'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.

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(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’!

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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!

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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.

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

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(Richard Field)

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Muscari aucheri

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unidentified Orobanche

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the border between Muğla and Denizli provinces

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

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it’s a surreal landscape

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kartal lake048Crocus biflorus

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Corydalis erdelii

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Colchicum szovitsii

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Scilla bifolia

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

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J making a point about fitness

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first views of Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake

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(Richard Field)

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(Richard Field)

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snow-melt amidst the Scilla bifolia

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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

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

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Shelob

. . and Samwise Gamgee has risen to the occasion.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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'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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

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’.

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getting there any way they can

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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.

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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