Aezani – The Temple of Zeus and a ‘Lost World’

I suspect that most people drive through Çavdarhisar and barely notice; it is, after all, a pretty nondescript dot on the map on the road to or from Kütahya about 60km southwest of that town. If you take the time, turn off the main road, and follow the signs for about 1 km you’ll arrive at the site of the Roman city of Aezani.


Aezani is spread out over a vast area each side of the road, but it is the Temple of Zeus built by Hadrian in 125 AD that dominates the site. Said to be the finest surviving example this temple to the ‘God of Gods’ is truly impressive with an immense underground vault or sanctuary dedicated to Cybele whose well preserved bust stands at the foot of the temple mound.

Imposing as Aezani is, it is not what fascinates me and draws me back from time to time. My interest lies in the ‘village’ of Çavdarhisar that lies between the main road and the historic site. As you arrive at the site, roads either side of the river lead to a ‘lost world’ of village life and scenes – rather than try and describe this world to you I’ll let my inadequate views through my battered old SLR lead you into this world. Perhaps, like me, you will be drawn back again and again . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


window detail

Goosey Goosey Gander . .
the yard

their life in ruins . .
old Roman bridge
mosaic floor found under a cow shed in village
sarcophagous water trough
ruins from ruins


Over Easy?

Ohhh! This feels so good – being home, I mean. Sun; blue skies; fresh air; no noise; neighbours who smile; Spring flowers; no traffic; chopping firewood while a robin serenades me; sleeping in my own bed; the sharp, affectionate attention of our 9kg (you read that right) ‘SAS badged’ moggy; and above and beyond all these – J! Yes! I’m glad to be back.

Weighed against the pleasures of being here are the pleasures of spending time with those I’ve left back there in the olive-drabness of Blighty. Daughter, grandsons, older sister and other relatives – between them they made this a memorable visit, crammed full of good things. I’ll not be quite so reluctant to run the gauntlet again of the ‘Jobswurfs’, Gestapo apparatchiks and general, all-round arse’oles that constitutes the corps of less-than-civil servants that seem drawn to airports (and me in particular) like ghouls to the Rue Morgue!

Turkey may lack English bitter beer and Stilton cheese, but it has everything else that this particular ‘Boffer’ needs to call it home; and at risk of being a total bore I’m going to say it again – it feels so good to be home!

Oh! and the title ‘Over Easy’? A small tribute to EasyJet and their cheerful cabin crew who made the flight back a really relaxing experience. That Airbus A320 might not have had reclining seats (not a bad idea when your nose is a bare 12 inches from the seat in front) but when only 10% of them are occupied there’s plenty of room to stretch out across the row and get your head down!

Alan Fenn, back home in Turkey


İznik; Tiles and Tranquility

The tourism Mecca of Dalyan lies just 10 minutes down the road from Okçular. Dalyan is steeped in history and is set on a canvas of outstanding natural beauty with a beautiful lake on its doorstep.

İznik lies just south of İstanbul, about 2 days drive from Okçular (we always take the scenic route over the mountains). İznik too is steeped in history and sits at the edge of a large and beautiful lake.

There the similarities end; Dalyan town itself is bereft of charm; there is little to appeal to the eye with concrete villas set in their 500 cubic metre plots. The tea garden trees are dying, everywhere is paved with blocks that radiate the sun’s heat and graceful, old eucalyptus trees, which may not have been native but gave welcome dappled shade and ‘texture’ to the town centre were cut down and ghastly, out of place palm were planted.

In contrast, İznik feels and looks like a Turkish town; İznik has retained its trees and İznik has not fallen into the trap of paving everything in sight. The promenade area is grassed with little man-made promontaries and islands reaching into the lake. The whole feel of the town is of quiet gentility.

J and I have just returned from a trip to the province of Karabük in the north of the country. On the way home we diverted to spend a little time in İznik and we were both taken with the place – it is a really nice town.

Originally named Nicaea by the Greeks, it served as the interim capital city of the Byzantine Empire between 1204 and 1261, following the 4th Crusade in 1204, until the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1261. Much of the original defensive walls still stand along with 2 imposing gates. The city and national authorities are carrying out restorations of old mosques, churches and hamams to the highest aesthetic standards using real craftsmen to do the jobs.

With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the town lost a great degree of its importance, but later became a major centre with the creation of a local faïence pottery-making industry in the 17th century (known as the İznik Çini, Çin meaning China in Turkish – Chinese porcelain stood in great favour with the Sultans.) İznik tiles were used to decorate many of the mosques in İstanbul designed by Mimar Sinan. Attempts to recreate the perfection and colours of the early pottery glazes have proved elusive. As an aside, one of my prized possessions is an original İznik bowl; although slightly chipped the (hazardous) cobalt blue of the glaze can be found in no pieces other than these originals.

I like İznik; it makes a great staging post for exploring the area or as a stop-over to or from İstanbul. Its true value is as a gentle, relaxing place to spend time replenishing the inner self, wandering back streets, searching out the surprises (see below) and enjoying the finest catfish kebap to be found anywhere in Turkey.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

old hamam restoration

the quality of restoration is oustanding

the mighty northern Istanbul gate

the scary sight that awaits those entering the Istanbul gate

would you want to mix it with these jokers?

the southern gate

. . can you work out what this is?

admit it, you’re amazed to see it’s an electricity sub-station

the back view of the triumphal march

part of the extensive defenses

. . . and yet more


We’re On The Road Again

First off; sorry about the ‘ghost post’. There you were, so excited to have another scintillating post to oooh! and aaah! over . . and nothing! Put it down to sticky fingers!

Anyway, A & J are on their way (again). Whither our way? Who can say – roughly upwards


towards the top of the map; left and right a bit as the fancy takes us. A stop here and there – we’ll see – and so will you if we find a loose network to hack in to. I’ll have my trusty VINN but why use up my Gigabytes!

Hadi Bye Bye! A&J

. . and 'J'

ps it’s a funny old thing with tramps and  Google – ask for a ‘Tramp’ or ‘Gentleman of the Road’ and you get a fair selection. Ask for a ‘Lady Tramp’ or a ‘Lady of the Road’ and you end up with a selection of sexy, tattooed trollops or two loveable cartoon dogs! Technology – I just don’t get it!

sorry . . this is 'J'



'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

The Theory and Practice of Democracy

Isparta Province and the area around about has long been a favourite for J and me; we seem to get drawn back to the mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers most years. When journeying back home from wherever we’ll choose to stop-over regardless of the fact that we could be back in Okçular in a few hours.

I remember on our first visit to the province being amazed by the almost cult-like aura that surrounded the name of former President Süleyman Demirel – an Isparta boy made good. As you drive through there can be no doubt that he is revered as you pass the Süleyman Demirel Airport, followed by the Süleyman Demirel Forest on the right and the Süleyman Demirel Botanic Park on the left; the drive into town takes you along Süleyman Demirel Bulvarı where you pass the Süleyman Demirel University and then, on the way out of town, there is the Süleyman Demirel Children’s Clinic; we have often stayed at the Süleyman Demirel University’s Mavi Göl Training Hotel. Around Turkey, including Muğla, there are further roads and hospitals named after him; an astonishing tribute to an astonishing career in civil engineering (he was Director General of DSI, the state water authority, at age 30) and politics (he became Turkey’s second democratically elected and youngest ever Prime Minister at age 40) and served two terms as President. Affectionately known as ‘Baba’ (Father), ‘Çoban Sülü’ (The Shepherd Sülü (Süleyman)) or humorously as ‘Spartacus’ after his city Isparta, he is writ large in Turkish political life.

Anyway, we thought we had clocked every possible permutation with his name attached until, quite by chance on a back road as we passed a small, nondescript and rather shabby village called İslamköy, we spied this sign.

My first, rather cynical thought was that democracy had had its day and had been confined to a dusty display cabinet (or the dustbin of history) in this museum; whatever, we had to find out.

This is the home village of the Demirel family and what we discovered was an astonishing complex of buildings, funded by the Demirel Foundation (Vakıf), that included the Democracy Museum (closed), library (closed), a gift shop and cafeteria (closed), a grand mosque dedicated to Demirel’s grandmother and numerous other buildings, the whole surrounded by a wall with a gateway fit for a chateau; everywhere green lawns, flower beds, magnificent trees and water. The total contrast from the scene outside was staggering with decrepit, tumbledown buildings and dusty streets everywhere you looked.

Pride in the achievements of one of your own sons is commendable but I cannot help but wonder how the quality of the lives of local people might have been enhanced had some or all of the money been spent on social and community projects, in other words on people – after all, isn’t that what ‘democracy’ is supposed to be about?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Compare and . .
. . contrast