'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Don’t Believe It!

Two weeks back – is it really that long ago? – I put you in the frame about the plot of land J and I have acquired in a delightfully quiet part of the back-of-beyond. Our expectation was that, with luck and a tail wind, we just might be able to get things sorted, cabin-wise, and then look forward to escaping Okçular’s summer heat next year.

hot hot

After the fiasco with the digger word seems to have got around because there I was, up a ladder painting, when the phone rang. It was our main man from the other end of the ‘rabbit hole’. ‘You should come and drink tea with the mayor, he wants to help you.’ ‘When does he want to see us?’ ‘Now! He is waiting for you in his office!’

Seriously! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! By the time we’d cleared up, showered, shaved (not J – well, not that day, anyway!), and driven nearly three hours it was mid-afternoon before we got to his office. As it turned out he’d gone to a funeral anyway and didn’t get back for another hour and a half! I have to say that, when he arrived, he was not at all like any other mayor we’ve ever met in Turkey, striking to look at, engaging and dressed very casually. Taking tea and chatting was like having an audience with Jesse Ventura – Different!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was kind enough to offer us a corporation digger and driver for the next day for as long as the work took. In case you are wondering, these things have to be paid for at an hourly rate of 100TL, about £20.

Being ‘English’, we were waiting at the edge of the village at the appointed time – an hour and a half later the machine turned up with its charming, smiley driver/operator. Yet again we’d let our foreign sense of time overrule local practices – the triumph of hope over experience! Mind you, when you see what we were getting for our money, it was well worth the wait . .


What is amazing is that our plot neighbour came to help and spent the entire day directing and ensuring the job was done properly and exactly as we wanted. We could never have managed without him.


The plot has not been tended for about 15 years so a lot of scrub had grown up and needed to be cleared. The scrub will be made good use of for firewood and goat food. The place where the cabin will go was then levelled and an access route made.

You will recall that, this being a protected area, we cannot make any permanent structure. I said we were going to use the chassis of an old mobile office as the foundation for our cabin. We had made no actual moves yet to purchase said chassis so you can imagine our surprise and delight to find this parked up at the end of our access track . .

cabin chassis1

It had taken three guys many hours to cut away the office from the chassis because all the bolts were rusted solid. By the time the truck got it to where you see it, it was 11pm! It succeeded in being what they had hoped for – a ‘Büyük Sürpriz!’ a Big Surprise! We still have to pay for it, but aren’t people wonderful?

So, after the clearing and levelling, the next job for the digger was to tow it on site . .

cabin chassis 2

Is that it? Have we done with the digger? Nope! As we will need a soak-away it was decided that that should be dug whilst the machine is available . .


Hole dug, the mayor was contacted to say thank you and fix the price for five hours work. Can you believe he didn’t want us to pay anything by way of welcome! In the end we insisted that he must, at the very least, let us pay for the diesel fuel and we ensured the driver got a bonus.

Next, a phone call had a local usta arrive who specialises in things like soakaways and the like. He looked at the job and then, in line with custom, everyone sat or squatted down to make the bargain/deal. (some pretty wonderful people have and are doing an awful lot to help us make our dream project a reality – it would be great for you to be able to see their smiling faces – not possible for many reasons).


Deal struck, the usta jumped in the hole and set to work and within a day the job will be capped and finished – like to see you get a builder to come and do a small job at the drop of a hat!


In the middle of all this the man who is reputed to be the very best blacksmith/steel constructor in the whole of this area arrived following a summoning from a ‘certain someone’  to discuss the framing of our wooden cabin. Turns out he is the bee’s-knees and will oversee the whole project, including fitting-out. We have now agreed stage 1 price and he has given a guaranteed start and finish date.

It would be great to be able to show you the full team but discretion is required. Here are a few views from this trip by way of compensation.

plot view

from the plot

lake view1

a  stone’s throw away

view from terrace

the view from the cabin with the main-man

So, there you have it. What was going to be a one-nighter turned into three and each day was filled with wonderful surprises. Some pretty special, selfless people, neighbours and bureaucrats joined with us and brought so many threads together. I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, us or them! Oh, before I forget. A guy from the water cooperative turned up and invited us to join three or four others who also want water for irrigation to lay a new pipe that will pare the cost right down. Yet another piece dropped into place.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (but actually on Cloud Nine)

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Magnificence Of The Mountains

‘Never stop wondering, never stop wandering.’ – William Morris, English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist.

‘RAJA’* stopped for a moment, stood still and gazed up at the mountain as it loomed darkly above the tree-line, its sides streaked by great, fat fingers of snow that were slowly dissolving into torrents of melt-water under the relentless rays of the June sun.


(Richard Field)

Away to the north west the storm clouds were building. Towering billows of blackness laced with great, jagged streaks of lightning, boiled their way towards us. We had got this far, there was no turning back! This was the stuff of ‘Boy’s Own Annual’!

kartal lake042

Amazing – the light was just beautiful

J and I had tried on several occasions to find our way to Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake that lies at about 1800mts (5900 feet) on the north slope of Sandras Mountain. Washed out tracks had stopped us a long way short every time. So, when dear friend Ahmet suggested we try again, we jumped at the chance of an extra shoulder to the wheel should I get our trusty but much abused Doblo stuck. In fact, as we had another friend, Richard stopping over on his mammoth motorcycle journey through Europe, Turkey and the ‘Stans’, there’d be two extra shoulders if push came to grunt!

This is a pictorial account of our trip. It is also probably the only time in history when three socialists and an anarchist – comrades, have set off on a journey together and actually arrived at a destination without falling out, fighting or splitting off and forming another faction! This gives me hope!

kartal lake002

The early stages were easy with plenty of time to admire the world a thousand metres below and for Richard to practice his fuzzy-foto technique.


This is the land of beautiful lakes, upland meadows, flowers galore, 1000+ year old trees and majestic views:

kartal lake008


(Richard Field)

kartal lake022

Muscari aucheri

kartal lake038

unidentified Orobanche

kartal lake039


the border between Muğla and Denizli provinces

1280 year old black pine1280 year old Black Pine (says forester’s plaque)


it’s a surreal landscape

kartal lake041

kartal lake048Crocus biflorus

kartal lake049

Corydalis erdelii

kartal lake055

Colchicum szovitsii

kartal lake050

Scilla bifolia

We were forced to stop by washed out tracks about 2kms from our objective and had to hoof it to the lake.


J making a point about fitness


first views of Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake


(Richard Field)


(Richard Field)


snow-melt amidst the Scilla bifolia


life and the world in perspective

What we had was a great adventure as we ground and maneuvered our way across loose scree and washed-away tracks. The glorious views and freshness of the air were only trumped by the feeling of electricity lurking in the dark storm clouds. As we turned our back on Eagle Lake the heavens opened and the clouds engulfed us – our timing had been perfect, we could not have asked for more – even getting soaked through felt part of the joy of being in such a remote and beautiful place. There is a gathering of nomadic herders some time in August so I guess we might have to suffer the journey all over again!

” ‘I went a little farther,’ he said, ‘then still a little farther — till I had gone so far that I don’t know how I’ll ever get back…’ ” Joseph Conrad The Heart Of Darkness [p.78]

‘There is so much here that I cannot capture on camera, and what I do barely does justice to the beauty of it all. The scenery I passed through yesterday and this morning was staggering. It simply took my breath away.’ Richard Field travelling through Turkey

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

* RAJA is an acronym for Richard, Ahmet, J and me.

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Bottoms Up!

Relative peace has returned to Turkey and to our quiet corner. The election is done but not dusted – now come the smoke-filled rooms and the shenanigans and (in my opinion) the ‘Night of the Long Knives’!

There are two blessings to be counted. First, those bloody awful vans plastered with portraits of political wannabes that go around in convoys blasting out ghastly music have disappeared back from whence they came.

UKIP van

sorry, wrong picture


Second, the relentless march of Sauronesque authoritarianism has been checked (for the time being). Shalob has been exposed to the Light of Galadriel . .



. . and Samwise Gamgee has risen to the occasion.


Sam Gamgee aka Selahattin Demirtaş

The significance of the breakthrough of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) into mainstream politics here in Turkey cannot be overstated. The apparently unstoppable RTE hi-speed train has been checked. The courageous gamble by, what was a largely Kurdish political movement, to broaden its platform in order to appeal to the wider population and thereby break through the 10% glass ceiling has paid off. They have secured 80 seats, 31 held by women, in parliament, which gives them a considerable lever.

With the governing party’s overall majority gone the three main opposition parties could form a coalition and govern. But, that which divides them is probably greater than any common ground beyond their envy and hatred of the AKP and Sauron the Dark Lord. So, the AK Party will be looking to stroke the egos of either the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) or the HDP. If either one of those joins the AKP they will, I believe, sow the seeds of their own destruction. In the case of the HDP they must resist the lure of (apparent) promises for short-term gains in resolving the many Kurdish issues. Such an alliance would be a betrayal of the broader electorate they have garnered and as of the time of writing the party has rejected any cooperation with the AKP.

Will there be a coalition? In my opinion it is doubtful that there can be an effective minority/coalition government and so the possibility of a re-run looms.

So, what of the near future? Sauron is weakened and Saruman aka the Prime Minister will either resign or be pushed. Waiting in the wings is the co-founder of the AKP and former president – a Rose by any other name. He withdrew from the limelight after being, as he saw it, betrayed by Sauron, the present incumbent and a number of his close party hacks.

This rose is not without thorns but he is a constitutionalist and deeply opposed to an executive presidency. With the departure of Saruman, who is also leader of the party, the way would open for our Rose to take the reins of the party and, assuming there is a re-run, stand in a safe AKP constituency (or force a by-election). Also in the mix is the Witch-King of Angmar who once led the Nazgûl  intelligence agency of Mordor and was a right-hand man of Sauron until he was dished by the Dark Lord. Will he emerge as a king-maker in the AKP?


Witch-King of Angmar and former Lord of the Nazgûl

If, and when, it comes to a re-run the mixture will have changed dramatically – if Mr Rose is back then many who deserted the AKP because of the malign influence of Sauron will no doubt return to the fold. What then for the HDP? There will be no guarantee that they will have the 80 seats they now enjoy and they might well slip below the 10% anti-Kurdish barrier once again. Things are not always as simple or as bright as they seem.

For those who wish to better understand where the HDP is coming from here’s a link to an English language blog

With that in mind, J has come up with a very sensible and soothing calmer for any jangled nerves – a sort of comforting Dinneford’s Gripe Water with different side-effects – the recipe is below.

mulberry gin008

mulberry gin010

1 bottle of gin (any old rubbish will do); 1 bowl of black mulberries (black makes it look nicer); a few jam jars. Method: put berries in jars, slop on some gin and leave for a few hours. Decant and enjoy regardless of the bloody elections, inflation, deflation, etc, etc.

Bottoms Up, guys!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps this morning these beauts were flowering – Galadriel’s Lights!

mulberry gin002

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

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


Lupinus micranthus – Hairy Lupin

Chinese Mallow

Chinese Mallow


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

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

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.


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!


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.