Friday, 9 October 2015

Red October

An October sunset is a good reason to eat out early. Find your West facing table at 18:30 and you have half an hour to watch the splendid light show.  These pictures were taken from the Mandalya Restaurant in Güvercinlik. With the clocks not going back in Turkey until Sunday 8th November, it will feel as if we have two weeks of more evening time to enjoy the reds and golds.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Laurence's legacy

This photograph was taken in 1994. Hazel, Laurence and I had climbed to the top of Theangela, the nearest Lelegian site to my house. Laurence had a battered copy of George Bean's 1971 edition of 'Turkey Beyond the Meander' to guide us and we'd parked my car in the village of Etrim and headed straight up. The three hour climb wasn't much fun and Hazel had a sore ankle, (when she got back to the UK, her doctor couldn't believe that she'd been climbing mountains with a fractured bone) but we felt very proud of ourselves when we got right to the top. Just after this photo was taken, an ancient Fiat 124 drove past us and we discovered that we could have driven the whole way up a track at the back.  This wasn't my last trip with Laurence up a mountain in search of antiquity, we managed several more before he died at the unfairly young age of 41 in 2002.  Our first joint hike had been in 1980 in the Halkidiki in Greece. We borrowed a car and set off on a action packed 48 hours to see how many sites we could tick off in our guide book. Laurence got sunstroke and developed a life-long hatred of water melons and I decided that I loved water melons and was going to spend more time in this part of the world and not go back to the British Midlands. So when Helen, a fellow University of Birmingham archaeology graduate and frequent travelling companion of Laurence, and I found ourselves climbing to the top of the Hellenistic theatre in Stratonikeia, despite having run out of steps and having to clamber over mud and dislodged masonry, we could only blame one person. Laurence; he must have made us do it. He was probably having a good laugh at our ungainly progress. (I had to descend most of the way on my bottom as the sides were really steep.)

It was worth the climb as the recently excavated Augustus-Imperial temple comes into view as one crests the lip of the top cavea, and despite visiting this theatre many times, this was my first view of the ongoing temple restoration.  

In homage to past trips with Mr L. Bowkett, we discovered that the main road to Yatağan  passes directly behind the temple, which, being well signposted, could have been reached without a climb, but as Laurence would have said - where's the fun in that!

Related posts: Stranonikeia    Old friends    Concert at Stratonikeia

Monday, 5 October 2015

Autumn mists and wood collecting.

This summer, unusually high temperatures have been accompanied by almost uninterrupted low pressure, making the air feel heavy and oppressive, so it is a relief that October heralds the arrival of fresh misty mornings that make the first dog walk of the day a pleasure rather than a chore. October also sees the start of firewood collecting and Jake and I often meet a two legged mobile wood stack on our morning ramble.
We don't use an open fire or a wood burner but did have five felled pine trees in our garden and several villagers had approached us about taking the wood off our hands.

Rather than offend anyone by accepting one offer and refusing another, it seemed easier to donate the wood to the ladies in the village who have lost their husbands. The felled trees were inspected and the third day of Bayram was chosen as the best day to cut up the tree trunks, as plenty of family members would be available to dismember and transport the logs. (I'm not sure how happy they were at being volunteered for this duty on one of their rare days off, but they all came along.)  

Our garden has never seen such intense activity as three chain saws buzzed and three vans were repeatedly filled and emptied. We kept back just one large tree trunk which will go off to the saw mill and hopefully will one day grace our terrace as a bench, table or planter to remind us of the massive tree that towered over us for years. 

Related posts;  Up, up and away,  Mornings

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Vine Harvest Festival

I have just spent a very pleasant morning in Mumcular at a festival of regional crafts, food and drink and a celebration of Mother Nature's benevolence to make us forget about the deluge she doused us with on Tuesday. On this warm sunny Saturday, it's hard to imagine the torrential rain 4 days ago.
I didn't have my photo taken at the Bağbozumu Hatırası stand above but was happy to snap away as others did.  Hatıra is a memento or a reminder and the festival organisers' aim is to keep these local crafts current and not let them be consigned to a distant memory.  The best way to encourage these activities is to give them a commercial outlet and encourage the next generation to learn from their elders. Most visitors landing at Bodrum airport head straight to the Bodrum peninsula and bypass all the villages and countryside on the way, thus missing out on the local heritage.  Steps are being discussed to divert some of these tourists inland.

I leant to spin 30 years ago, I was itching to try again. 

It's a subject close to my heart as I organised trips to these villages starting back in 1984 and all my clients really appreciated the chance to visit a local houses and sample home cooking and to watch wool being spun and dyed in preparation for carpet weaving.  It certainly influenced me as I decided to sell up in Bodrum and move out to the Karaova plains myself.

Sylvie, owner of Sylvie's Goats, producers of organic cheese. 

The festival continues tomorrow, Sunday, with talks, a cookery contest and a film.  If you are reading this within driving distance of Mumcular, I suggest you drop in to sample local wines, cheeses, pastries, syrups, honey, olive oil and preserves and if you are reading abroad, pop a hatıra in your diary to visit Mumcular/Karaova when you plan your next trip to Bodrum.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Aftermath - Recriminations and Blame

Photo from Daily Sabah Newspaper. Slideshow here
Insults are flying. Everyone is blaming the town council, developers, large hotel chains but when Geography and Mother Nature get together, there is not much mere human beings can do. Bodrum is and always has been in the bottom of a natural bowl surrounded by hills. Any water falling on the highland has to flow through the town into the sea.  Bodrumites are used to flooding as we live in a natural drain, but we are not used to it happening in the summer.  The last time I can remember a summer flood was in 1988. A sunny August day turned thundery and the ensuing downpour swept through the market and carried all the vegetable bobbing down the main road into the sea; the same main road that saw cars being tumbled about on Tuesday night. In those days we didn't have drainage channels, just dere sokağı,  streets that are really river beds.  Ill-advisedly, these River Roads - despite keeping their name - have been more and more treated as areas suitable for commerce and accommodation. If you live or work on a "River Road"  it should come as no surprise to you that during heavy rainfall your street will start to fill with water and as the rain gets heavier,  leaving a car parked in a dere sokağı is madness.  The above picture is the Oasis Shopping Mall. Built in the lee of hills but apparently with insufficient drainage for through water.  I hope the architects are bowing their heads.  The above mentioned authorities all have to bear their responsibilities as infrastructural planning is minimal, haphazard or non-existent but that is the way in this country; first get the building up and then worry about services, sewage and drainage.  Lots of those complaining and blaming, enjoy living or visiting Bodrum, but if the strict restrictions they are asking for had been enforced, their own hillside houses would never have been allowed to be built.  Rather than looking to blame, sometimes we just have to accept that when nature opens the tap or pulls the rug from under us, be it flood or earthquake, there is nothing we can do except clear up and start again. If we learn from the experience then all to the good, but don't hold your breath.

Other flood related posts Bodrum Rain stopped play

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bayram Blues

What is it about Bank Holidays and weather? Two days of rain were predicted to herald the start of Sacrifice Festival, Eid al-Adha, Kurban Bayam or what ever you call it. (I once overheard someone refer to it a "Blood in the Streets Day").  Last week, the Powers That Be decided to extend the holiday from 4 to 7 days and the weather forecast adjusted accordingly. We are now in the middle of three days of torrential downpours; gardens have turned into ponds and Bodrum's main highway resembles a river bed.
A snippet from my daughter's journey home 

What is it about Bank Holidays and technical malfunctions?  Our internet has worked perfectly for months but as the newly extended public break neared, our system went on a premature go-slow before giving up the ghost and crashing completely. A visit from a technician gave us brief hope on Saturday but all Sunday and Monday were spent disconnected from the outside world. We thought we'd be cut off until the end of the festival but are surprised and pleased to be back online today. I should have spent the weekend preparing lots of posts to fill the last few days of September but instead I've re-discovered burying myself in a good book or two. I have also slept much better than I have for ages so all those articles that tell us to ditch the social media before bedtime must be right after all.

 Related post - Bayram Best Wishes

Monday, 14 September 2015


Acclimatising to Turkish village life always takes me a couple of days after a trip abroad. I’m reluctant to get into the car, especially when I’ve just been on a traffic-free island. Driving in Bodrum in the summer is a chore to be avoided but the fridge was bare so a shopping trip was unavoidable and the 32 degrees on the garden thermometer ruled out the bicycle.   The main road to Mumcular has been getting progressively more pot-holed as the thin layer of pre-election promissory tarmac wears away and it may be a coincidence, but as another election approaches, a layer of gravel has been spread over the whole road in anticipation of another meagre spraying of tar.  Gravel is probably a too grand a word for the white crumbly aggregate, which turns to a thick white cloud as each vehicle passes.  This white dust hides small stones that ricochet between passing vehicles. Local wisdom holds that a finger placed on the windscreen will prevent said stones from shattering the glass, thus most drivers are negotiating the friable road surface with only one hand on the wheel and if you consider that using a mobile phone is almost mandatory here when driving , you can imagine why I’m reluctant to get behind the wheel.  On Sunday, I sat at the T-junction leaving our village. In the distance a white mass was billowing towards me at great speed. I decided to sit and wait for it to pass, which it did but maybe my presence caused the driver to consider moderating his speed.  As he sped past me, his previous straight trajectory starting to wobble and in a second the car was imitating a snake crossing our swimming pool (yes, quite often).  If he hadn’t had the misfortune to divert towards the only fenced field, he might have got away with just a load of maize in his bonnet, but the concrete corner post that brought him to an abrupt stop, severely shortened the length of his car.  Amazingly both driver and passenger were already crawling out of the wreck when I arrived and were scratching their heads as to why one minute they’d been speeding along and the next they weren’t. The Turkish news has a phrase for this kind of accident. They say the driver “direksiyon hakimiyetini kaybetti”, i.e “lost control of where they were going’.  You will see this phrase in almost every accident report, as if “losing control” is just something one does on a regular basis and a valid reason for totalling one’s ride. 
I was sad to see that the smashed-up car was a Renault 12, the stalwart of village life. Many a family swapped a few donkeys for a Renault 12 in the 1970s and treat them in a similar way.  Anything can be put in or on them. They are as happy on a paved road as in a field and they need very little money spent on them in maintenance.  Many of the Renault 12s you see around here are a good 30 years old and though they rarely come on the market, they’ll still change hands for several thousand TL.  Where the donkey wins, of course, is that if the driver “loses control”, it can usually make its own way home. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Even more reason to visit Bodrum.

Bodrum is in the newspapers on a daily basis and BBC radio is broadcasting from Bodrum Marina and yet BacktoBodrum is not posting.  I apologise for my absence but a family wedding in the UK and an unscheduled cooking assignment in Greece have kept me away from home for over two weeks,  except for a brief and welcome 10 hours flying visit on Saturday night.  I too am reading about what's happening in Turkey and have been saddened by the tragic pictures in the press. Beaches are for children to enjoy with buckets and spades, not to be washed up on as flotsam.  It takes a harrowing photograph to engage the world's interest and finally the plight of the thousands of refugees crossing the Aegean is being focussed on.  While governments dither and faff about, the good people of the Aegean Coast have pulled out all the stops to give aid to the transitory visitors to their towns.  Groups have been formed to provide nappies, clothes and sanitary goods. Others are cooking hot meals or making sandwiches and distributing them to those living in the streets. Babies born to fleeing mothers have been checked out at hospitals. Homes have been opened to allow families to shower and changes of clothes offered.  The people traffickers are making their fortunes charging 1000s of Euros for ill-fated sea passages and not letting their "cargo" take any personal items with them, so other individuals from Bodrum are taking clothes and supplies to the Greek island of Kos so that those who survive the sea journey have something to greet them when they reach Europe.  If only the swell of human kindness could persuade European, US and other Middle Eastern powers to act in an humanitarian way.  I want to ask Tony Blair where he is. He was very keen to send in planes to this area not long ago. It is the aftermath of this ill-thought out and badly concluded plan that we are living through now. He is supposed to be a Middle East diplomacy expert these days.  Could he not broker a deal to send in some more planes, this time to uplift the poor folk that are being loaded on to unseaworthy rubber dinghies.  He could get his mates in those oil rich states nearby to finance the operation. Or at least start the process of allowing the refugees to get exit visas, so they do not have to hand over their life savings to a shark on a dark beach. While European leaders chop and change about whether they accept 10 or 100 thousand refugees each, nobody seems to be discussing where the other couple of million displaced people are going to go.
If you were planning to visit Bodrum and have been put off by the news, please still come.  All the locals helping out refugees rely in some way on tourism. It is our only serious industry.  Please continue to support those that are really doing something to help human beings in trouble, rather than just discussing it as a policy.

Previous posts on a similar topic

Monday, 31 August 2015

Expectation v. Experience

When I'm in England I get very jealous of all the beautiful gardens I walk past. I am not a good gardener. I have neither the patience nor the stamina to spend hours digging and weeding. I am however a good planter.  I plant anything I can get my hands on and in my mind's eye they grow tall, bushy and flower profusely.  I have lots of excuses as to why my garden isn't blooming - it's too hot, too dry, there are too many pine trees etc, but it's just as hot 100m down the road and our neighbour's garden looks great, we have an automated watering system and now the looming pine tree has been airlifted out, I can't use that excuse anymore.  Every year I buy packets of seeds in England and hope they will thrive in my Turkish garden. I had success once with Dahlias and Cosmos, so every year I hope ( if I invested as much energy in muck spreading as I did in hoping, I'm sure my garden would win a medal).  This year I'm banking on Aquilegia. They grew so well in my English garden and self-sowed with such abandon that I rarely had to buy a packet of seeds.

It will be a long wait as they flower the year after planting, by which time I will probably have forgotten where I planted them.  In the Spring I really thought I was on to a winner with my sweet peas. The plants were growing vigorously and even started to produce a few flowers but as soon as the temperatures rose, they turned brown and died, despite constant watering.  
I don't have much luck with locally bought seeds and bulbs either.  I planted 50 tulip bulbs last year and 6 came up.  But I'm not giving up; 33 years of indiffent success has not put me off, and I'm off to the garden centre tomorrow to stock up with Cosmos seeds and, on the one day next week that I'm back in Turkey, I will order a few tractor loads of manure to give them a chance of blooming. Hope spring eternal in the BacktoBodrum garden.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Çökertme - Captain Ibrahim

Captain Ibrahim and friend

As we left Captain Ibrahim's restaurant last week, the eponymous owner reminded us that he'd been born while Atatürk still drew breath and in historical terms, this restaurant keeps popping up in my time line.  I will probably tell my not-yet-conceived grandchildren that I used to watch the Captain dress up as a pirate, (complete with black şalvar, eye patch and dodgy fake facial hair) and dance around the tables firing a pistol into the air. A minion would be positioned on the roof to throw down a dead bird. I'm not sure what the life expectancy of this job was but it appeared to be as dangerous as being a rear gunner in a Halifax in 1942.  Incredulous foreign yachties would watch opened mouthed as the show continued, not entirely sure whether they should continue eating their meze, or run for the hills.  We were regulars; crew on the lead boat of a flotilla. We'd moor up our 12 or so sloops, take part in a bit of showing off;  being towed behind a speedboat on a windsurf board being one of the dafter activities, before donning our glad-rags (Yachttours t-shirt, very short shorts) and shepherding 50 guests ashore.  Alcohol was so cheap and plentiful that we were reluctant to let guests try and make their own way back after a night out so we were ferried by restaurant tenders.  In 1982 there wasn't much competition, everyone went to Captain Ibrahim's.  These days, each restaurant in Çökertme sends a dinghy out to newly arriving yachts to entice them to tie up their jetty.


There has rarely been a year in the subsequent 33 that we haven't paid at least one visit to the Captain.  There is no shooting anymore but the place hasn't changed much.  Except for the immaculate showers and toilets, it could still be 1982.

2015 with Simon, friend from 1975, on Captain Ibrahim's jetty.