Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Deck the halls with bows and pom-poms.

Facebook is full of pictures of well decorated Christmas trees. We don't have a tree because all our decorations are in our village house storeroom. I can't get to them as our car is in the repair shop. (I hope whoever it was who smashed the back bumper and drove off is being kept awake at night by pangs of guilt).  As a token decoration I have combined my burgeoning skills in crochet, which I rediscovered last Friday after a gap of 25 years, and pop-pom making (probably about 45 years since I practised this craft) and made myself an indoor wreath, so the house is not a completely Xmas-free zone.
Bodrum is also gearing itself up for Christmas. I stocked up with crackers at the first Christmas market and on Friday we attended the annual Christmas Carols.  There are plenty more markets, dinners and carols to come, but the last Friday's event is the most important one for long-term immigrants as it has been going for enough years to be a tradition. Many of us can still remember the first one and the hours of rehearsals we put in practicing carols.

Geoff, Lon and the Band - Friday 12th Dec 2014

Lon, Geoff and carol singers (my daughter in blue) Dec 1998

My daughter and Geoff 2014
I move to reintroduce the rehearsals for next year's concert as the audience were all struggling to be heard, despite having our vocal cords lubricated with mulled wine, or maybe it's just the years catching up with us.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Bookish Bodrum

I haven't had much time to write this week as I've been busy reading.  In what seemed like a good plan at the time, I thought it would be a nice idea to have a joint meeting between the two English speaking reading groups on the peninsula  and rather than read one book, choose a selection of extracts about Bodrum.   So I've been grazing my book shelves and raking through the internet picking out snippets that ranged from the first millennium BC to 2011 AD and bombarding the inboxes of fellow readers on an almost daily basis.  It turned out to be a good plan despite the amount of time it ate up. Memoirs always make interesting reading but when the authors are walking the same paths we tread today, the words are all the more vibrant and exciting.  So many things change that we forget that others stay the same. The overwhelming  impression that flows through the chapters set from the 1960s to the present day is the sense of welcome a stranger feels when settling in Bodrum.  This hasn't changed, a fact attested to by one of our members who has recently moved here.

As well as good readers, we are all pretty good cooks too, the plate above is just a starter, we had chicken and tomato curry and pilav plus chocolate truffle tart, quince dessert and pear frangipane pie to finish. Everyone left with a sense that we should repeat the performance sooner rather than later. I hadn't  anticipated quite how much has been written about Bodrum and with a few more weeks of intensive reading, I'm sure we can find another angle to discuss which will be a welcome excuse to meet up again. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Paradise hasn't been paved, it's been landscaped.

Indoor swimming pool at Mandarin Oriental
Friday saw me digging out a dress and trying to remember how to put on tights for the annual Ladies' Lunch. A great time was had by all 37 attendees and as usual, the mix of new and old faces made for great conversation. "I can't believe you've lived here all this time and we've never bumped into each other" or "So you are the "insert name" who "insert another name" met in "insert place".... you get the idea.  Numbers were down on past years due to the December rather than November date and the controversial choice of venue - The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Göltürkbükü.

Simple but well-executed lunch - sea bass and spinach
You'll find this hotel in Cennet Koyu - Paradise Bay, a beautiful inlet on the Bodrum peninsula, favourite mooring spot for day-tour boats and a local picnic area, a bay which we had all assumed to be protected as a designated area of natural beauty. Many friends witnessing the destruction/construction underway vowed never to return.  The international price of a simple lunch put off several others.   Nosy by nature, I was keen to have a look around. My monthly budget wouldn't even cover one night at list price so this would be the only time I would be crossing their threshold.  

I left the hotel with the impression that very well-off folk must get fed up with seeing bamboo sticks in vases, rolled towels, flowers heads without their stalks and their own reflection in the floor.  The staff were very friendly and attentive but the building sterile and characterless, the only clues to the country we were in were the books about Turkey on a wall and newspapers on a table. It is a shame that luxury these days is defined by a lack of warm ambience and a denial or manipulation of everything natural.

Hamam with a view

Cennet (Paradise) Bay
Regimented landscaping

 To mis-quote Joni Mitchell "They turfed Paradise and put in
some garden pots"

Lunching with Ladies 2013
Ladies's lunch 2012

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Two Worlds

Although we only move 30 kms between our summer home and the winter one, it feels like we are stepping from one world to another.  The village is focused on rural activities, Bodrum is a port. In the village, I can collect veg on the daily dog walk, in town I pass the quayside fish stalls.  Only 3 "yabanci" i.e. anyone from outside the county, have settled in the village in the past 30 years where as Bodrum is a mish-mash of locals, Turks from the cities or Anatolia and foreigners from every corner of the world. Only Turkish is spoken in the village, but not the received pronunciation you'll pick up from a language class. The local dialect can best be explained by imagining an extra "ptrrr" in the middle of every verb and changing all the ks to gs. Bodrumites used to speak like this, but it's rarely heard today. The local accent is a bit addictive and I sometimes find myself adding a few extra consonants when talking to my village neighbours. They humour me, but I probably sound as if I am doing an impression of an angry horse.  I don't recommend it but one can live a full life in Bodrum without speaking a word of Turkish.  This month I'll attend a photography workshop,  a writing group, a book club and a lecture all conducted in English.
It's sometime easy to forget on which continent we live. Last week-end, a market selling scotch eggs, cup cakes, egg tarts, crumpets, walnut loaf and Christmas cards could have been in any village hall in Europe.  This time next week we will be gearing up for the carol concert.  After a busy summer in and out of the village, it's great to be back in cosmopolitan Bodrum.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A Tomb with a View.

Another funerary related post. In 1985, we moved from Bitez and bought a small house in the Kumbahçe district of Bodrum. We would have had a sea view, but for a large hillock in front of us, but the lack of a view made it the only house in Bodrum in our price range.  During the 80s, more and more houses were built and Kumbahçe became a desired address, but the bare mound remained. It was owned by Şalvarağa,  an unkempt  barrel of man who had a sea-facing shack, surrounded by mounds of fire wood, on his hill. If you met him in the street, you'd assume that he was on his uppers, but his shack sat on a goldmine in real estate terms.  It was understood that Şalvarağa was constantly offered great riches for his hill, but he refused to sell.
We moved away and I assume Şalvarağa died, because when we returned to Turkey in 2012 his land was being developed.  Last year, as a road was being excavated to access the incipient million-Euro -plus villas, the diggers unearthed a tomb, just under where  Şalvarağa had had his shack.  Work was stopped as archaeologists were called in to investigate.  A  gold leaf was found, enough to  date the tomb to the Roman Era, and suggest that its occupant was an important military man, as golden laurel leaf crowns were  a symbol of martial victory in Roman times.  Work on the construction was stopped for a while and I like to think that both the occupant of the tomb and Şalvarağa were looking down and having a joke at the expense of the construction company that was desecrating  their hill.

"Resting on one's laurels" - to rely on past success for continued respect. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Winter has arrived.

The flamingos are back.

 The beekeepers are busy 

and families are out in the fields in the middle of the day. 

All signs that winter is on the way and our cue to move back to town. 

But just before I shift the emphasis of this blog back to Bodrum town; a photo taken in the local village graveyard. 

An interestingly shaped stone used as a headstone,  different from the other graves but  not so you'd notice in passing. 

Looked at from the correct angle though, an Aeolic style capital from a Lelegian or Carian site, from the 6th or maybe even 7th century BC.  There is no inscription on the grave, so I have no idea when it was put here or where it originally came from but it's another teasing reminder of how much there is to discover. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bodrum Offer - Buy Tomb, Get One Free.

Knowing you are walking in the steps of those so long ago must make even a trip to the shops quite a thrill.

This comment on Thursday's post jogged my memory and sent me on a trip to the supermarket, camera in hand.  I'm sure Helen could not have guessed how applicable her words are to shopping in Bodrum. 

This  rock cut tomb was discovered about 20 years ago, just North of the Mindos gate, on the site of Gima supermarket and after excavation, incorporated into the building.  The  store is now called CarrefourSA  and as I don't shop here I'd forgotten the tomb even existed.  

Unfortunately the tomb's six sarcophagi were robbed in antiquity but sufficient bones and pottery fragments were found to date it to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.
If you visit, walk around the back and you'll see another tomb in the car park.  It's a shame there are no signs as I'm sure thousands of people drive by having no idea what they are missing. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Continuity - 3,400 Years.

Lots of people complain that Bodrum has changed too much in the last 30 years;  it has gone from a small fishing village to a busy international holiday resort, but if we take a very long view, Bodrum is actually just finding its way back to the glories of its past.  There is evidence of Mycenaean life in Bodrum which takes us to at least 1400BC and it appears that the site was continuously occupied for the next 3,400 years.  We know that it was an important city in the 5th century BC when it was home to Artemisia 1 and historian Herodotus, but it really took off in the 4th century BC when Satrap Mausolos made it his capital city.  In this century monuments were constructed that were so massive that they could be seen from the island of Kos; Bodrum and bling have obviously had a very long association.  

Halicarnassos  - University of Southern Denmark 
As I walk the dog through the streets of Bodrum, I do so with an awareness of the layers of history under my feet. It is one of the reasons I love living here.  Yesterday, in the Karia Princess Hotel, Prof. Poul Pedersen showed a fascinating slide of present day Bodrum Streets (left)  and the hypothetical street plan in the 4th century BC (right), showing that today's street plan follows Mausolos' city design.   It's exciting to think that we are still treading in the footsteps of those who lived over two millennia  ago.  My own address is telling.  I live on Mars Mabedi Caddesi - Temple of Mars Street.  I didn't choose the house because of the address, but as a lapsed archaeologist, I never tire of writing it down. 

University of Southern Denmark

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology - 50th Anniversary

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, housed in the Castle of St. Peter, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a seminar in the English tower on Wednesday.  A packed audience listened to  Prof. Dr. Fahri Işık talk about the newly discovered sarcophagus of Hekatomnos; Doç Dr. Cemal Pulak on the Kaş-Uluburun 14th century BC shipwreck and Prof. Dr. Poul Pedersen on the Danish Halikarnassos project.  I've been following the excavations of Hekatomnos' mausoleum in Milas with great interest and have been frustrated at the lack of information available so I was really keen to hear Dr. Işık talk. And he did entertainingly and in great detail but unfortunately I can't tell you anything about it as he made us all promise to keep it under our hats until he publishes his report.

The names of the above speakers will pass merrily over most people's heads but those of you interested in archaeology will understand how lucky we are living in Bodrum to listen to not just one of them, but all three on one afternoon, although my rear end was protesting a bit after 3 hours on a narrow bench.  As usual with these events, time ran on and as the 4:30 slot for the final concert approached and whizzed past, the second talk was only half way through.  In consequence, Prof. Pedersen's talk was occasionally overlaid with voluble protests from the concert goers and by appalling slow hand-clapping from outside.  However, I'm sure he will have a much more appreciative audience when he gives another lecture organised by H3A on Wednesday 12th November at 2pm at the Karia Princess Hotel.  If you are anywhere near Bodrum I would urge you to put this date in your diary. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Oben Kundura

I'm not swearing at you, although I think using "cobblers" as a pejorative term has probably passed into history, I'm celebrating that I still can wander down the road in Bodrum (Türk Kuyusu Caddesi in this case) and get my shoes and boots repaired.  I hate buying new shoes and get ridiculously attached to my old ones so I am never happier than when I hand my battered 10 year old lace-ups over to this man and 3 hours later, he hands me back a re-soled, re-laced version all for less than ten quid.  The shoes he has in front of him are ones I bought in Sweden last year. They never really felt comfortable, which just proves that buying new shoes is a bad idea, but with a bit of stretching and the heel built up inside I can now wear them without investing in a box of plasters first.  There are still several cobblers in Bodrum and long may they last.  When I was living in the UK it was almost impossible to get shoes repaired and just having a new heel and sole cover put on cost more than the shoes new.  It's the time of year when sandals have to be abandoned and socks come out of the drawer, so I'm sorting through the cupboard looking likely candidates for a make over.  In this house, re-booting has a completely different meaning.