Tonight has been another of those gently magical moments that live with you forever and at the same time evoke memories from magical moments past. Tonight a pair of nightingales sang to me as I stood in the near darkness of a nearly new moon – the sound is enough to bring a tear to the eye of this old fool; it is so beautiful.
Journalist Jane Akatay said to me after visiting my neck of the woods ‘You really do live in paradise’, and it’s true. If you have not visited Okçular you will not understand – it is an incredible place of beauty, biodiversity and . . . words fail me.
That said, it isn’t Okçular that I want to talk about but Temelköy in the mountains behind Fethiye and nightingales are the trigger. Temelköy lies on the other side of Baba Dag from Fethiye and you can get there from the road to Seki where it branches off from the Antalya road over the mountains.
J and I discovered Temelköy as a by-product of a visit to Girdev with our friends Paul and Pat Hope; Paul had promised me some truly spectacular Fritillaria and Pat had promised some truly spectacular picnic ‘scoff’ (as we used to call any edible substance in the mob that I once served with). Both of them came up trumps; I was able to photograph wonderful Fritillaria wittallii nestled in almost inaccessible rock crevices exactly where Paul said they would be, and the picnic was . . . . stupendous.
Can you imagine feeling like the guy who invented photography, or Ansel Adams, as I sat atop a mountain with views that seemed to encompass all of the known world, eating food that could have been prepared by the legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier, except Pat had done better, (incidentally the origin of the British Army slang ‘scoff’ for food) and with some wonderful shots in the camera. That’s what trekking with Pat and Paul is like. We’ve been back many times since and the beauty and tranquility never fails to impress.
Having done our ‘thing’ up Girdev we would always choose to stop off on the way down at the tea house in the village of Temelköy. Now, don’t get me wrong, Temelköy is not a very attractive or photogenic place, but it does have a teahouse which has a very basic garden which is full of trees; a real oasis after a hot hike about the mountains. In this garden I have listened entranced as countless nightingales displayed their virtuosity to the world – if only the world would listen! I have also been entertained on every single visit by someone or some group of people who just happened to be there when we called in.
On one visit I took some photos when a group of guys from the village returned from a trip to Fethiye where they had been performing in a folk dance display; still decked out in their ‘folk dance’ finery they had no sooner downed a glass of tea than they were joined by a couple of villagers with a saz and a wooden whistle and the party began. The light was fading and, as I soon realised, was not good for decent photos. On this occasion, however, I managed a very nice shot of the whistle player which this year my good friend and artist Gülay Çolak used to create a really stunning portrait which you can view on her website http://gulaysgallery.org/ .
On another visit to the tea garden we were joined by an old-timer who just walked over with a chair and his mini-saz (I don’t know its name), sat down in front of us and began to play and sing. His performance went on through several glasses of tea and at the end he got up, picked up his chair and walked away – never a word was spoken! His performance was really nice and tuneful but what sticks in my mind to this day were his socks which he wore outside of his trousers! They were beautiful, calf length and knitted in natural, unbleached cotton in those raised designs like cable stitch and many others. The tops were scalloped and the overall detail was amazing. When the old chap had left I commented to the teahouse owner about them and was astonished to learn that in Temelköy and the surrounding area the men-folk have knitted their own socks for generations. It’s a tradition that, like so many others, seems destined to die out within a generation as the young men decide that there are many more interesting things to do with their time.
Why have I told you this story when some of you will probably find it mundane and even boring? Because I think it illustrates an often overlooked fact that taking the time to sit at peace with the world sharing a few moments of our precious time with our fellow human beings, even strangers, will reward each of us many times over in many different ways; sometimes epic but more often small, heartwarming or smile inducing as some trigger, like the song of a nightingale, stimulates a flood of memories. Sticking with the ‘security’ of the same local cafe overlooking the same general view, passing the time of day with the same old friends has a certain appeal for some; striking out for pastures, people and places new and unknown on the other hand could be the key to experiences that will live with you forever – like having a total stranger come and sing to you whilst dozens of nightingales join in the chorus.
Oh! And I really must go back soon and get some decent photos of those socks!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü