Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bulldozer at Breakfast

The rumble of a bulldozer is quite unmistakable and it's never a welcome sound and especially not so at 7:30 am. This one appeared to be heading towards our garden wall. I watched it with mounting dread as I drank my morning tea on the terrace. Earlier in the year a whole swath of forest had been cleared next to us and a new road put in.  As I've said before in this blog, we built our house 20 years ago and still have no near neighbours, so consider ourselves very lucky to have escaped Bodrum's building boom but realise that this blissful state can't last for ever.  That said, I was already constructing a very high imaginary garden wall to keep out what ever this dozer driver's employers had in store for us.  Despite the mechanical beast's noise and the dog's hysterical barking, my husband had slept through the row and as 3 men appeared at our wall with GPS machines and maps, I decided it was time to get him involved.  I watched from a distance as hands were shaken. A cigarette break ensued. The machine stopped and the driver jumped down. The dog was introduced to the bulldozer which stopped the barking.  Peace reigned. A lot of pointing went on and maps were waved about, much pacing up and down and gesticulating followed. The digger then started up and backed off the way it had come. Hubby and dog came back both looking very pleased with themselves.
It turns out that the new road put in 9 months ago had, unintentionally, been driven through private rather than forestry land so had to be moved. The three chaps with maps had decided to direct it towards us but listened to hubby when he suggested that they could send it up to the existing forest road and keep it well away from our garden wall, and surprisingly agreed to move it again. And that was that - no hassle - they redrew the map and the bulldozer started again on a different tangent.  If that wasn't good enough news, we found out that the area is to be replanted with "fire-resistant trees" what ever they are, so our nightmares of industrial estates and factories can be put to bed for a few more years.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


As promised, a short guide dedicated to Labranda. 

We are heading for the top of the mountain in the middle of the photograph. The first time I drove to Labranda, I thought the car axle would fall off as we had to bump over a pebbly river bed and scrabble up scree, but much progress has been made in the past 3 decades and now there is a "proper" highway almost all the way to the site.

Almost...the last kilometre is a bit rough and I wouldn't want to visit in the rain. As I drive up, and look down at the fantastic view,  I have to remind myself that in the 4th century BC, once a year, pilgrims walked or rode the 14 kms from Milas along a 8m wide sacred way, to spend 5 days sacrificing, feasting, playing sports and celebrating in honour of Zeus. It's apt then that we are visiting on the first day of Kurban Bayram - Sacrifice Festival - Eid Al-Adha.

The name Labranda or Labraunda is thought to come from  the word "Labrys" a double headed axe which was the cult symbol of Zeus Labraudos and a sanctuary to him was established around 650BC on this  mountain top.  It was originally probably just a cleared plateau with spring water that drew devotees from Mylasa. The sanctuary developed immensely in the 4th century BC due to the influence of Hecatomnus and his family. 

A brief history lesson: Hecatomnus, a native Carian ruling Milas as a Persian satrap, had 3 sons; Mausolus, Idrieus and Piksodarus and 2 daughters; Artemissa and Ada. Mausolus married Artemissa, and Idrieus married Ada. Mausolus succeeded his father in 377BC and at a sacrificial feast at the sanctuary at Labranda, narrowly avoided being assassinated.  To celebrate his survival, he embarked on a building program that was continued after his death in 352BC  by his brother Idrieus until his own death in 344BC.  The Roman period is represented by two bath houses and Christianity appears in the shape of two churches and a baptistry.

The Temple to Zeus probably planned by Mausolus but constructed by his brother Idrieus. 

Above is one of the two "Andrones" or dining rooms built to hold feasts; the walls still stand to 8m high. There was one Androne for favoured guests where about 40 men would eat enjoying the view from the large windows  and one for less important visitors. The majority of visitors would camp at the site.

The word "Labranda" is synonymous with water in Milas. For years it was the only drinking water available and there are 32 spring houses between the site and Milas.  The spring under the giant split rock at the top of the site was probably the reason the sanctuary was originally developed here. 

There are over 100 tombs visible today outside the site. This is the most impressive, just above the sacred terrace, with 5 sarcophagi inside and a vaulted ceiling.

There are also rock cut tombs above the site and many individual sarcophagi covered by a massive stone gabled lids on the way up to and after the sanctuary. 

In antiquity there would have been many priests , workmen and farmers living on and around Labranda. Now there's just the guardian.  Gulsum will take your 5TL in exchange for a ticket and sell you a jar of honey for 15TL. She also gave us a large stick to keep off her dogs that took offense to Jake's visit. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mountain Goats

The white goats were very popular so I'm going with a black goat this time.

With one Atheist and one Anglican in our household, Kurban Bayram (Sacrifice Holiday) doesn't get a look in.  In our past life in Bodrum, nearly every family slaughtered a sheep, ram or cow in their garden or on their door step and the streets did literally run with blood at this festival. While we were away a new law was passed designating registered slaughter areas so it is now easier to avoid the gory sights.  (We did see a few garden executions yesterday, but the Jandarma were in attendance at one, so the message will eventually get through).  Rather than killing a goat, we spent Bayram trying to emulate a goat and did a bit of mountain rambling. 

This was Jake's first serious archaeological hike. From the look on his face, he seems to know that this is going to be his fate for at least the next decade.  (I recognize the expression - I used to see it on my daughter just before she said "Oh no Mum - not more stones").

First we introduced him to an expert so he could see what was expected of him. 

Then it was a scramble to the top of the 4th century BC sanctuary at Labranda

This is such an impressive site in the mountains above Milas that I'll give it its own post, sans goats, tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Goats in the Grape Vines

My parents have gone home but while they were here we joined a local tour to the Selis Vineyard and Farm.  It's only 15 minutes drive from us but this was my first visit. I was hoping to pick up some tips on planting vines as we have about 5,000 square metres of land sitting empty and I fancy the idea of a few demijohns of home-brew bubbling in the workshop.   Sitting on the terrace at Selis, we could have been in Italy. The setting is impressive with about 150,000 sq. m planted with vines, olive trees, fruit trees and artichokes. They also have a herd of pure white goats and produce their own cheese.  As we walked up to the beautiful stone building that houses the winery and cellar, I was just about to ask the owner a few in depth questions about grapes varieties when we were overtaken by the goats.  A gate had been left open and these greedy beasts knew exactly where they were going. 

Straight for some impromptu vine pruning. 

A few stern words from the owner had the staff rounding up the errant animals

and eventually they were persuaded back into their paddock.

I'm none the wiser about viticulture but the trip was worth it just to watch the goats have such a fantastic time. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Burst Pipe

We thought we had plumbing problems. Driving back from Bodrum last night, we were confused by the sight of police cars which seemed to been heading off the main road up into the forest. A couple of seconds later it became obvious what they were up to. The main water pipe carrying drinking water to Bodrum had burst and gallons of water was pouring onto the main road. The very high central reservation had contained the water and turned our carriageway into a lake nearly half a meter deep. We were diverted onto the other side and couldn't see much in the dark, but the flood had obviously brought down a section of the rock face and several cars were buried under the debris.  Thankfully, I learn from the Hurriyet newspaper, that these had been parked so no one was hurt.  So glad we left Bodrum a little later than planned. The last time I drove a Golf into water above its bumper, it coughed and died for ever.


Friday, 19 October 2012

Beware of Pepper Trees

It started with a damp patch and then the unmistakable hiss of water escaping where it shouldn't.  Nothing much to do about it on a Friday night except turn off the main stopcock and hope for the best. Şaban, our trusted Bodrum plumber, was with us by 9am the next morning despite the 40 km journey from his workshop.  A leak in the mains pipe was diagnosed and as this runs the length of our garden, Şaban, sidekick and hubby got down to some serious pruning to get at the pipe. By mid-afternoon the problem was solved, new pipes had been fitted and goodbyes were about to be said, when I remembered that our bath wasn't draining very well.  Four hours later, our courtyard looked like this!

The last time our pipes got blocked socks! were found in the pipe. (Yes, washing machines really do eat socks). This blockage was refusing to budge and as it got dark, work had to be postponed until Monday.
After much more digging and drilling, the cause of our problems emerged.

This is a root of a pepper tree. It had grown on top of our plastic waste pipe and slowly squashed it until nothing much was getting through. I knew that eucalyptus trees shouldn't be built near houses and now I know that neither should pepper trees.  I dread to think what they are doing to out foundations.  We've found a good plumber, now on the look out for a man with a chain saw.

Well recommended

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Sea Dog

Another boating post. Despite my sailing background I hardly ever get out on the water so two boat trips in a week is a treat for me. This time it was all family. My parents visiting from England, my daughter on her day off from work, hubby and Jake the dog.  This was Jake's first trip out to sea and for a 6.5 month old pup he was brilliant.  He's a bit scared of gangplanks so had to be carried on board but happily sat on deck as we sped over to Kiremit Island near Gümüşlük. I thought he'd be phased by the noise of two 800hp engines, but he sat at my feet and seemed pretty laid back about the whole thing. He found a nice shady spot under the dining table and spent most of the day there chewing his toys. Transfer to the dinghy for his afternoon walk went without a hitch and, thoroughly worn out after a long ramble over the rabbit infested island, he slept all the way back to Turgutreis marina. I breathed a sigh of relief as we got back in the car to drive home; it could have gone so wrong but we left the decks as pristine as we found them.  As my father commented, this dog has been on this planet before - he knows how to behave if you want to get invited back.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

An Octopus or Two on Board.

The end of September or early October is the best time to take a yacht trip in the Gulf of Gokova. The burning temperatures have finished but the sea is still warm. Even pale-skins like me can sit out on deck without succumbing to sunstroke or factor 60. There will be one or two big storms in the next 20 days but at the moment the sea is calm. I went out for a day trip on a small gulet with a group of friends  last week and we were joined by a couple of unexpected guests. The first octopus the captain caught was big enough to be kept for the pot. The second one, hiding in a broken beer bottle, made a bid for freedom across the dining table and after a few photos, was thrown back in the sea to grow up,

Cooking octopus is one of the issues that divide the Greeks and the Turks:  Both agree that the body has to be turned inside out and the innards and ink sack discarded - both slap the octopus on a rock at least forty times to tenderize it and then rub the octopus on a rock, like washing on a washboard (as if anyone knows what one of these is now)  until it produces its own foam. After removing the beak and eyes,  the Turkish cooks will then put it in a pot to braise slowly  in its own juices.  The Greek cooks hang the octopus out on a washing line to dry. This gruesome sight used to turn my stomach in my early days in the Aegean, but after eating octopus in both Kos and Bodrum, I have to side with the Greeks.  The best way to eat this fish is to have it grilled on hot coals washed down with a glass of Ouzo or Raki.  Octopus is mostly water  and drying it in the sun, desiccates it and intensifies the flavour.  If octopus is allowed to steam, it turns into rubber.  The Italians have another take on cooking this delicacy; they add a wine cork to the cooking pot! No Italian I have met, has been able to adequately explain the science of this to me. 

We sailed into harbour as the sun set and I have no idea how our captain cooked his catch of the day.  

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ephesus - The Terrace Houses Revisited

Two days  after my peaceful trip to Iassos, I went to Ephesus.  At one point in the mid 1980s, I was in Ephesus at least once a week, so I'm well aware of how crowded it gets and always try to get to the top gate before the coach-party hoards descend.  At its zenith, Ephesus had a population of over 300,000 so the teeming multi-national throng that fills the streets today are, give or take an iphone, camera and baseball cap, not that different to the crowds 2,000 years ago.  It wasn't an enjoyable experience, battling down Curetes Street with Japanese in one ear, French in another while trying to keep up with our guide who had neither flag, umbrella nor height to distinguish himself.

If not careful, it's easy to miss the best part of Ephesus; the Terrace Houses.  Most of the guides leave them out as there is an additional 15 TL entrance fee but the large sheds you can see on the left of the above photo, cover the buildings which housed wealthy citizens for some 600 years from the first century AD. I first saw these villas about 25 years ago and was lucky enough to be allowed to walk from room to room around the central open courtyard that was the only source of light in the buildings. Not surprisingly, they were then closed to the public while more excavation was carried out and walkways built to protect the mosaics and paintings. 

There is a lot more to see 25 years later and work is still going on to preserve the fantastic wall paintings and reconstruct marble tiled reception rooms.  I was so fascinated with the multitude of rooms on show that I forgot to take photographs until I got almost to the end. 

This mosaic of Triton and a water nymph seemed familiar as I looked down on it from the glass walkway at ceiling height. When I got home I found a photo in my album of the same mosaic and 

a view from inside the courtyard where it is still in situ. This picture, despite its terrible quality, takes me right back to the first time I set foot in the houses. It felt as if their Roman occupants had just popped off to the agora for a jar of honey and would be back any minute. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Old friends are in town and we took the opportunity to visit Iassos. It's one of my favourite  sites as it's not on the coach party route and the new road only takes an hour from Bodrum. (A new road to me is anything less than 15 years old.) It also has the added bonus of being  excavated by Italian archaeologists who are happy to let the interested wander all over. It's a very pleasant feeling to be welcome on an excavation;  on a visit to Asar Island last month, a jobsworth blew a whistle every time someone stepped over an invisible arbitrary line, which had us almost hopping and jumping up the hill as if prodded by hot pokers. 

As we wandered around Iassos,  the only three visitors on the site, Jeni, Peter and I were trying to remember the last time we were together in these ruins and the fact  that my daughter wet her knickers on the trip suggests that it was about 17 years ago (Don't worry, she never reads my blog).  The Italians have been very busy since then and much of the agora is now uncovered. 

Watching this chap reveal the beautiful marble carving had me briefly hankering for my long abandoned profession... 

until his mate arrived  and I was reminded that when I last held a trowel in exchange for a (negligible) weekly wage, I was either down a storage pit or kneeling in a foot of soggy clay.

We had to climb over a few wire fences and walls - placed not to keep the visitor out, but the cows in, but this adds to the sense of discovering the site for the first time, no matter how many visits have been made. 

The mosaics on the top of the hill have been covered with a roof, but the tesserae from the most decorative elements are sadly missing. Just visible in the corner of this photo  is a tiny remnant of a painted wall.

When I got home, I hunted through my old albums and came up with the three photos below. Taken in the 1980s, they show the mosaics and painted wall when they were open to the elements. 

Unfortunately, there was no sign last week of this splendid Pegasus.