Wanderings

Kaçkar Captures

Back during the heat of summer J and I travelled up north and met up with friends on the Black Sea coastal side of the Kaçkar (Kachcar) Mountains. We were hunting out Carpathian Blue Slugs and you can read about it in this post.

The Black Sea region has a lot of rain and I seem to remember that it tipped it down every day mixed in with some drizzle – it was refreshing after the temperatures back home in Okçular! Anyway, I’ve just discovered some ‘little camera’ shots whilst idly swanning through some folders (just like the last posting). They capture the feeling and mood of the Kaçkars beautifully for me – hope you like them too. If you don’t like pics of flowers in the rain you should get back to doing useful things . .

In no particular order:

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this was the dog’s dinner – I insisted on having a slice; delicious!

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J choosing socks

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friends feasting

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Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Wanderings

Amasya Revisited

Earlier in the year J and I were on our way from our home in Muğla, in the SW, to meet up with friends on the Black Sea side of Turkey for a few days. Our plan was to hunt for Carpathian Blue Slugs in the Kaçkar Mountains.

TurkeyTouristicMap

We decided to break the journey and overnight in Amasya, a town that had made a real impression on us when we had stayed there quite a few years ago. Read about that trip here.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve just done a bit of rare tidying of some of masses of photos in folders that clutter-up my desktop and I’ve rediscovered these shots taken about the old town. I’m sharing them ‘as is’ not because they are good photos, they are not, but because they gave me a really good feel about Amasya again. If you told me I had to live in a town, this place would be my choice. It has history, charm, culture, charm, is cared for, charm, gives of warm fuzzies, charm, but above all it has charm! You can do your own research or click here, otherwise enjoy these sometimes blurry and over-exposed images of a lovely town taken by night and very early in the morning – hence the camera shake!

Pontic tombs Amasya Turkey

Pontic Tombs behind our hotel

Amasya back street

back lane

blurred vision Amasya

blurred vision

Amasya old town

mosque Amasya old town

old tap Amasya old town

Amasya river side

Amasya

Korprubasi Mosque Amasya

Köprubaşı – Head of the Bridge Mosque Amasya

Amasya

Amasya

Mosque and Tombs and Hamam and Ottoman house restorations

Amasya Turkey

town club amasyathe Town Club Restaurant where we first dined all those years ago

If you have the opportunity to visit this delightful town then do it – it will not disappoint you.

Alan Fenn, missing Amasya!

Wanderings

Down The Rabbit Hole

‘Down the rabbit hole’ is, to quote Wikipedia, a metaphor for adventure into the unknown, from its use in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is also a slang expression for a psychedelic experience, but that is a different story – or maybe not!

down the rabbit hole

J and I have been a two-man escape committee quietly seeking a rabbit hole to disappear down to escape the summer heat for some time. A place, in fact, that lends itself to a bit of ‘California Dreaming’ any time of the year.  To be able to vanish and then reappear in a somewhat different world has its appeal. A world that could be on a different planet, Mars for example, now that would be really rather nice!

reflections on 'Mars'

one of two places on Earth that (supposedly) resembles Mars

medicated mud-pack

with medicated mud-pack

upside down world

A world where images are turned upside down and where a unique species of fish lives, that would also be really nice.

longhorn beetlewith very friendly alien creatures

Adding in a few ponds and streams to paddle around in and new tracks to explore would be really, really nice. If you then sprinkle the mix with the odd wild white rabbit being casseroled in a delicious, peppery sauce then, to my mind, you are talking ‘Wonderland‘!

peppery rabbit casserole

good company

in good company

wild flowers

with beautiful wild flowers

berries

and berries

Martian cabbages

and Martian cabbages

very welcoming Martians

very welcoming local ‘Martian’ bureaucrats

paradise

Wonderland!

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Wonderland, the alternative view

Alan Fenn, following the White Rabbit!

ps you might think that I’ve forgotten to tell you where the entrance is . . I haven’t!

Wanderings

Iran Life – One Lump, Or Two?

Iranians drink tea. ‘So what!’ I hear you say, ‘Doesn’t everyone?’ Probably, but in Iran they do things differently, there’s also good news and then there is bad news. I’ll start with the good news . .

Iranians have drunk tea or chai for around six hundred years. With China just up the Silk Road, tea proved to be cheaper and easier to obtain than coffee and soon surpassed coffee as the drink of choice. In 1899 Prince Mohammad Mirza did the dirty on the then Global Empire and smuggled 3000 saplings out of India under the noses of the Imperial British.

Camellia_sinensisHe planted them in his home province of Lahijan near the Caspian Sea where the climate and soil proved perfect for Camellia sinensis and so was born what has come to be accepted as the healthiest tea in the world. The terraced tea gardens of Lahijan have never been treated to the delights of pesticides or fungicides or any other ‘cides’. They have remained organic and free from any intervention from the day of their birth until the present. Now the bad news . .

A study carried out in Golistan Province in northern Iran and published in the British Medical Journal established a link between drinking very hot black tea (65*C or higher) within  2-3 minutes of pouring, a common practice in northern Iran, and a marked increase in the risk of developing oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma! Not many people know that! As someone who takes their tea drinking at a seriously leisurely pace I shall not be dwelling on the study.

So, what about the ‘differently’ bit? Well, there are the tea houses – châihâne or châi-khooneh that range from back street one-room affairs to some of the most elaborate and evocative that you can imagine. Then there is the amazing rock-sugar (qand) that was always served – sometimes loose, often on sticks that made dunking a childish, lollypop-sucking pleasure. Here are a few photos to let you see what you are missing:

Esfahan tea house

Azadegan Tea House, this amazing place is down a back-street in Esfahan

tea house Esfahan

chai in the park

J with her châi . . in the park . .

Iran chai

. . in a ‘normal’ châihâne . .

Iranian tea

. . in a ‘posh’ châihâne . .

Iran rock sugarvery suckable!

Finally, another view from the Azadegan Tea House of ‘sisters doing it for themselves’

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(from trekearth.com)

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Wanderings

Iran Life – Dangerous Liaisons

Iran is a fabulous place to visit – wonderful sights (and sites) to see, terrific food to enjoy and delightful people to meet. So good is it that J and I are going back again early next year to spend three weeks wandering the mountains and villages to seek out flowers and people and the rural lifestyle.

ezanEnthusiastic as we are to return, we were never allowed to forget that this country is in the grip of an authoritarian and pervasive theocratic regime. In Shia Islam the ezan is called only three times each day and I have never before heard it made with such gentle and melodic voices. That said, you cannot escape it because even on a train in the depths of the metro system it will insinuate itself almost subliminally, like Muzak, over the speaker system. Public buildings are adorned every few metres with verses from the Koran in Farsi and English and the eyes of the Supreme Leaders, past and present, watch you from giant bill-boards!

With the election of the present ‘more liberal’ regime things are rather more relaxed – we saw no overt presence of the morality or thought police.

morality policeThere are certainly clergy without number to be seen and I’m sure this must have a dampening effect on those who might want to express an opinion that differs from the party line. Despite 35 years of Jesuit-like control (‘Give me the child and I’ll give you the man!’), there is plenty of kicking back going on.

Rules that state that women must cover their hair for fear that the sight of a loose curl will turn men into ravening beasts is a case in point. Standing out from the crowds of conformists there are women sporting outrageous 60s beehive hair-dos with a strip of material clipped to the back! They are deliberately pushing the boundaries of stifling authoritarianism in the name of individuality – at least until the next clamp-down.

Alcohol is forbidden! That’s why Iranians do a lot of partying at home and I can tell you from personal experience that the stuff they brew under the kitchen sink might not win a gold medal in Paris but would certainly get a very honourable mention in despatches!

IMG_6362_1It’s the same with art. As long as it fits into neat, narrow, conforming boxes it’s OK. Try and be different and those baleful, dark-rimmed, Ayatollah eyes will be turned upon you – followed by a knock at the door. Dissent is dangerous!

So, imagine J and my delight when we were guided by friends to a location that they and a few artist buddies have turned into a monument to alternative expression – a real ‘Art House’. The building was scheduled for demolition but a kind-hearted, open-minded owner had let them hang out there and free their talents. The results are astonishing! Powerful! Deeply disturbing! Every part of the house, from the cellar to the toilet to every room and passageway is a statement – every one of them dissenting from the stifling, imposed norms. Contributors include street/graffiti artists; musicians; sculptors – some have spent time in prison for pushing back. Many of the rooms/works include sound which you, of course, can’t hear – strobe lights and other unconventional light effects. Faces have been blurred for obvious reasons – I apologise to you and our ‘rebels’ for turning them into zombies.

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‘Children of the Light’ (luminescent)

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‘Mobile’

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IMG_6380_1‘Cut Out’

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‘. . it’s downstairs, second on the right’

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critically endangered Persian Leopard – protected and hunted to death – a guardian faces execution for killing an armed poacher!

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‘Indoctrination’ strobes and white noise

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this is not up there – it’s down here

IMG_6404_1‘Gotcha!’

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teaching the guys ‘pip-squeak’

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the most dangerous street/graffiti artist in Tehran aka ‘Blackhand’ is No1 Sponge Bob fan not many people know that!

We had a great day with some great people – individuals bucking against the system. These photos look pathetic when compared with our actual experiences in the ‘Art House’. Wonderful memories and some pretty memorable gifts to bring home (ceramics; music CDs; ‘Blackhand’ original) – thanks guys – see you next time – either here or there. Oh, and do try and stay out of trouble!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps safe to put this up now as the place has been demolished