some) into beautiful, graceful swans!

Here is one of the ‘swans’ that has taken a fancy to J followed by images of the amazing transformational process. The species is Orthetrum cancellatum – Black-tailed Skimmer. They are common all over Europe and much of the UK which takes nothing from the spectacle of this mass emerging.

the process begins

everywhere, in countless numbers

meet the fragile, beautiful débutante

and a reminder of just how amazingly beautiful this creature is

Anyway, back to my opening gambit – I’ve discovered how, when the time comes, that I can actually go to hell in a basket – amazing really!

Alan, still being amazed after seventy two years!