Holy Ground

old graveNot many days ago J and I were meeting some new friends and taking them up into the mountains in the hopes that we’d find that nature had been punctilious and there would be the astounding sight of three different species of tulip in bloom at the same time.

Being awfully English we were ready to roll much too early and so decided to stop off at various village cemeteries along the way to the rendezvous. Graveyards are fascinating places if you are not a spiritualist on their day off! They are seldom disturbed and flora and fauna flourish in the nutrient-rich environment – I love them and look forward to making my own ‘drop-in-the-bucket’ to Mother Nature in due course.

Here are some examples of the contributions people have made without even thinking about it – sort of bio-degradable legacy, if you will.

Viper's Bugloss

Viper’s Bugloss

Lupin

Lupinus micranthus – Hairy Lupin

Chinese Mallow

Chinese Mallow

Salsify

Salsify – Tragapogon hybridum

Orobanche alba

Orobanche alba

Serapias orientalis

Serapias orientalis – species of Tongue Orchid

Field Gladioli

Field Gladioli

Serapias politisii

Serapias politisii – species of Tongue Orchid

Serapias politisii - double tougued

and a most unusual double headed/tongued specimen

Iris pseudacorus

Iris pseudacorus – endemic

iris environment

and its environment

Tulipa armena ssp lycica

Tulipa armena ssp lycica – Armenian Tulip

Fritillaria sibthorpiana

Fritillaria sibthorpiana – endemic

Finally, a ‘holy grave’ connection:

Holy Orchid - Orchis sancta

Orchis sancta – Holy Orchid

Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

I was tempted to call this post ‘Holy Ground’ instead of ‘A Grave Matter’ or something similar. The idea being to plug in to the popularity of the drinking song of that name by the Dubliners and get a boost to the number of views from ‘Googlers’. I’m sure it would have been an effective but really cheap trick and I’m glad I didn’t do it in the end. So, to cheer me up for being so honest, I’ve included a clip of the lads giving it one to help the ‘Liffy Water’ go down!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Holy Ground

Gird Up (Y)our Loins

. . with apologies to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is perhaps better known by his pen name, and to a certain walrus and carpenter of renown.

Charles Dodgsonaka Lewis Carrol

‘The time has come,’ the Boffer said,   ‘To deal with many things,   With signatures and rubber stamps,   and jumping through some rings,   With copies, forms and bureaucrats    a-pulling at our strings.’

walrus carpenter

Yes, you guessed it – we were setting out to renew our İkamet Teskeresi (residence permit). Having lived here permanently for more than 17 years we were delighted to be going after a permanent permit at just TL55, having coughed up TL4,296.04 for our previous 5 year one!

goc-idaresi-teslimthe new residence permit

Nothing is ever static and during our time here we have watched, sometimes open-mouthed, as Turkey has changed and evolved. In dealing with various bits of bureaucracy there have been good times and not so good times. I remember after one episode, in our early days, of jumping up and down and banging my head against a filing cabinet, our dear friend and helper, Emine, putting her arms around me and saying, ‘Alan, you must have acceptation!’ She was right! This country is going through some monumental changes in a very compressed time scale and not everything works out as planned or wished for.

bureaucrat

The bureaucracy in Turkey was not set up to frustrate and screw us foreigners – it frustrates and screws everybody without discrimination! That, folks, is the nature of the beast wherever you reside in the world. Mind you, you wouldn’t think so as you swan over the various forums and FB pages related to the subject here. Some people are downright offensive, using abusive language that is really unhelpful to put it mildly. An insulted civil servant is unlikely to look very favourably on you or your bits of paper, or the poor sod in the queue behind you – I know, I used to be one! Listening to some folks going on I wonder why they are here, they seem to hate everything and everyone and believe everything is done better ‘back home’!

So, gird up your loins because, whenever possible, preparation and doing things in good time is key to success and a calm life. That being the case, a few weeks back we went to our local police office and enquired from our charming and helpful police lady what we would need. We came away with the list and set about pulling it all together. Keep in mind that we are dealing with Ortaca, Muğla and different towns/areas interpret things differently. Bodrum, I understand, requires a computer generated and filled application form – Ortaca hands you photocopied forms and tells you to use a black biro to fill in the boxes. My advice is to go with what they require locally and not start arguing about what you read online. Also, have an expectation that things will change between asking what is needed and handing stuff in – it happened to us! Evolution! In a couple of years we’ll all be looking back on these turbulent times and having a good laugh! You only have to read the expectations/mission statement of the new agency to realise that.

So, having got our updated list, we set about getting as much done as we could. We already had the usual colour photocopies (x2) of passport and ikamet, biometric photos and, just in case they want it, copies of our financial situation. The new requirements were: 1. for a statement from the kaymakam that we had not needed financial assistance from the state. To get this we needed to each write a dilekçe (petition) – we were given an example and assistance to complete this; 2. from the State Prosecutor’s office, using a simple form, we obtained a chit stating that we had no convictions – past or pending (Adli Sicil Kaydı); 3. a chit from the İlçe Nüfus (area population) manager confirming our residence at our address (Yerelşim Yeri ve Diğer Adres Belgesi).

Add to the above: (x2) colour copies of your Tapu Senedi (title deeds for your house) and, in Ortaca at least, you should be set up. We have to hand a form from the SGK confirming our health care coverage even though, as UK citizens, we are exempt because of our age – you may need to produce evidence of cover depending on your age. Finally, in our case, we paid our TL55 and included the receipts, having first taken copies. Actually, we have copies of everything and then some just in case things change again over the weekend! Now, we did all that and completed our weekly market shop and were home in time for afternoon tea – so, it wasn’t that daunting!

All of the staff who dealt with us so pleasantly and helpfully had only been informed of the new requirements five days before – think about that for a moment!  In all our years here we have been met with mostly smiling, helpful, tea-providing civil servants on minimal salaries. It is small wonder that there has been the odd misery-arse but, do you know, I can’t recall a single one of them!

Just two more stories and then I’m done: whilst we were in the police office there was a friend there who had forgotten to renew her passport which also cancelled her ikamet. There were two fees and three fines to pay as a result which couldn’t be avoided. By the end of the day all of the paperwork had been sorted (she’d been to Istanbul and got her passport extended a few days previously) and the forms sent off to renew her ikamet and she and her husband had been provided with tea with the chief of police! Their attitude had been great throughout and they got their reward.

Next there is a friend who speaks little Turkish who decided to do all the legwork for his ikamet himself, including dealing with a supposed monster in uniform behind a desk in Muğla. He approached his meeting with her with some trepidation! Everything went like clockwork and the ‘monster’ turned out to be charming! His great attitude saw him through as well!

success2

attitude = success (mostly)

These stories confirm what we have found over nearly 18 years here – if you want respect, give it; if you want a smile, offer one; if you want to be dealt with calmly, be calm. One other thing, and I really recommend that you do this, once everything has been done and dusted – and even if there were moments when you or the bureaucrat were stressed, go back with a big box of pastries and say ‘thank you’ and smile. The effect and the ‘fall-out’ is amazing – trust me! And those behind you in the queue will tell stories about you to their neighbours and grandchildren.

Before I go, a word about ‘Girding Your Loins’ . .

Gird-Up-Your-Loins-2‘Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more!’ W. Shakespeare – Henry V 3.1 but that’s another story.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps let me say again, this is what works in Ortaca – you need to sort out what is needed in your neck of the woods.

Gird Up (Y)our Loins

Scumbags!

I’ve been called a few things in my time – time spent as a soldier and then as one of Her Majesty’s prison officers tends to have that result! Yesterday J, who was a teacher so she’s used to being called names as well, and I decided it was well past time to acquire another one. So we headed off for Dalyan’s İztuzu Beach with Fethiye friend Chrissy who, I’m sure, has never been called a bad name in her life! We were going to support the group Save Iztuzu Dalyan fighting to save the beach on their ‘open day’.

protesters arrive at Iztuzu beach dalyan

getting there any way they can

Iztuzu Beach dalyan

Iztuzu beach protest Dalyan

J signs attendance register for the day number 3081 and a long queue behind waiting (and Chrissy from Fethiye)

The world famous beach has been under threat from various ‘projects’ of late, the latest of which would have done more than plonk a rather inappropriate turtle-shaped extension to the much valued sea turtle research and rehabilitation centre on a site overlooking the beach.  In a very questionable ‘tendering’ process the running of the beach and its facilities were to be privatised and handed to an entity called DALÇEV that wasn’t even in existence until two days after it won the ‘tender’. How amazing is that!

Anyway, once the word got out the s^*t hit the fan! Locals, many of whom have cut their environmental protection teeth on other hugely successful campaigns such as the defence of Yuvarlakçay, swung into action. So much has been learnt in the last few years by the small local team that guides this local movement of local activists protecting their local environment and local interests that it is hard not to believe that they can ‘do it again’. That would be a mistake, especially now that so much is micro-managed in Ankara. As someone once said, in a very different context, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!’ or words to that effect. Turning your back on the ‘money-grubbers’ and their facilitators in offices far away, even for a moment, can be catastrophic in any battle by the people, against those who seek to take what is, or should be, ours by right.

iztuzu Beach Dalyantwo of my great mates from the media reporting for DHA (c and r)

Speaking of ‘money-grubbers’ reminds me that a few days ago one of the partners of the company that didn’t exist when it won the non-competitive, sorted over a glass of tea, tender Tweeted his opinion of the protesters who had camped out through the freezing weather to try and prevent any further breeches of court orders by the company that didn’t exist when it won the . . (suck in a deep breath!) He described them as, and I quote, ‘Yavşaklar’ – that’s Scumbags in plain English! This from people who turned up at the beach barrier at midnight, threatened the municipal guardian, cut the padlock and drove three vehicles, rally-style, onto a protected beach, before action by locals forced the intervention of the jandarma and the courts to reinstate the status quo.

oruc3

oruc1

oruc2

scenes from the ‘rally’ on Iztuzu by the ‘responsible’ developers

So, what does ‘status quo’ mean for the campaign? It means that the company that didn’t exist when it won the dubious tender has to wait the outcome of the court ruling about the legality of the tendering process. Meanwhile the protesters agreed to withdraw their 24 hour ‘guard’, the jandarma were able to go back to barracks and the beach has been reopened to the public. Make no mistake, the locals are not blinking. There will be an alarm system in place, just like Yuvarlakçay, to thwart any further midnight raids. For now the legal process holds sway, but should it go against the will of the locals then watch out for fireworks because civil court actions by the locals’ beach protection platform against individuals and various bureaucrats will swing into top gear.

Anyway, back to this ‘Scumbags’ thing; J and I have been absent from the local protest scene for a while – there are various personal and other reasons for that. However, when some arse calls people I know and respect ‘Yavşaklar’ because they happen to believe that the beach is not for private profit and exploitation, then it was time to stand with them.

ju suis Scumbag!Je Suis Scumbag!

I hope it doesn’t come to it, because I hope they win this fight by a knock-out in this round, if not, I guess you’ll see this Scumbag huddled round the braziers at midnight listening to another Scumbag playing the saz and mourning his lost love – and that’s a promise!

manning the barricades Iztuzu Beach dalyanScumbags mourning their lost love(life) – it’s cold!

To keep up with what’s going on with the beach and to give support to those who are fighting to protect this globally renowned asset and Turkey’s first Specially Protected Area ‘friend’ them on Facebook and sign and share their petitions – here and here you may not be able to be here in person but you can be here in spirit. There are more of us than they think!

The photos are from many sources, I hope they will not be too angry that I’ve not credited them individually. Thanks to each of you.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Scumbags!

‘Twas The Night Before Crimbo

All right, I’ll be right up front, for the sake of strict accuracy. It wasn’t the day before Crimbo, let alone the night time. It was actually the day before the day before Crimbo – sort of – yesterday! I was just trying to be a bit festive is all.

So, what about yesterday? Well, we went for a wander about through the Turkey we love over rural, woodland paths and lakeside goat tracks. Join us for a bit of peace and quiet and goodwill to all men (and women) (and grandchildren who’ve just let the bloody dog in when it’s covered in mud!) near the village of Eski (Old) Köyceğiz. Enjoy . .

Eski Koycegiz1

start line

Eski Koycegiz2first view of the lake, Köyceğiz and Toparlar mosque

Eski Koycegiz3

Eski Koycegiz4

snow on the Toros Mountains

Eski Koycegiz5

Eski Koycegiz6

Eski Koycegiz7

still waters . .

Eski Koycegiz8

mosses lichens and liverwortsmosses, lichens and liverworts

Eski Koycegiz10

Eski Koycegiz13

Eski Koycegiz12

Finally, our first, and probably last, ever selfie – although I s’pose it’s really a weie!

1st ever selfieEnjoy whatever you’re doing, unless you are a banker, politician or in the military.

 Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü when not wandering about

 

‘Twas The Night Before Crimbo

Our Family Trees

There is an area just behind our house that once was a source of pocket money for a less than creditable muhtar. He would oversee the removal of trailer-loads of rock that was ideal as a base material for tracks and small construction jobs. Over time the removal created a mini ‘Red Cliffs of Dover’ with the wall to the village graveyard perched on top. When he started to dig out behind my garage/workshop I threatened him with a complaint and put a stop to his activities in this area at least.

We knew from experience and plain, common sense that the ‘cliff’ was unstable and told him so – ‘Problem yök, (no problem) profesyonal, profesyonal!’ (professional) pointing at the digger driver. Two days after we got rid of him and his bloody digger the first collapse occurred, not too serious, but an indicator of what could follow. That was when J and I began a programme of planting young trees and collecting seeds from trees all over Turkey.

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

seedling of Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens (seeds from L. Van)

Common sense and a man from the Forestry Authority told us that most of the seedlings that ‘hatched’ wouldn’t make it but we nurtured them anyway. Our idea was to try and stabilise the ground and discourage anyone else from digging stuff out.

A few years later a second small collapse left parts of the wall undercut and we thought that the big one couldn’t be far away. More years passed by, we continued planting and nurturing and the trees continued to grow. The ugly red cliff was almost forgotten as the trees screened it away from view. In the rainless summer months I would drag out the hose and keep the young trees alive. Gradually a mini climate developed and other species settled in and made themselves at home. The dozens of Red Pine seedlings that we planted began to seed and produce young. The Toros Cedar thrived despite being a couple thousand metres too near sea level. The Eucalyptus must be fifty feet high now and the Carobs are doing great. Of the seeds of the Cappadocian Acer from Lake Van that we planted, two survived to be potted on and eventually set in place. They are slender and fragile but one day they will grow into beautiful, graceful adulthood. Here are some photos of adult trees of species we have planted near the house wherever there was space. We even have an English Horse Chestnut that we grew from a conker!

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

adult Acer cappadocicus ssp divergens

Pinus brutiaRed Pine Pinus brutia

I should say ‘were’ for some of these because a few days back the inevitable happened after some heavy rain and a biggish section of the cliff has come down bringing the cemetery wall with it. Our mini Special Forest has taken a real knock. We have lost at least half of our beautiful trees and shrubs, buried under a small landslide that feels bigger than it really is. The Toros Cedar has survived – part buried and so a few feet ‘shorter’ than it was. The Acers have survived, one unscathed and the other was dug out from under and set upright. Only two of the carobs and two of the pomegranates made it and a lot of Red Pine, wild avocado and Maltese Plum, et al have gone together with a lot of shrubs like Cistus.

IMG_7201

a young one we dug out from under and propped up

toros sedir

Toros Cedar – one day ours will look like this

IMG_7198

most of the fallen blocks cleared

IMG_7197

but so much is buried and lost

old Eucalyptus

really old Eucalyptus – one day!

Melia azedarach

Indian Bead Tree – Melia azederach

Indian Bead

and its flowers

There is no point in being too despondent, we’ll carry on planting and try and stabilise things again – who knows, with a bit of luck, the next landslide will be someone else’s mess! For anyone interested there is a comprehensive list of ‘our’ trees and shrubs below. Some in the garden, many, in fact most, outside – a lot of them collected as seedlings or grown from seeds.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Yucca flamentosa; Pinus brutia; Vitis sylvestris; Aesculus hippocastranum; Acacia retinoides; Acacia cyanphylla; Cercis siliquastrum; Albizia julibrissim; Ceratonia siliqua; Paliurus spina-christii; Planus orientalis; Persea americana; Rosa canina; Eriobotrya japonica; Liquidamber orientalis; Capparis spinosa; Cistus salvifolius; Eucalyptus camaldulensis; Punica granatum; Clematis sp; Schiaus molle; Pistacia lentiscus; Melia azederach; Lanicera caprifolium; Catalpa bignonioides; Jacaranda mimosifolia; Plumbago aumiculata; Olea europaea; Morus alba; Morus nigra; Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens.

Our Family Trees

Judgement Day

photoc-camera_w2Several moons ago friends, fellow nature lovers and environmental activists from Dalyan asked me to join a judging panel for a photo competition they were organising. The logic behind our Okçular Book Project has always been to encourage people to get out into the beautiful countryside around here, use their eyes, and discover some of the amazing flora and fauna, people and views to be found. That being the case I was delighted to accept the invitation, not least because it is always enjoyable to see things through the eyes of others.

Each month the panel would sift through the entries in three separate categories and select winners and runners-up. These were then printed out and put on public display.

jury2(credit: Co Jonker)

Dalyan photo comp jury

Finally, the panel gathered yesterday to select the overall winners and runners-up in each group. We were not looking for the most professional photos, this is after all a competition for enthusiasts and total amateurs. What we were looking for were moments in time that captured the essence of Dalyan, its human and wild inhabitants and the surrounding area. It was interesting how few photos that had been ‘colour enhanced’ or otherwise ‘fiddled’ with made it through the earlier rounds.

Here are the category winners and runners up:

Flora and Fauna

1st flora and fauna

‘Squacco Heron’ – John Codling – a great capture with terrific detail

rup3

‘Jay’ – Mark Mills

Village Life and Scenes

1st village life

‘Crocheting Lady’ – Serhad Özsoy – the detail of the scarf oya really draws you in

rup2

‘Honey Colours’ – Quentin Alder

Landscape

1st Landscapes

‘Foggy Iztuzu’ – Monique Boon – this beautifully balanced, moody shot of Iztuzu Beach captured the eye of more panel members than any other and was judged the best overall picture in the competition

rup1

‘Serene Köyceğiz Lake’ – Carla de Cuijper

Generous prizes donated by local businesses will be sent to the category winners and the runners up will receive a copy of the Okçular Village Guide Book courtesy of yours truly. It was a lot of fun to see so many excellent photos and it has spurred me on to ‘see’ stuff around me in a different light.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Judgement Day

Down The Rabbit Hole 2.0

Following the last posting and all the ‘Go on, tell us where it is’ and ‘Ah, ya will, ya will, ya will!’ via comments, pm and emails, here’s a few more shots of the bolt-hole taken at sunset, in the meadows and during the depths of winter. No give-away captions, I’ll leave you to work out which is which!

sunset2

 winter1

winter4

saldameadow

18

sunset3

19

So, are we happy at the thought of spending some time wandering and exploring at the other end of the rabbit hole?

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I’ll let you be the judge of that – Alice with the Cheshire Cat, who once said, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.” … Cheshire Cat

As for ‘Go on, go on, go on!’ I say, in best Father Ted style, ‘I will not Mrs Doyle!’ Fans will understand.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Down The Rabbit Hole 2.0

Oh, I’m A Lumberjack

Being humble villagers J and I are entitled, along with our neighbours, to purchase our winter firewood direct from the chaps at the local forestry department’s timber yard at a huge discount! We paid up-front a couple of months back and three days ago we came home from hospital to find this lot sitting outside the gate.

village firewood entitlement

Now, considering that I had just had my ticker check-up and J had had injections to help free-up her frozen shoulder, you might think that ‘getting in a chap to do the work’ would be the order of the day. Not so! Village life doesn’t work like that, especially if you value your street cred! Let’s face it, we have neighbours our age and some ten years or more older who are still out doing their thing with tractors, billhooks, cows and sheep, etc.  village woman1And they never walk back empty handed, they always have a load of fodder or half a tree over their shoulder. I mean, old Veli still gets sent up the trees to harvest the olives and he’s so old he doesn’t have a birth certificate!

So, village cred starts with a bit of dress sense – when we work we look the part. J dons one of her scarves and does the fetching and carrying just like any good village wife should do. I’m working on the ‘following ten paces behind’ bit – give it a little time! I don my working togs – old, worn shirt with holes and baggy cotton trousers that has J calling me ‘Rhinoceros B@!!@cks’! That’s true, I’m not making it up!

'village lady' at work

village lady hard at it

Next comes tools and the need to look like you know what you are doing because every neighbour who passes will stop to chat and assess how we are going along.

chain saw work

Boffer pretending he knows where it is at

chain saw

You can see their eyes taking it all in, usually followed by nods of approval if we’ve got it right or chuckles as they drive away if we haven’t. Finally, there is the need for ‘greasepaint’ in the form of sweat and grime – we usually have plenty and then some!

end of day one

end of day one

These past three days have been hard work reducing more than two tons of timber to fireplace sized bits and stacking them away in the wood store. Our fingers can barely hold a spoon and our bones and muscles ache.

wood pile

satisfaction at job jobbed!

Despite that we both feel pretty good (for our age). Tomorrow we are off with the local walking group for a gentle, season-opening ramble to the hot springs for a soak followed by a barby and a boat ride back to Dalyan. Then, on Monday we are wandering off to Burdur for a few days with a detour to stock up on some ‘vino collapso’.

Finally, here’s a bit of video if you’ve managed to get this far without dozing off. Taken on day three we are both showing signs of losing it – wandering about in a bit of a daze. I love the bit where J demonstrates her outstanding spacial awareness – we still can’t remember what we were looking for! J loves my display of sartorial elegance – Rhinos beware! The soundtrack is John Surman’s ‘Caithness To Kerry’ track from the album ‘Upon Reflection’ (ECM Records) – as he is family I don’t expect to pay royalties. Enjoy!

Woodcutter’s Ball2 from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü where we are still ‘in with the in-crowd’!

Oh, I’m A Lumberjack

The Archers

The Archers, as in The Archers, is not ‘an everyday story of country folk’! Let me explain – Hurriyet Daily News recently published some terrific photos of young Turks keeping alive their traditional skills as archers on horseback. These Archers are probably the best light cavalry the world has ever seen! My village being called Okçular in Turkish or Archers in English and this blog being ‘Archers of Okçular’ why wouldn’t I be fascinated?

turkish horse archer1

both images Hurriyet Daily News

turkish mounted archer7

Skills that greased the explosive expansion of the Mongol Empire that by 1279 CE had it hammering on the doors of Western Europe. The storm troopers of this empire were the highly mobile and deadly efficient mounted bowmen with their small (by European and Chinese or Japanese standards), extremely powerful, recurved, laminated bows.

These images instantly transported me back in time to the Army Museum in Istanbul where I first saw the amazing craftsmanship that goes into the Turkish bow and began to get some inkling of how it delivers such terrific striking power to the arrow that it would penetrate European style plate-armour and have much-vaunted European armies fleeing the field of battle in total disarray.

composite bows and thumb rings

showing the lamination and final lacquering together with two thumb-rings

bow2another beautiful example

What also flashed into my mind’s eye was meeting the national champion archer of Mongolia and her husband and child on a visit to that country a few years ago. They were both using traditional recurved composite bows not dissimilar to those the Turkic archers used to aid Genghis Khan in his empire-building.

mongolian national archery champion

National Champion of Mongolia

mongolian archer

and her husband – also a champion

mongolian child archer

future champion

They were kind enough to let a few of us tourists have a go and so I promptly stepped up. I well remember the embarrassment when I failed to draw his heavy bow more than a few inches! His wife offered me the lighter bow that she was using and with much huffing and puffing I managed to flight the arrow about 15 feet and strip the skin off the inside of my arm! I realise that technique counts for a lot in archery, but so does a back like a barn door full of muscle tissue! That was when I realised just how powerful the Mongolian-Turkish laminated bow really was. By way of comparison with my 15 feet, in a 1910 archery contest held on the beach at Le Touquet, France, a chap by the name of Ingo Simon was able to shoot an arrow 434 mts using an old Turkish composite bow! Heavier Ottoman flight bows have reached distances of around 900 mts.

Back to the Ottoman archers’ ability to penetrate the plate-armour much favoured by European armies – with a direct, head-on strike the arrow would penetrate plate and heavy padding but if the plate was curved or angled away then the arrow would likely glance-off. To overcome this the Ottoman horse archer or Sipahi would affix a small ball of bee’s wax to the tip of the arrow. This would prevent the arrow glancing-off and concentrate all of the kinetic energy at one point – in many ways similar to the principle of the modern HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) round. The effects of a needle-sharp war arrow head weighing between a quarter and half a pound travelling at speeds in excess of 200mph can be imagined. That said, the mounted archer’s target was often the enemy’s horse as a heavily armoured fighter brought to ground would be near helpless against massed infantry.

ottoman horse archer at speed

Ottoman mounted archer at full speed

arrows3 arrowsdetail1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ottoman arrowheads and fletching

The Turkish bow is a recurved composite bow that was brought to perfection in the time of the Ottoman Empire. The construction is similar to that of other classic Asiatic composite bows, with a wooden core (maple was most desirable), animal horn on the belly (the side facing the archer), and sinew on the front, with the layers secured together with Animal glue. However, several features of the Turkish bow are distinct. The curvature tends to be more extreme when the bow is unstrung, with the limbs curling forward into the shape of the letter “C”. With some bows, the rigid tips of the limbs (“kasan”) even touch. The grip area is not recessed like other Asiatic bows and is fairly flat on the belly, while the front of the grip bulges outwards.

comp bowThe dramatic curvature of the bows makes stringing them very different from straighter bows found in Europe. There is an old saying in Turkey that there are “120 ways to string a bow,” though the most common methods involve sitting on the ground with one’s feet pressed against the grip. Heavier bows usually require the use of a long, looped strap called a “kemend” to pull the limbs back and hold them while the string is seated. Seasoning aside, these bows took more than a year to construct with much ‘resting’ between each lamination. Arrows would need even longer with seasoning and drying taking more than five years.

mongol-bow diagram

Ottoman, Persian, and other Asiatic archers who all followed similar traditions would also extend the power of their weaponry by using a device called a majra or a siper. These devices are used to draw arrows past the bow’s front limb where the arrow would normally rest. The siper is a type of shelf strapped to the archer’s bow hand, which allows the archer to pull the bow back to extreme lengths in order to get the maximum amount of force behind the arrow. They are most commonly used to achieve the greatest distance.

siper

The Majra is a thin piece of wood with a channel cut in it and small loop for the archer’s draw hand. The device allows the archer to pull back arrows that are much shorter than were intended for the bow. It is believed that this device was designed to shoot arrows that were too short for the enemy to pick up and shoot back, or it may have been a way to reuse bolts fired from crossbows.

Turkish archer with bow and majra

Finally, there are the Zihgir or thumb-rings used by Mongol and Ottoman archers to draw and release the bowstring. Ottoman Sipahi were recruited exclusively from free-born Turks. They always fought on the flanks of the army with the Janissaries in the centre and were considered an elite that, unlike the Janissaries, never had their loyalty brought into question. The Zihgir was recognised as the mark or symbol of great distinction, rather like a masonic ring, and the horse-archer would tend to wear it at all times. Such was the prestige associated with it that it developed into a fashion statement and eventually some became so ornate that they were incapable of serving their original purpose.

thumb ringsTo cap things off, here’s Genghis Khan from the exhibition of the same name

GenghisKhan

Alan Fenn, Okçular (Archers) Köyü (Village)

The Archers

Chance

Chance can be a fine thing! Chance can open doors that introduce new and different people and perspectives. Chance can lead to pleasant walks in pleasant company.

Chance . . . J and I were walking the ‘Dogs‘ a few weeks back and had taken a tea-break at the delightful Nomad Museum and çayevi (tea house) in Çandır a small village at the back of Kaunos historic site. By chance there was a couple there at the same time and by chance we struck up a conversation and by even greater chance they happened to have both copies of my walking-cum-guide books. We had a very enjoyable chat and then, refreshed and fortified, we went our different ways.

nomand museum tea shop

there they are, lurking in the background

A few days later, by chance, we came across these guys again wandering along the track towards our house and so we invited them in for coffee and more chat. I suspect we wasted a lot of their walking time but, as they were really nice folks we invited them to join us on a walk around Sandras Yaylı Köyü (Sandras Mountain Village), the Yuvarlakçay River valley and a late lunch at our favourite restaurant Derin Vadi. It was a chance for them to experience the countryside away from the madding, touristic crowds.

As most of you know, I’m not much of a one for photos of people so you and they will have to make do with a few of my portraits taken whilst in their company:

wolf spider and young

a very beautiful seven-legged wolf spider with her young

wolf spider with young

euphorbia or spurge hawkmoth caterpillerEuphorbia or Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillar and the adult

Spurge Hawkmoth

spurge hawk caterpillar

bucolic scene

village life

Common Darter Sympetrum striolatumCommon Darter – Sympetrum striolatum

Red-horned poppy

finally, a handsome Red-horned poppy – Glaucium corniculatum

There was plenty of other stuff, but you know how it is with these things, so much time is spent chatting away and exchanging views that the chance has been and gone!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Chance