Stuff, Wanderings

Several Birds . .

J and I have travelled much of Turkey in the twenty-odd years we’ve lived here but we’ve never made it across the Hellespont or Dardanelles  as it is known these days. European Turkey remained a place unexplored to us.

one of the most strategic waterways in the world

Our Turkish ‘son’ was recently appointed to an important post near the Greek border and so, as we hadn’t seen him and his family for a few months, we needed no further encouragement than an invitation to a local rice festival. The area is one huge paddy field and supplies much of Turkey’s domestic rice needs.

2 kilo bags of ‘Festival Rice’ proved to be welcome gifts

Now, we had other friends whom we had not seen for a while who were holidaying near Ayvalık so what better than to combine a visit with them! They were delighted and promptly suggested that we all traipse off to Bozcaada (a small island just off the coast) for a couple of days.

Bozcaada is very pretty, very popular, the resort of choice for the ‘beautiful people’ from İstanbul and very expensive! Let me give you a couple of examples; what amounted to no more than a decent lokanta meal for four, admittedly with 3/4 of a bottle of rakı thrown in, was over 400 Lira! A double rakı weighs in at 40 Lira – although they do ‘give away’ a small bowl of nuts when you sit down! Now, if like me you enjoy your daily dose of duble rakı then forking out the price of a bottle for a couple of doubles rather takes the shine off.

Meanwhile, a few impressions:

the most splendid of friends

As I said, it’s a most beautiful place and with friends such as ours there is nothing more to add!

Bozcaada behind us we motored on and crossed the Dardanelles at Çanakkale, the narrowest part. It’s a busy place . .

Our ‘son’ was working much of the time so as is usual on these occasions we amuse ourselves most days and fit in the socialising when we can. The highlight was joining him on a trip to Edirne where I was able to fulfil a long-time desire to visit the Selimiye Imperial Ottoman Mosque. Said to be the finest masterpiece of one of the greatest architects to have ever lived – the Mimar Sinan – it was commissioned by the Sultan Selim II and built between 1569-1575. It is a remarkable sight to behold!

 

 

the massive main door – these pieces fit together like a jig-saw – no glue or nails

Look carefully at the image below and you might just make out a relief carving of an upside down tulip. There is a story; the woman who owned the land where the mosque now stands repeatedly refused to give it away for the greater glory of God or Sultan! She used it to grow tulips on the site which you may recall were worth more than gold back in those far-off days. Anyway, she was adamant until eventually she was assured that there would be tulips inside the mosque and so she agreed with that as guarantee. She should have known better than to trust the elites because all she ended up with was this one ‘dead’ tulip! If you go back four photos you can see someone pointing out the location.

There is a small but very interesting museum attached to the mosque with lots of amazing examples of Ottoman craftsmanship. It also has a disturbingly realistic figure of the great architect Sinan – J freaked out!

Koca Mi’mâr Sinân Âğâ – Mimar Sinan 1488/90 – 1588

Now, Edirne is famous for something else – liver! Whenever a Turk, friend or stranger, heard we were off to Edirne we were told that we simply had to eat the famous Edirne Tava Ciğer! So we did and they were right, sliced thinly before frying it is delicious!

Edirne Tava Ciğer

We did a number of other things and went to a few other places but this is enough for now apart from one other thing. On the way back we stopped briefly at Ezine a town famous in Turkey for its cheeses. There we bought Ezine Göbekli Kaşar Peynir (cheese with holes) which is OK if not special. (J and I are in dispute over Ezine or Kaşan – whatever!) The prize, however, goes to Peynir Helvası a not too sweet cheeeezy-as-anything pudding – wonderfully delicious!

Peynir Helvası

If you plan to ‘go’ this is the way to do it!

Alan, having got several ‘birds’ with one stone, back at the cabin with J making chutney and pickled cabbage!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Viewed Through A Different Lens

‘Good Lord!’ I hear you say, ‘I thought you’d shuffled off!’ I don’t know, a few weeks without some drivel about rocks or courgettes and you have me wrapped in a shroud and tickling the daisy roots!

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Life has been full. J and I flew out of Dalaman about an hour after the start of the attempted coup d’etat on the 15th July. You would never have guessed anything was afoot though as the tourists continued to come and go as usual. It was at about the same time as the president was flown out to Istanbul escorted by two F16 fighter planes piloted by non-coup supporting Dalaman-based crews. Interesting times but here is not the place to discuss them.

Our ten days in the UK to visit family and take in the SPGB Summer School just flew by and before we knew it we were back home in Turkey with just two days in hand to get the washing, ironing and other chores done before our dear friends from Istanbul, Mark and Jolee, arrived on the morning flight at Dalaman. As soon as they were collected we were all off – back up here to our cabin in the mountains. The rocks hadn’t multiplied whilst we were away but the courgettes had morphed into marrows and as for the sunflowers . .

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Anyway, what follows is a pictorial saunter through their visit as seen through their camera lens. It will be a change from flowers and insects which is all I ever seem to find! So, let’s begin with breakfast at our favourite lorry drivers’ café.

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Mark could really use a smart phone and a ‘selfie-stick’ because he spends a lot of time taking pictures of food!

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the courgettes are this big! Honestly!

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the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrate and fine red wine!

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sunrise from their hotel

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another ‘foodie’ pic

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a view from the top

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and the bottom

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the famous spicy rabbit casserole

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proof that it is organic!

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tour of Sagalassos with our own personal guide

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feeling the heat

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supervising the hired help

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a spread to die for – almost!

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snow sherbet and ice cream – mmmmmmm-mmm!

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chatting with Imam Ali inside the stunningly beautiful Hacı Ömer Ağa mosque

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the priceless alabaster windows

So, there you have it – our life in the mountains seen through the eyes of our friends. There were so many more photos to choose from and as Mark was usually behind the camera here is a shot of them from their last visit with us. Mark and Jolee, thank you for spending time in Paradise 2.0!

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Alan Fenn, in the mountains by a beautiful lake

Incredible Okçular!

Friends and Neighbours – The Sequel

Last post I spoke about dear old Halil our local woodcutter delivering a donkey-load of illicit wood whilst the ‘suits’ from the Forestry Ministry were visiting. Halil was a real character, as was his last donkey. All the previous ‘donks’ had been sweet natured things that loved to have their ears scratched but this last one was a total animal! Given the slightest lapse of attention this sod would ‘fix’ whoever was within range.

Halil and the ‘donk’ wandered by one day and Halil had his arm in a sling – he took his shirt off to show the injuries that had been inflicted by the monster lurking in the skin of a gentle beast of burden. His arm, chest and back were black and blue! ‘What will you do’ I asked, ‘flog it for dog meat?’ – the beast eyed me balefully over the gate. He shrugged in that Turkish way, mumbled something or other and wandered on his way.

A few days later the pair walked by again and I noticed the ‘donk’ was hanging its head a bit – then I spotted the reason – Halil had fashioned a very effective muzzle out of an old saucepan by knocking a few holes in the bottom and tying it on like a feed-bag. The beast was beaten – not with a stick but by a bit of village woodman ingenuity. That monster may have sunk its teeth into Halil; but Halil was going to have the last laugh and his pound of flesh out of that ‘donk’!

Dear old Halil died a few years ago and I was fortunate enough to have taken a couple of poor quality but rare photos of him and his donkey. I wandered up to his house with copies of the photos for him and we sat outside on the wall and chatted a while. By then he knew he was dying and we cried together a bit and hugged – Okçular, and especially our corner of it was not going to be quite the same again.

We lost a good komşu (neighbour) and the village a character. We also lost our firewood supplier. Nowadays we get a phone call from the village muhtar (headman), we cough up some dosh and a tractor comes by and drops off a great trailer-load. It’s cheap and efficient service, but it ain’t Halil and his ‘donk’ – nothing will ever replace that pair of rogues!

Here’s a couple of photos of today’s delivery of cheap village firewood and a little, old village lady of my acquaintance cutting and sorting her supply – they lack the nostalgic charm of earlier days, but what the heck – a bit of sepia tinting and it could be a hundred years ago!

2 tonnes dumped
little old village lady sorting her firewood

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü