Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Sartorial standards are slipping in the BtoB household. I blame my broken arm. Getting dressed with a cast is tricky so I've narrowed my options down to 3 baggy shirts and 3 drawstring trousers.  I kid myself that as long as I'm wearing linen, I'll look cool and elegant.  Not being able to use an iron, ensures that I look crumpled and creased. None of this matters on my early morning walks as Jake and I join the villagers in the forest.  Cold weather is approaching so the usually empty forest is dotted with my distant neighbours out gathering fire wood. Everyone living on the edge of woodland has the right to gather fallen and dead wood for their stoves. The forestry commission cleared a large tract of land  next to our house this year, getting rid of all the dead wood but leaving massive unearthed tree roots, so the mornings ring to the sound of axes pinging off the giant stumps.

I feel as if I've walked into a Gainsborough painting when these ladies emerge from the morning mist, carrying their stick stacks on their backs.  I like the idea that this occupation has been going on for centuries.

Any romantic notions I had though, were quashed when this lady, who laughingly agreed to have her photograph taken, had to break the pose to fish her ringing mobile phone out of her blouse.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Last Spring

This weekend sees the Autumnal Equinox which heralds the change in seasons. In Turkey the word for Fall or Autumn is Sonbahar, literally "last spring". This is a much more optimistic route into winter as it promises new growth and a return to green. The photo above is the pond at the bottom of our garden in Ilkbahar,  first Spring this year and the picture below was taken this afternoon.

The pond never completely dries out  but it's a murky green colour now and the earth around is split in deep cracks and crevices.The cows still visit twice a day and don't seem to complain about the water quality. This is as dry as it gets and from now on, even though we may not have any rain for a month, the mornings start to feel damp and the dew will encourage the first plants to sprout. 

Even in this parched landscape there are still a few flashes of colour and it's the humble thistle that is providing the lovely lilac splashes. Those of you that have stuck with me from the beginning  know that cooking, eating and drinking thistles has been a minor theme of this blog so it is fitting that I have a picture of them on my 100th post. 

Thistle Posts:

Monday, 17 September 2012

Coming a Cropper in Kalkan

The Grim Reaper has been busy recently and we found ourselves on the road to Kalkan for a funeral. It used to be a straight 6 hours drive from Bodrum to Kalkan, so we set off at 7am and found ourselves at the mosque at 11am. The highway rejuvenation, not yet finished, has already improved the route by a whole 2 hours, so we had time on our hands. We parked up by the graveyard, ready for a speedy retreat and walked down into the town. Kalkan, to me has always been Kaş's less attractive sister and the modern streets that have grown up around the old harbour center have little to recommend them, but the heart of Kalkan is not that different to the town I sailed into in 1981 and for that I'm grateful. Kalkan obviously feels that I'm not 100% committed to its new upmarket image and took its revenge. One second I was stepping off the pavement, the next I was kissing the flag stones in the middle of the road.  My husband informs me that he was just thinking how slippery the stone was when I disappeared from view.  One bloody knee later, I was keen to distance myself from the scene of my ignominy and I hobbled to a harbour-front restaurant for brunch. (The most expensive omelette I've eaten, but they did give me a plaster). Funeral over, we headed back home with a diversion to see friends on a yacht in Fethiye marina. It was shaking hands with their crew that made me suspect that there was something wrong with my right hand. I have a pretty high pain threshold but 24 hours later, I finally admitted to myself that a trip to the hospital was inevitable and my broken arm was incased in a cast.  Cooking is out, as is hand-writing. Typing one-handedly is time consuming and putting on a bra takes me 15 minutes.  I'm hoping that the enforced use of my left hand will spark new inspiration in my rather jaded brain and you will be getting more imaginative posts in the next three weeks.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Jeep Safari - At your own risk

Thank you for all the comments on my last post.  You unanimously approve of a plaster giraffe in my garden;  now I'll have to sell the idea to my (aesthetically sensitive) husband. Alan's comments on jeep accidents prompted me to check the safety record of these tours. I've found reports of 4 really bad crashes in 4 years.  Par for the course I suppose with 3 or 4 groups of jeeps going out every day from each resort, BUT, reading the feedback on forums from customers who have been on these trips, I can only think that Allah is looking after these safari companies. Common practice seems to be to overcrowd the jeeps by 2 or 3 passsengers. The small Suzuki 4x4s which are registered for 5, often have 6 or 7 passengers.  Seat belts are either unavailable or not used. I know this is true as the tourists who pass my garden wall are often standing up.  Clients are provided with water pistols so when the jeeps race side by side, they can "shoot" the occupants of the passing jeep. A fatal accident in 2008 was attributed to the jeep driver being blinded by water as he overtook a tractor.  One accident was caused by the driver jumping out of his seat and running alongside the vehicle, showing off that he could control the jeep as he ran beside. He couldn't - it crashed.  If you are still contemplating booking, UK travel insurance doesn't usually cover off-road trips so you should pay for extra cover.  My worry has always been the danger of one careless punter throwing a lighted cigarette out of the jeep as it rushes through the forest. A selfish concern I know, but they will be long gone as hectares of pine and olive trees burn to the ground.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Jeep Safari - A Drive on the Wild Side.

My morning dog walks have been coinciding with the daily jeep safari. I prefer not to meet them as they zoom quite fast through the forest and whip up a dust cloud that must negate any health benefits I gain from my morning stroll.  I vary my timings but so do the jeeps, so we've encountered each other 3 times in the last 7 days. I'm a bit sorry for the customers on board. It can't be much fun being bumped over a rough road with the sun pelting down, eating the dirt of the jeep in front. I also feel that they are being a bit short changed. They might see a stork or a heron, a few cows and a goat or two, but I don't think I,  a middle-aged Brit in a Marks and Spencer's floral dress, add to their experience of Turkey's wild side.  The jeep companies have put terrapins and fish in our ponds to add a bit of interest to the trip but I think I can do better. 
There is a shop on the main road to the airport that sells plaster statues. It's had a giraffe and an elephant  on show for the last couple of years. Do you think I should investigate getting them up to our garden to lurk behind a pine tree to give the safari guys a thrill? When my daughter was little, I had to make her a paper maché dolphin head for a school play and everyone (very rudely) said it looked more like an ear-less donkey.  I could find it in the store room and have it peaking out from a bush to add a frisson to the trip.  At least it would provide a few more photo opportunities. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

7th September - A Bittersweet Day for Bodrum

Photo from Mehmet Kocadon's Facebook page. 

After just under 100 days in jail, Mehmet Kocadon elected, but now deposed, Mayor of Bodrum, had his day in court on Thursday 6th September. A convoy of supporters left Bodrum for Muğla early in the morning and crowded  outside the courthouse for most of the day. The hope had been that the man most still consider to be Bodrum's rightful mayor, would be returning with them that day, but the hearing was extended to a second day and the convoy had to come home empty handed.  On Friday a repeat performance was enacted and gradually the news started to filter through that Mr. Kocadon had been released on bail and was on his way back to Bodrum.  As the celebrations started, news also began to surface that Kemal Merkit, Turkey's first competitor in the Paris-Dakkar rally, had been killed in a race in Anatolia.  Kemal started his motorcycle career during the 1980s and 90s while he was resident in Bodrum. His ever increasingly arduous races on both bikes and in jeeps gained him the nickname "Desert Tiger".  The jubilations to welcome home Mehmet Kocadon continued into the night but for long term Bodrum residents, the day was overshadowed with great sadness.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Fig Jam

I went into Bodrum this week and was sad to see that all the fig trees around the bus station were shedding their fruit onto the pavements and it was being squashed underfoot. Bodrumites are obviously too busy rushing about to have time to collect this bounty.  Luckily I'm a 50% villager so I've been busy making fig jam.  I don't have any fig trees (a deficiency we will address this winter) so had to buy from the Sunday market, but at this time of year figs are on sale just about everywhere, especially by the side of major roads where you get to buy them in twee little baskets.  The only commercially available fig jams in Turkey are more like figs in syrup;  the recipe calls for a litre of water to be added to the figs and sugar. I like a thick consistency that can stand up for itself so I adapted my strawberry jam recipe and hoped for the best.

3 kg ripe fresh figs
2.25kg sugar
juice of 3 lemons
2 packets of "reçel yap" or 2 tsp powdered or liquid pectin

Snip off the hard stalk end of each fig and slice into 4.  I got very sticky doing this with a knife and found a pair of kitchen scissors made the job much easier.  Add the sugar, pectin and lemon juice to the figs in a large preserving pan, cover with a tea towel and leave for 4 hours.  When you go back to the pan you'll be surprised at the amount of juice that has been extracted from the fruit. Put the pan on a low heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. I then used a stick blender to break up the fruit in the pan but this is optional.  Bring the pan up to a rolling boil and don't leave the stove. If you turn your back the bottom will stick and you'll have burnt jam, so keep stirring occasionally to stop it catching.  A thermometer is the most useful bit of kit to have if you're a jam maker as the mixture has to come up to 112C or  220 F degrees to set.  As an indicator, mine boiled for 15 minutes.  Once this temperature has been reached keep the rolling boil until a drop of jam on a cold plate starts to wrinkle.  Turn off the heat and start sterilizing your jars.  I put clean jars in the oven at 100 C for 20 minutes.  Allow them to cool slightly then pour the hot jam into the hot jars and seal. 

We've already got through two jars as this is a fantastic accompaniment to hard ewes cheese for breakfast and a spoonful added to  banana, nectarine and milk makes a great afternoon milkshake. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

If you go down to the woods today ...

In the summer,  I live in an undeveloped part of South West Turkey.  We deliberately chose to head 15 kms inland  to the edge of  a forest to escape the crowds and, 20 years later, we are lucky to still have plenty of open spaces and no near neighbours. An ideal place for walking a dog and letting him run around.  You may wonder why I have a picture of Jake on his lead.  A few days ago, I heard that Zeytin, a dog belonging to a friend, was fighting for her life because she'd picked up some rat poison while being walked in a public forest near Marmaris. The awful thing about this poison is that by the time the dog shows any symptoms,  massive internal damage is inevitable.  After days on a drip and lots of injections, Zeytin is thankfully rallying, but this news is a wake-up call. Not everyone appreciates the forest: in the past week two trailer loads of rubbish have been dumped not 200 meters from our garden gate. The most annoying aspect of this is the fact that this wasn't just a black bag, a plastic bottle, a coke can or picnic debris that was dumped, it was trash that was actually loaded on to a trailer  or the back of a pick-up truck and, instead of  bringing it to the forest, the perpetrator could have driven to the official rubbish dump just as easily.  I'm not sure what we can do to stop this happening again as it's unlikely to be anyone living locally.  We just have to hope we catch the guilty party in action and call the jandarma.

With such thoughtless idiots around, who knows what is being thrown into the undergrowth.  I  will certainly not be letting Jake out of my sight on our walks and keeping my fingers and toes crossed for Zeytin's recovery.    

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Gümüşlük - No More Rabbits

Gümüşlük is one of the very few protected anchorages on the Aegean coast between Bodrum and Kuşadası and for centuries sailors have breathed a sigh of relief as they sailed through the narrow harbour entrance and  escaped the vicious meltemi winds.  I first visited Gümüşlük in 1981 on Sinbad Severn, a 76 foot ketch.  Minutes after dropping anchor we received a visit from the local gendarmerie, who rowed over to inspect our passports and transit log and in theory, check that we didn't have any contraband or relics aboard. They stomped over the teak deck in their metal tipped and healed boots and no one felt comfortable asking them to observe the no-shoes policy. (Thank goodness, imagine 4 young guys removing heavy boots they'd been wearing daily in the August heat). After a lot of stamping (paper-work not boots) we'd wave goodbye and we'd be one bottle of JohnnyWalker and jar of Nescafe lighter.  As the yacht's cook, I loved Gümüşlük because the guests always ate on shore and as a recent archaeology graduate I had the chance to get out my copy of George Bean's  "Beyond the Meander" and visit the ruins of ancient Myndos.  Despite being written over 40 years ago, George Bean's guides are still  the best companions to take while traveling along coastal Turkey.  In Gümüşlük in the early eighties, there was still the outline of the ancient theatre, although the stones had been put to more practical uses. The mosaics were visible on the isthmus and if you kept your eyes peeled, Roman and later coins would be kicked up under foot. The massive walls encircling the 750 hectares of city could be followed almost all the way round.
I'd also wade across to Rabbit Island, where there was not a lot to see except a colony of rabbits introduced by a local restaurateur as a tourist attraction. A few massive blocks showed that there was some archaeology on the island, and the city wall;  mistakenly referred to as "the King's Way" by the locals could easily be seen less than a meter under the sea. It seemed unlikely that I'd ever know what was under the rough vegetation and rabbit droppings as, at the time, there appeared to be a lack of interest in the remains and much of the decorative marble and mosaic was being snaffled away on such a scale, that I could notice the difference from one year to the next.

Zoom forward  over 3 decades and this rather long-winded introduction leads me to last Thursday, when the excavations that have been going on since 2008 on Rabbit (no more) Island were opened to the public and we had the chance to wade through the sea to visit the site and listen to Pro. Dr Mustafa Şahin from Uludağ University talk us through his 4 years of excavations.

Climbing up through the uncovered streets, past a speculative entrance gate,  we were met at the summit by a beaming Prof. standing by jewel in the crown of his excavation.  A church dating from the 4th century AD, the central of its three nave floors being almost completely intact, decorated with a geometric mosaic. Below the floor they have uncovered a crypt with 11 graves containing 194 skeletons and evidence that bodies were placed on planks to decompose before the skeleton was added to the grave.  The excavations on the island are expected to continue until 2018, by which time the most interesting structures will be reinstated and the island re-opened to the public.