Saturday, 29 December 2012

Flamingoes Instead Of Turkey.

When Christmas morning starts with a sky this blue, it would be sacrilege to waste the day getting hot and bothered in a kitchen.  Tradition was thrown to one side and we headed off to Tuzla to walk  the dog and watch the flamingoes. Lunch was fish and salad beside the sea. Not a turkey in sight. 

The first Christmas lunch I cooked in Turkey was in 1983. My parents had arrived a few days before to celebrate with us and we soon twigged that finding a turkey in the butchers was not going to happen.  My soon-to-be husband hadn't met my family before and my folks hadn't ever been to Turkey but my father still remembers the day we went on the "turkey hunt" as a surreal experience and it proved a good ice-breaker.   We heard that a farmer in Turgutreis  had raised a few birds and was willing to sell them.  In those days Turgutreis was a one road town and we had to head inland among the orange grove paths to find the farm. After much meandering we did track down the small holding and the farmer was willing to part with a bird. He lead us through his gardens, showed us where the turkeys were grazing and said we could take our pick. We did and then had to catch it.  I think the farmer should have paid us for the hilarity we obviously caused him but we did eventually get our prize.  I'd only been cooking for a couple of years and plucking and gutting a turkey was not something I'd done before, but between us, we managed it.  It didn't much resemble the traditional roast we were used to. It must have done a lot of running in its short life because apart from two large legs, there wasn't much meat on the carcass and it only just fed the 4 of us.  Since that lunch, I've never been that keen on turkey meat so I am always happy to give tradition a miss on Christmas day.  

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Greetings.

The mince pies are made, the truffles are in the fridge and the gingerbread was finished off days ago.  Christmas day is a normal working day in Turkey but the expats have been busy with Christmas fairs and markets.  The annual Carol Singing was held on Friday night which got everyone in the festive mood.  I've asked several people and no one can be quite sure when the first carol singing event started in Bodrum, but it's been going for at least 20 to 25 years. I've missed the last 13 years but I don't think the song sheet has changed while I've been away.  It began to raise money for the Orphanage in Muğla but for the last few years, the proceeds have stayed on the Bodrum peninsula and been donated to the Special Needs school in Yahşi.
This year's format was a bit different with a junior choir starting the proceedings, then the rest of us got a chance to waggle our vocal chords, lubricated with ample mulled wine.

The Junior Chorus

Priscilla and Geoff
Stalwarts of Carol Concert organization

Christmas Greetings. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Syangela - Alazeytin Castle.

At the weekend the rain clouds retreated and the sun came out again.  After a week of urban walking it was a chance to get back to the countryside and resume Jake the dog's archaeological education. 
We headed out towards Çiftlik with the aim of visiting Syangela.  As usual we got lost, argued about whose fault it was that we'd got lost, back-tracked to the Town Council building in Yalı where a very helpful Osman showed me the route on Google earth, printed out a map and smilingly sent me on my way.  

Syangela is one of eight Lelegian towns around Bodrum. Not much is known about the history of these sites, but they pre-date the Carian cities and were probably at their most populous from the 7th to 4th centuries BC.  We know from Strabo that Mausolus, the Carian ruler, forced the citizens of all the Lelegian towns except Myndos and Syangela to move to Halikarnasus (Bodrum) in the 4th century BC.  It is also on record that Syangela  had a governor called Pigres, paid a tribute of a talent as a member of the Delian League and minted silver coins with griffin heads in 500BC.   All the Lelegian sites are found on hills with panoramic views and sturdy defensive walls with frequent look-out towers surrounding their houses. This didn't however prevent the city being sacked by the Persians.  The wall that Jake is standing beside below is  a typical Lelegian wall:  built using roughly dressed smallish stones. 

This is a good site to compare the Lelegian and Carian building styles. In the centre of Syangela there is a single tower (below) obviously Carian in style with its much larger well dressed stones.

Having said all this, there is also the possibility that this isn't the site of Syangela at all. In recent years, a new discovery has cast doubt on the identification of the remains. Either way it's a pleasant walk to a Lelegian fortress.

Update - 20/2/15  - I've just been to wonderful lecture on  The Lelegians by Dr. Adnan Diler and was able to ask my question about Syangela directly.  It seems that Syangela was originally founded on Kaplan Dağ, close to but not at Alazeytin and was moved by Mausolus to the site now called Theangela.   

The route:  From Bodrum follow the signs to Yalı-Çiftlik.  After Kızılağac village look out for a left turning sign-posted to Alazeytin. Follow this road up through the trees and the first houses of Alazeytin and you come to a junction - the road divides into three. You can't miss it as there is a stone quarry and a flag pole in front of you.  Take the right hand road. It's quite rough so you may want to leave your car just after this turning. Follow this  track passing a house on the left, then a white building on the right and you will come to a track leading to a few houses on the right. You can park here if your car has made it this far.  Walk towards these houses and at the large covered well on the right, turn left and follow the garden wall. By the time you get to the end of the wall and turn right you will see a tractor track leading up the hill to the site. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Strawberry Tree - The Song

Thanks to Helen and Alan for pointing out that there is an Irish folk song with the Mountain Strawberry (arbutus) tree in the title. I hadn't heard it before and in case you haven't either - here it is.

Watch "Traditional - My Love's an Arbutus" on YouTube 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mountain Strawberry for Christmas

We are coming up to our first Christmas in Turkey for 13 years and I'm in a quandary over what kind of tree to put up.  In the past we cut large branches from the pines or dug up one of the seedlings in the garden. This December, after the great clearance, both are in short supply.  At this time of year, nature does provide a beautifully decorated evergreen tree that would be perfect as a Noel decoration. The Strawberry tree (Arbutus Unedo) grows to 10 meters tall but in this part of the world is rarely more than 3 metres high.  Its pale green or white bell-like flowers take a year to mature so are on the tree at the same time as the fruit. Bright yellow when unripe, the fruit turns a vivid red when ready to eat.  I wouldn't cut a whole tree but a few branches in a large vase would look stunning. 

Opinion is divided over whether these fruits are edible or not.  Pliny the Elder called them "unum edo" i.e. you only eat one of them and they are described in Wikipedia as being "mealy and bland" but if you pick them just before they are very ripe, they have quite an exotic taste - a cross between a guava and a nectarine.  When not eaten fresh they are used in Bodrum to make jam, but in Spain and Portugal they are turned into a fiery spirit.  Once ripe, these fruit quickly ferment  and the mountain strawberry has gained the reputation of making the over-consumer drunk.  Hubby and I polished off the berries below but unfortunately experienced no signs of inebriation.  Shame - we'll have to pick a few more next time. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bodrum Fridays

Looking back over the last few months' posts, a stranger to Bodrum would assume that apart from walking, there wasn't much to do in South West Turkey in the winter. Here is a quick round up in an attempt to correct  this misleading impression.

Four Fridays ago, I was at the Ramada Resort Hotel in Gümbet for the annual Ladies' Lunch. Initiated  in the year 2000 by Jane Baxter Gerçeksöz and Priscilla Windsor-Brown, this event gives women on the peninsula a chance to get together at the end of the season and either see old friends or meet new ones. (A double barrelled surname is not a prerequisite). Their aim is for everyone to go away having made one new acquaintance. It started the year I left Bodrum so as this was my first time, I made sure I met several new faces to make up for the years I couldn't attend. 

Three Fridays ago, I was at Muğla University's new Fine Arts Faculty on the Bodrum Peninsula, attending an archaeological lecture  by Mr Aykut Özet entitled "The Seven Gods of Bodrum". The first of a series of talks organised by H3A, the Bodrum equivalent of the University of the Third Age. Click on the link to get an idea of the range of activities available through this group.

Two Fridays ago, I was back at the Ramada Resort Spa. The entrance ticket to the Ladies lunch included a free day's use of the hotel spa. We had the pool, steam room, Turkish bath and sauna to ourselves. There is also a very up-market gym, which I didn't try out as I was too busy flopping about in the warm pool.

Last Friday, I started the day having my back massaged by Tülay at Zen Natural Therapies, thanks to winning a free treatment in the ticket tombola  at the Ladies' Lunch ( that really was 50TL well spent) and the afternoon to the university again for a talk on the development of the Ottoman empire. I could have gone to the monthly Internations drinks party in the evening, but this county mouse had had enough activity by then.

(Tulay doesn't have a web page but is an expert in Reiki Healing, Reflexology and aromatherapy massage. Her number is 0533 713 44 73)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A Promise Kept.

In  October I wrote that despite tree clearance and a new road being driven through the ex-forest next to our house, the forestry workers had promised that the land would be replanted. Having lived long enough to have developed a healthy sceptical disregard for official promises, I have been expecting builders to turn up and develop the land into either housing or worse-still, a factory.  I'm extremely happy therefore to swallow my cynicism, chuck out my pessimism and re-embrace my inner Pollyanna. About 3 weeks ago a mysterious white line appeared dividing the cleared land in half, then an announcement  boomed discordantly from the village loudspeaker system telling us that the forestry commission wanted to recruit temporary workers  (35TL a day - about £12.50 - roughly the minimum wage in Turkey). A week later the saplings started being delivered and ever since an ever-changing group of men, women and children have been planting fir trees on the southern side of the white line.  

Two days ago, a more professional-looking, hard-hatted, florescent-tabarded crew of men arrived and started planting carob trees on the north side of the line.  I can't find out how long it takes a carob tree to mature but in a few years our bare expanse of mud is going to look very different.  I withdraw all my brickbats and send laudations and much gratitude to the Forestry Commission. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Walking into December

Walking behind this couple today, I reflected that we might look like this in 5 years time if fate is kind to us.  I wouldn't mind, I'm almost ready to give up the fight and resort to an elasticated waistband and grey ankle socks with everything.  After all, who's watching?

After driving our daughter to the airport for her Christmas "treat" - a trip to England to see her old pals - Husband and I set off on our favourite walk.  The route never gets monotonous. Last month, the fields were still brown and frazzled, last week they were busy with tractors ploughing and bee hives being unloaded and this week, everyone is out picking olives.  It's been so windy this weekend that most of the olives are on the ground so the familiar sound of long sticks beating the top branches was absent today. 

The 2.5 hour round trip takes us down backroads and pathways through to Etrim, a carpet-making village, which is busy with tourists during the summer but quiet and peaceful at this time of year. 
It's our only local walk to include a tea-house and as we stopped for a breather we were joined by Mehmet Top who insisted on buying our teas.  Mehmet makes baskets, traditionally used for olive picking but he says he now makes them just to keep himself busy.  

Etrim is also one of the few places with a village fountain, so we don't have to carry water with us for Jake.  He tried to share it with the locals but eventually they chased him off and he had to wait his turn.