'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Don’t Believe It!

Two weeks back – is it really that long ago? – I put you in the frame about the plot of land J and I have acquired in a delightfully quiet part of the back-of-beyond. Our expectation was that, with luck and a tail wind, we just might be able to get things sorted, cabin-wise, and then look forward to escaping Okçular’s summer heat next year.

hot hot

After the fiasco with the digger word seems to have got around because there I was, up a ladder painting, when the phone rang. It was our main man from the other end of the ‘rabbit hole’. ‘You should come and drink tea with the mayor, he wants to help you.’ ‘When does he want to see us?’ ‘Now! He is waiting for you in his office!’

Seriously! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! By the time we’d cleared up, showered, shaved (not J – well, not that day, anyway!), and driven nearly three hours it was mid-afternoon before we got to his office. As it turned out he’d gone to a funeral anyway and didn’t get back for another hour and a half! I have to say that, when he arrived, he was not at all like any other mayor we’ve ever met in Turkey, striking to look at, engaging and dressed very casually. Taking tea and chatting was like having an audience with Jesse Ventura – Different!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was kind enough to offer us a corporation digger and driver for the next day for as long as the work took. In case you are wondering, these things have to be paid for at an hourly rate of 100TL, about £20.

Being ‘English’, we were waiting at the edge of the village at the appointed time – an hour and a half later the machine turned up with its charming, smiley driver/operator. Yet again we’d let our foreign sense of time overrule local practices – the triumph of hope over experience! Mind you, when you see what we were getting for our money, it was well worth the wait . .


What is amazing is that our plot neighbour came to help and spent the entire day directing and ensuring the job was done properly and exactly as we wanted. We could never have managed without him.


The plot has not been tended for about 15 years so a lot of scrub had grown up and needed to be cleared. The scrub will be made good use of for firewood and goat food. The place where the cabin will go was then levelled and an access route made.

You will recall that, this being a protected area, we cannot make any permanent structure. I said we were going to use the chassis of an old mobile office as the foundation for our cabin. We had made no actual moves yet to purchase said chassis so you can imagine our surprise and delight to find this parked up at the end of our access track . .

cabin chassis1

It had taken three guys many hours to cut away the office from the chassis because all the bolts were rusted solid. By the time the truck got it to where you see it, it was 11pm! It succeeded in being what they had hoped for – a ‘Büyük Sürpriz!’ a Big Surprise! We still have to pay for it, but aren’t people wonderful?

So, after the clearing and levelling, the next job for the digger was to tow it on site . .

cabin chassis 2

Is that it? Have we done with the digger? Nope! As we will need a soak-away it was decided that that should be dug whilst the machine is available . .


Hole dug, the mayor was contacted to say thank you and fix the price for five hours work. Can you believe he didn’t want us to pay anything by way of welcome! In the end we insisted that he must, at the very least, let us pay for the diesel fuel and we ensured the driver got a bonus.

Next, a phone call had a local usta arrive who specialises in things like soakaways and the like. He looked at the job and then, in line with custom, everyone sat or squatted down to make the bargain/deal. (some pretty wonderful people have and are doing an awful lot to help us make our dream project a reality – it would be great for you to be able to see their smiling faces – not possible for many reasons).


Deal struck, the usta jumped in the hole and set to work and within a day the job will be capped and finished – like to see you get a builder to come and do a small job at the drop of a hat!


In the middle of all this the man who is reputed to be the very best blacksmith/steel constructor in the whole of this area arrived following a summoning from a ‘certain someone’  to discuss the framing of our wooden cabin. Turns out he is the bee’s-knees and will oversee the whole project, including fitting-out. We have now agreed stage 1 price and he has given a guaranteed start and finish date.

It would be great to be able to show you the full team but discretion is required. Here are a few views from this trip by way of compensation.

plot view

from the plot

lake view1

a  stone’s throw away

view from terrace

the view from the cabin with the main-man

So, there you have it. What was going to be a one-nighter turned into three and each day was filled with wonderful surprises. Some pretty special, selfless people, neighbours and bureaucrats joined with us and brought so many threads together. I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, us or them! Oh, before I forget. A guy from the water cooperative turned up and invited us to join three or four others who also want water for irrigation to lay a new pipe that will pare the cost right down. Yet another piece dropped into place.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (but actually on Cloud Nine)


I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut For You-oo

Some of you will recall that J and I have been searching for a quiet, mountain bolt-hole for some while. About a year ago we discovered a secluded, little gem of an area – you can see some photos here and here. As is often the case with these things, there are pot-holes and swampy bits along the pathway to paradise. In this instance, we are talking about an area under special protection and the fact that the people who ‘own’ the land don’t! Although families had farmed the area for generations there were no formal title deeds. Ho-hum!

Two weeks ago we got a phone call from our under-cover secret agents suggesting that we get ourselves up to paradise toot sweet! A plot was up for sale in a perfect location, at a fair price and the owner had spent a lot of time and money to acquire title deeds! ‘Ferrets up a drain-pipe’ does not adequately describe our reaction time!


Next morning we were on site with our ‘agents’, the owner and really nice guy we’d met previously who happened to own and farm a plot next door to the one we were looking at.

The location was indeed perfect! 1200+ square metres, terraced, with a beautiful, mature pine tree, forest behind and to one side and a great view once the scrub has been cleared. Water for irrigation is free and drinking water is available. We made an offer there and then and by 3pm the next day the title deeds were in our hands. I’m already dreaming of creamy almond blossom scenting the garden in Spring and balmy evenings on the terrace listening to Segovia as he does his thing!



our view towards the lake

Now, this being a protected area, it is not possible to build a permanent structure – a bit of a puzzle you might think. Not really! The provincial roads department has a graveyard of those mobile office things that used to be all the rage.


The chassis is a massive C-section and there are four close-coupled wheels. With the office structure removed one of these would suit our needs perfectly, so we are acquiring one. With the platform area extended, it will hold a 7×4 metre wooden cabin (sans terrace) and if it’s got wheels it can’t be a fixed structure, can it? A modern solar electric system will power LED lighting and a fridge and ‘Bob’s your uncle!’


Access to the plot is via a narrow track that you’d miss if you didn’t know it was there. Here is the digger arriving to do a job of levelling and scrub clearing.


This being the back of beyond, the machine arrived more than an hour late (normal) and, as soon became apparent, with an operator that hadn’t got a clue which lever did what! The real operator had gone to a funeral and didn’t want us to be disappointed! Never mind, another day will do, we don’t need much of a reason to be back here again asap.


he managed to extend the arm before admitting he hadn’t got a clue

– our neighbour was not impressed!

The locals are just as nice as our neighbours here in Okçular – salt-of-the-earth! Out of the blue J and I were told to make our way to our plot-neighbour’s house on the edge of the village.


our plot is way over the other side

The house has fabulous views across the lake and set out on the upstairs terrace was a feast to welcome us to the community. I know we are going to be very happy living part of our time here.



Finally, an interlude whilst we await developments . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü and ‘I’m-Not-Telling-You-Where-It-Is’ Köyü


Self Indulgence

There was a time, when vicars, elders and assorted priests had a role in society and pleasuring oneself was considered a sin, when a bit of self-indulgence was thought to lead to blindness and/or paralysis! Not true, folks! J and I are living proof that a little of what you fancy does you good. Repression leads to all sorts of strange hang-ups, as my mother could have confirmed were she not ‘bereft of life’! This chap has been caught early as his eyesight has only just started to dim!


before you rush to order, this is a spoof ad – I know, I checked it out!

So, onwards and upwards – things can only get better! Having had a few weeks of feeling the need to be around because of the geothermal drilling business (see here, and here) in the overwhelming heat at this time of year plus dealing with some residence permit issues (who hasn’t had those!), we needed to indulge our inner and outer selves and escape to the tranquility of the mountains. There is something about being pretty much alone and surrounded by a world much bigger and wider than those irritations that tend to seem so large at the time – somehow, they just melt away – at least temporarily.

girdev camp023

We didn’t want to spend much time on the road and so we decided to head for Girdev Lake and spend a couple of days at the Girdev Camp owned by İlhan and İnci Kurt. Situated 1800mts above sea-level the lake is always beautiful and at this time of year the herders will be there with their sheep and the environment should be wild with life! We were not to be disappointed. Whilst there we also met a young woman named Raz who woke up one morning in her native Cornwall and said, ‘Raz, old girl! You are at a crossroads in your life – why not take a walk to Istanbul.’ (or words to that effect) So she did! Read her  intermittent blog. Then she bought a bike and cycled off and ended up at Girdev Camp for a while. Where next Raz?

Day one it rained cannonballs for a bit, but mostly the sun shone, the clouds were fluffy and the air was like champagne!

girdev camp017

raining . .

girdev camp019

. . cannonballs!

Girdev is a bit like the wilderness with the edges rubbed off – sufficiently off the beaten track to discourage the casual visitors and yet close enough for those willing to trash their tyres if needs must (of which more later)! How long it is going to remain free of mass tourism is open to question because the machines are out in force scraping and rolling in preparation for asphalt. Will they go all the way? It looks very likely. Add in the electricity that is now there and the hopefulless business ventures lining the side of the road won’t be far behind.

Anyway, whilst it lasts, let’s make the most of it and enjoy the wonders! Here’s one that left me amazed – countless billions (not a typo) of Erythromma viridulum – Small Red-Eyed Damselflies everywhere. I have never seen anything like it!

 Small Red-Eyed Damsefly011

 Erythromma viridulum – Small Red-Eyed Damselfly (female l. male r.)

Erythromma viridulum - Small Red-Eyed Damselflies

. . and then there were these:

Large Skipper Ochlodes venatus

Ochlodes venatus – Large Skipper

girdev stayover minis034

Melanargia russiae Russian Marbled White

Melanargia russiae – Russian Marbled White

. . and then there are the mountains:

girdev stayover minis060

ancient juniper Girdev

with ancient Junipers

mosque in the middle of nowhere Girdev

. . and a mosque in the middle of nowhere

girdev cheese making

a lesson in cheese making from a local expert

lunch with goatherders

. . and lunch with delightful goatherders

girdev mountains2

. . who live down there

Some random flower pics:

girdev flowers1

girdev flowers2

girdev flowers 3

girdev flowers 4

girdev lake 4

final view of Girdev Lake

So, what do you think, folks – splendid, or what?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps when we got back down from Girdev and on to a bit of tarmac we realised we’d probably been driving for miles on a flat rear tyre. It was utterly trashed! The inside and outside walls were ripped like this all around! In the nearby little town the ‘Lastikci’ dug-out a nearly new replacement for the spare, checked everything over – 100 TL/£25 – job jobbed!


pps for those of you who have been totally enthralled by this scintillating post, here’s a link to an earlier expedition with a certain professor who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Magnificence Of The Mountains

‘Never stop wondering, never stop wandering.’ – William Morris, English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist.

‘RAJA’* stopped for a moment, stood still and gazed up at the mountain as it loomed darkly above the tree-line, its sides streaked by great, fat fingers of snow that were slowly dissolving into torrents of melt-water under the relentless rays of the June sun.


(Richard Field)

Away to the north west the storm clouds were building. Towering billows of blackness laced with great, jagged streaks of lightning, boiled their way towards us. We had got this far, there was no turning back! This was the stuff of ‘Boy’s Own Annual’!

kartal lake042

Amazing – the light was just beautiful

J and I had tried on several occasions to find our way to Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake that lies at about 1800mts (5900 feet) on the north slope of Sandras Mountain. Washed out tracks had stopped us a long way short every time. So, when dear friend Ahmet suggested we try again, we jumped at the chance of an extra shoulder to the wheel should I get our trusty but much abused Doblo stuck. In fact, as we had another friend, Richard stopping over on his mammoth motorcycle journey through Europe, Turkey and the ‘Stans’, there’d be two extra shoulders if push came to grunt!

This is a pictorial account of our trip. It is also probably the only time in history when three socialists and an anarchist – comrades, have set off on a journey together and actually arrived at a destination without falling out, fighting or splitting off and forming another faction! This gives me hope!

kartal lake002

The early stages were easy with plenty of time to admire the world a thousand metres below and for Richard to practice his fuzzy-foto technique.


This is the land of beautiful lakes, upland meadows, flowers galore, 1000+ year old trees and majestic views:

kartal lake008


(Richard Field)

kartal lake022

Muscari aucheri

kartal lake038

unidentified Orobanche

kartal lake039


the border between Muğla and Denizli provinces

1280 year old black pine1280 year old Black Pine (says forester’s plaque)


it’s a surreal landscape

kartal lake041

kartal lake048Crocus biflorus

kartal lake049

Corydalis erdelii

kartal lake055

Colchicum szovitsii

kartal lake050

Scilla bifolia

We were forced to stop by washed out tracks about 2kms from our objective and had to hoof it to the lake.


J making a point about fitness


first views of Kartal Gölü – Eagle Lake


(Richard Field)


(Richard Field)


snow-melt amidst the Scilla bifolia


life and the world in perspective

What we had was a great adventure as we ground and maneuvered our way across loose scree and washed-away tracks. The glorious views and freshness of the air were only trumped by the feeling of electricity lurking in the dark storm clouds. As we turned our back on Eagle Lake the heavens opened and the clouds engulfed us – our timing had been perfect, we could not have asked for more – even getting soaked through felt part of the joy of being in such a remote and beautiful place. There is a gathering of nomadic herders some time in August so I guess we might have to suffer the journey all over again!

” ‘I went a little farther,’ he said, ‘then still a little farther — till I had gone so far that I don’t know how I’ll ever get back…’ ” Joseph Conrad The Heart Of Darkness [p.78]

‘There is so much here that I cannot capture on camera, and what I do barely does justice to the beauty of it all. The scenery I passed through yesterday and this morning was staggering. It simply took my breath away.’ Richard Field travelling through Turkey

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

* RAJA is an acronym for Richard, Ahmet, J and me.


And This Little Piggy

After a long and enjoyable day out with new friends yesterday, J and I crashed early and were well and truly blotto by about 10.30pm.

Cue: ominous sound of car outside, gate being opened and door bell jangling followed by very dozy bloke staggering downstairs, opening door and gazing blankly at neighbour. ‘Domuz! Domuz!’ (Pig! Pig!) he said, ‘Do you want it?’ ‘Tamaam!’ I mumbled as I contemplated a ‘night of the long knives’.


the piggy in question

To set the record straight, our neighbours do not go out hunting much these days but they will shoot those rogue pigs that come and raid their gardens and crops, often causing utter devastation. Whilst I will never encourage hunting and would much prefer just to catch the odd glimpse of these wily creatures as they go about their business, I’m not going to turn down the chance of some delicious wild pig meat.

Anyway, last night I was in such a dopey state that I decided to put off the butchery until this morning. Six o’clock seemed to come around very quickly!


yes, I would be crass enough to have a glass of Chardonnay with wild boar casserole

Cue: in the early morning light a ‘Boffer’ stands and contemplates the task ahead – the beast looks bigger than it did last night. Oh,well, best be getting on with it, then! Now, J and I have long ago stopped eating offal and so I no longer paunch (gut) these animals.




I never claimed I was a proper butcher!

I simply skin, joint and fillet and then return the remains to the mountains where the local wildlife will benefit and make short shrift of the process of disposal.


in the hearse ready for ‘Table Mountain’ – the foxes, jackals, martens, birds and others will be very happy

So, as I write this and whilst the freezer does its thing, J has been preparing a traditional Italian/Milanese dish called Osso Buco, click the link for the recipe.

osso buco

Osso Buco

If you don’t have any wild boar meat then bear is a good substitute (so it says) – do not go hunting bears, or pigs for that matter – promise! If you really are intent on becoming a survivalist then I recommend John Wiseman’s ‘SAS Survival Handbook’.


Oh, and it’s not a good idea to eat bear if they’ve been eating salmon – it doesn’t taste so good.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü