'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

We Plough The Fields

With commitments to honour we’d been away from our mountain hidey-hole for three long weeks – we were craving a fix and there was stuff to be done!

There was a great pile of firewood to be set about so first things first it was off to town for a felling axe, a sledgehammer and a couple of wedges. Suffice to say we have made a start on splitting and stacking about ten years worth of tree trunks!

a lumberjill

That was followed up with a neat log box to replace the tatty cardboard boxes that have been littering the area behind the cabin door. J prepared a great soup for later and then we joined forces for barbied fish and a salad to die for! Life is good!

Yesterday, of course, there was the mandatory spicy rabbit casserole with our dear ‘son’ at our local watering hole. Will we ever get tired of this dish? Hard to imagine such a thing, especially when it is preceded by an amazingly spiced-up Tarhana soup!

spicy rabbit casserole

Meal done and dusted we were joined by the local forestry manager. Apart from being a really nice guy he turns bits of what he so carefully husbands into splendid toys for his son.

wooden toy truck

wooden toy aeroplane

toy truck

Meanwhile, we were in negotiation with locals to get sorted with dry-stone walled terraces so that the plot can be ploughed, manured and readied for fruit and nut trees. Already, even up here at 1200 mts., life is stirring with almond trees and crocus blooming. We needed to get our fingers out in order to get everything prepared. We were promised the digging machine for next morning – in the event, at five o’clock this evening, there was much roaring of engines and work started.

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An hour later the first trench was cut and the walling will begin tomorrow – now that feels like progress!

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halfway there

Meanwhile, the neighbours were keeping an eye on things . .

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The lake was as blue as ever . .

blue on blue

The mornings are misty and moisty . .

misty moisty morning

And the nights are mysterious . .

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Alan Fenn, Archers – an everyday story of country folk.

Wanderings

Is There Life On Mars?

The lake that lies just below our mountain hide-away is almost unique. ‘Almost’ because there is one other like it on Earth in Canada. These lakes have one other attribute that adds to their uniqueness – they are believed to have many similarities with the surface of the planet Mars!

mars

NASA image

Really, I kid you not! You can read the reports online from such organisations as Glasgow University. Looking out from our cabin I can’t see what they see, but they are the scientists after all!

Anyway, J and I will grab any window of opportunity to take ourselves off to our hidey-hole. The air feels fresh and clean and the peace and quiet is so good for the inner and outer being. This time around we agreed to take a couple of friends and lodge them at the new hotel on the other side of the lake. They could join us during the day as we did our thing and then, in the evening, we could relax and enjoy the quiet we love and they could relax in centrally heated luxury instead of dossing on the cabin floor!

Our time together was spent gazing, spellbound, at the amazing views, eating spicy rabbit casserole and non-stop talking.

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view from the top

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view turned around 180*

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It was a short stay and on the way back to Okçular we stopped off in the village of Yazı Köy which has one of the most beautiful small mosques to be found anywhere. S,  J’s long-time friend who is on a longish visit from the UK, had never been inside a mosque. What better introduction than this:

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part of the beautiful, hand-painted ceiling

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from the women’s gallery

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J in ‘conversation’ with the delightful imam – he remembered us from our visit three years earlier. The other guy is a local who insisted on translating from Turkish to ‘Dutchlish’ – hard to know who was the most confused!

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Three years ago many of these beautiful alabaster window frames were damaged. What a delight to see that they had been restored to perfection. The mosque is in everyday use, it is cherished and really cared for. You can read about this and other amazing village mosques by following the link to earlier posts. There are also a lot more photos. You will also read about J and me being deep inside some local caves when the lights went out! Having been thwarted back then we took our friends off for another go – this time the force was with us!

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Not the greatest photos for an attraction well worth a visit. The Keloğlu Caves are close to Acıpayam in Denizli Province. Legend has it that entering the caves is a cure for baldness – didn’t do anything for me, and the guardian is a bald as a coot!

Finally, is there life on Mars? Yes, and here’s the evidence!

Crocus chrysanthus

Crocus chrysanthus

Colchicum burttii

Colchicum burttii

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Wanderings

The Camels Are Coming Oho,Oho!

I remember being taught that song at primary school – it never made much sense but then not a lot does at that age as we soak stuff up like blotting paper (the link is for those under 25 years of age). And like blotting paper our memories may be blurred but the marks and the lyrics are permanent. Which is why I still hum the ditty whenever J and I go to camel wrestling!

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the camels coming – or possibly going

So, together with a couple of camel wrestling virgin friends, we headed for the village of Sinirtepe near Aydın for their annual, much advertised, Camelus dromedarius festival. The place was suspiciously quiet when we arrived and with good reason – they’d had their tourney on the 3rd of January! Ho-hum!

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different venue, right idea

J and I prefer local, non-touristic venues and the price we pay is that information is sometimes lacking. The locals in Sinirtepe were sympathetic and in very short order they sent us on our way to a match being staged about 50 kms away at Bağarası. It could not have been a better introduction to the spectacle for our friends, It had everything – staged on a football pitch set in the middle of the shambolic industrial area, the parking was chaotic, the sights, smells and sounds exotic and the people wonderfully welcoming and friendly. Just our sort of place!

I know some of you might feel concerned that what we were supporting is some form of blood sport. It is not! The events are a continuation of a tradition from the days when camel trains and caravans criss-crossed Turkey and much of the Middle East and Asia. Traders would encourage the bull camels to do what they do naturally during the four month breeding season. The events brought camel owners together where old and new friendships were cemented, information and breeding stock were exchanged and a lot of feasting, drinking and wagering took place. Camel owners are easy to spot due to their distinctive dress: cornered caps, traditional scarves around the neck, jackets, special trousers and accordion-like boots.

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old time camel owner

I love these boots

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his job is to secure the camel’s jaw to prevent biting and injury

These days the camels are bred for strength and fed and trained to build them up. Like football and much else it is no longer a poor man’s sport. J made some enquiries and a young animal will set you back around six thousand lira. A mature 12 year-old bull with much of its wrestling and breeding career ahead would cost between eighty and one hundred and fifty thousand lira. Bulls begin wrestling at about seven years of age and continue for about ten years some up to the age of twenty. When you add in the cost of food, veterinary care, transport and pre-festival partying you are talking a pretty penny!

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that said, there was one very vocal lady owner

bull camel

bull camel in all his finery and glory

With these magnificent creatures being so valuable great care is taken to ensure that no harm comes to them apart from a bruised ego if they go out in the first round! If an animal is reluctant or afraid to engage then the referee calls a halt. A win is signalled when one animal succeeds in pinning, tripping or totally dominating his opponent and two teams rush in to drag the beasts apart. Some contests can be like watching paint dry whilst others, especially in the later rounds with the best bulls, can be very lively.

Of great value is a good cazgır. He is the person who announces wrestlers or the wrestling camels – calls out the camels’ names. The cazgır reads poems praising each camel, adding colour to the contest. The cazgır, just as in two-legged wrestling contests, is the most important and colourful person in the competition. He treats a camel wrestling match just like a sport commentator at a soccer match.

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Perhaps the most entertaining sights are when one camel has had enough and makes a bid to escape pursued by the victor. With bulls weighing in at between seven hundred and fifty and fifteen hundred kilos there are a couple of tons of tunnel vision thundering about. When pursued and pursuer head for the hills behind the spectators with their tables, chairs and barbecues the chaos and antics are like something from a Buster Keaton film. Do people get hurt? Rarely.

Whilst the stars are, without question, the magnificent bulls decked out in all their splendour and slobbering at the scent of battle (or is it female pheromones?) they are not the only attraction. The sight of thousands of Turks eating, drinking, socialising and dancing whilst wandering folk bands compete with each other for the rolled up bank notes that get stuffed into their instruments is something to experience. Add in the smells from countless barbecues and vendors selling camel sausage sandwiches and köfte with the aroma of rutting camels and your experience is complete!

camel burgers

camel sausage in a bun

wandering minstrels

our virgins getting the musical works whilst J is masticating again!

camels decorated saddle

pack saddle

camel muzzle and bridle

muzzle and bridle

camel pheromones

The name of the competing camel is written on a piece of embroidered cloth called a peş hung behind the saddle, which is called the “havut.” Beneath the camel’s name is written the word Maşallah (May God protect him). ‘Arza’ in heroic pose and spraying pheromones all over the place!

Is it worth going to camel wrestling? Absolutely! For the spectacle, the colour, the noise, the smells, tastes and the welcome for a visitor. The camels love to have their ears scratched!

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Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps Here’re the real Cam(pb)e(l)ls Coming Oho, Oho!

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'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Economic Migrants

So, after being totally traumatised when Muğla central police station lost our original application for long-term residency during the change-over from the old ways of doing stuff, the new staff and system have completely redeemed themselves.

bureaucrats

I do understand that police stations can’t actually lose anything and anyway, I doubt the paperwork is lost – I bet it is still in the bottom of some filing cabinet drawer along with a whole bunch of other applications from people we know!

Six months, almost to the day, since the applications were re-submitted, an SMS arrived – they were on the way from Ankara! The tracking system functioned fine and on the first working day after they arrived in Ortaca the delivery guy rang to get our location. We’ve even had an SMS to tell us they’d been delivered to us in case we hadn’t noticed!

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These days the permit arrives in a white wallet sponsored by Turkish Airlines ‘Miles & Smiles’ – you can’t keep the world’s favourite airline down!

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look carefully at this photo and you’ll see that Ortaca police are also kind to street animals

Thanks go to the delightful and very helpful police lady in Ortaca who got all the duplicates together and then rang and pleaded with Murat at the Migration Directorate in Muğla to see us and get everything sorted asap. He did! Forty minutes after we walked through his office door we were on our way home – job jobbed!

Unless the elixir of life turns up in the form of a wine bottle we’ll never have to go through this stuff again. These long-term permits are valid until 31st December 2099 – gawd help us if we forget or don’t last long enough to renew – trust me, you really don’t want to fall foul of the bureaucracy here!

Alan Fenn, a legal, long-term economic migrant in Turkey.