Saturday, 30 March 2013

Bodrum Hugs the World

Drawn by the rather strange logo "Bodrum hugs the world", my daughter and I wandered down to the harbour today to see what was going on.   We found lots of tables, fronted by national flags,  selling food typical of that nationality.   Having only noticed the adverts the evening before, I asked a few stall holders how they had heard about the event.  Several of them were taking part in the free Turkish lessons that the Municipality is sponsoring and were approached during their classes.  Which explains why most of the long term, Turkish-speaking ex-pats had no idea about the occasion.  I'm going to be a pedant now and suggest that "Bodrum embraces the world" would have been a better translation of the Turkish, but you can put this down to the niggling irritation that I would have liked to have been there with a tray full of  hot-cross buns.

As this sedate affair was taking place on one side of the square, the other side was full of motorbikes.  

The 2013 Turkish Enduro championship season commenced today and to pay tribute to Kemal Merkit, who was killed in a race last year, the season started in Bodrum, where Kemal used to live.

The tourists enjoying their lunches in the Spring sunshine must have had second thoughts about their choice of tables when all the bikes started revving their engines as they waited for the flag to fall and a   haze of exhaust fumes descended. The cacophony of engine noise was accompanied by a pop group serenading the World Huggers on one side and a truck advertising bikes playing "Gangnam Style" at full blast on the other.  I left them all to it and headed home for a quiet lunch. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

In the Footsteps of the Famous

I've entered my first competition.   My entry is a historically slanted guide to Bodrum.  I'd be extremely grateful if you'd click on the link below and leave your comments under my article on the Expatblog page.  There are 80 entrants, so I'm up against some hard competition, but with your support, you never know....

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Blue skies on the way

We have a beautiful blue sky here today, but when I turned on my computer this morning, the first image I saw was the weather forecast for London;  snow showers in the day and freezing nights.  To cheer you all up and remind you that Spring has sprung and summer IS on the way, here are some pictures taken last October on Bitez Beach.

I was immediately cheered when I saw all these multicoloured cushions and I think no matter what sort of a grump you are in, it would be difficult to stay miserable when sitting amongst them.  

I was impressed that the imaginative hotelier found brighter fabrics than are usually available in the markets . When I went on a hunt for colourful fabrics in Bodrum market, I was disappointed in the restricted choice. 

This was the jolliest one I could find, but  maybe the muted colours and smaller designs are understandable as the these printed cottons (basma) are usually used for making the ubiquitous  baggy trousers and skirts favoured by ladies in the villages, rather than furnishings.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

"What's in a name?"

"That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet"

Well said, Juliet, a girl after my own heart.  I am however in a minority.  Turkey has always seemed obsessed with expensive brand names, probably because sky high import duties have made brands such as Porche, Chanel, Givenchy, Armani, Moet Chandon, etc twice the usual price and therefore doubly desirable.  The Turkish market is flooded with cheap reproductions of the more easily copiable kind; Lacoste, Mulberry, Tod, Calvin Klein and co. but I've yet to meet a Turk who is happy to buy them. This market seems directed purely at the tourists.  Turks want the real thing, with a bone fide brand name. Where is this leading? To my dog. Regulars will know that Jake is a rescue dog, abandoned on the streets of Didim last August.   His family tree will always remain a mystery and his final dimensions will be a surprise.  The small bundle of fur we picked up 8 months ago is now a large hairy beast with a black nose that wouldn't look out of place on a polar bear.  This winter, I've  walked him at least twice a day through the streets of Bodrum and every day, without fail I get stopped several times and asked the same question; "What breed is your dog?" At the beginning my answer was "Sokak", street dog or stray,  but this reply was met with dismay and the questioner's embarrassment at confusing a pedigree dog with a mongrel was evident. It is not done to mix up a "brand" and a "brand-less".  My answer is now "terrier" as this covers a multitude of breeds and only the persistent inquirer will ask what kind.  If pushed, I can say "Wheaten terrier" as he does look a bit like one and my inquisitor will go on his way very happy in the knowledge that he can recognise a pedigree when he sees one. 
Today the tables were turned.  A gentleman approached me with the word "Commodore".  He repeated it several times and I wondered if he was looking for the Yacht club.  I eventually understood that he was telling me that my dog was a Komondor, and a Belgian one at that. I thanked him and googled this unknown breed when we got home.  It turns out that the Komondor is the Bob Marley of the dog world, by the age of two they are a mass of dreadlocks, which could explain why it takes me an hour each evening to detangle Jake's fur. The chances of a Komondor turning up on the streets in Turkey are reassuringly low, so I will stick to "terrier'" until proven otherwise or Jake breaks into a spontaneous  rendition of "No woman, no cry."

Friday, 15 March 2013

Bodrum's Creative Ladies.

If you are in Bodrum on the first Wednesday of a month, head down to the harbour to find an array of stalls selling crafts, jewellery, clothes, preserves, baking and much more, produced by the ladies of Bodrum.  In an initiative to give women an outlet for their home-made crafts, the town council provides tables and chairs along the road to the marina and the stalls are (wo)manned for the whole day.

Thirty years ago,  most of the sewing and weaving in a household was destined for a daughter's çeyiz, (dowry trunk), nowadays these skills can be put to economic use. What I really like about this market is that all the ladies are busy knitting, sewing or beading as they wait for customers so there is no doubt that they are selling what they have produced themselves. 

The jewellery on display is all extremely innovative and attractive. 

I was especially taken with this table; the smiling smallholder was wearing one of her own designs, a necklace made up of tiny beads to resemble Bodrum's ubiquitous bougainvillea, 

and at under 20TL per necklace, I'm sure I'll be back on the first Wednesday in April to stock up the present drawer. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

My Birthday Treat - A Guest Post.

As it's my birthday today, I'm taking a break and giving you a post by my good friend of many years, Angie Mitchell - Author of "Secrets of a Turkish Kitchen."  Angie and I have a lot in common. We both started our careers in Turkey on yachts, we both cook for our living, have Turkish husbands, have a birthday within 24 hours of each other and now Angie is building a house on the Karaova plain,  we are both bona fideTurkish Villagers and entitled to wear flowery baggy şalvars, and own a donkey.  

Village Wedding

The village wedding has changed over the past 20-something years. The first one I attended had the bride-to-be delivered on a horse, straddled over her dowry of rugs, blankets and other hand crafted linens laboured over by herself and other female relations. She sat aloft, quaking; I wasn’t sure if it was because she was scared because she was on a horse for the first time, or just suffering from pre-nuptial wedding nerves. She was very young and quite possibly didn’t know her husband-to-be that well and the deafening sound of the drums and zurna was enough to make the most intrepid spouse–to–be a wee bit nervous. She was dressed in a handed-down white dress, red sash and had wild flowers in her hair. The red sash around the waist was a proclamation of virginity, which was very important. In those days it was mandatory for the newlyweds to offer the blood-stained sheets from the new marital bed to authenticate virginity,  today we don’t hear of this so much.  The wedding seemed a bit misogynistic to me. The men partied with the groom, dancing wildly and obviously very inebriated and high on the occasion and they all seemed to be in a world of their own. The women, quite wisely, stayed apart, knowing they would have to pick up the pieces later. After cooking for a week for the masses it was time to take the back seat. 
Today the zurna and drums (gypsy music) have been succeeded by electronic keyboards, instruments and singers amplified to a ridiculously high volume. There is no chance to have a conversation over this noise – but today no one is here to have a chat, today it is "come and see" time. The youth are starting to make their own marriage decisions, rather than have it arranged by their families; A wedding is a big opportunity to see the local talent. Dressing up has also become an event. Big money is spent on the dresses not only for the bride but for the other female relations and the smaller ones who want their day as a princess. The local kuaför or hairdresser is stuffed full on a wedding day with make-up jobs and glittering hair-dos. But still today the wedding celebration is in the village square and companies lease out lorry loads of plastic chairs for the event.  Most importantly,  the older ladies get a chance to get out and feel proud of the generation they have been responsible for raising. It is their day as much as those of marriageable age.  The local boys come and show off and strut, with their rendition of zeybek but the girls get to do their own dances too, albeit his and hers are separate affairs. Guests still line up and money bills and gold are pinned to the newly-weds, the total worth a tad more than 20-something years ago. 

Leaving the village wedding and on my way back to Bodrum I stopped for a wee behind a bush. Got back in the car and the battery was flat (who knows?) Another car leaving the wedding stopped to see if he could help. ‘Yes it is the battery’ he agreed, made a call to his mate and within 20 minutes I had a new battery and was home by midnight on a Sunday night. Would this happen anywhere else? Nice to think that something don't change over years. This is Turkey! 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Termera - The facts.

I apologise in advance if this is a bit dry,  I've condensed the salient points as much as I can to stop you dropping off. 

As we stalwart walkers made our way up the almost imperceptible  rough path to the ancient walls of Termera,  it was easy to appreciate the strategic importance of this site. Surrounded by fertile arable land and overlooking the present day Greek Islands, Termera was for a time, the richest settlement in the area, paying 2.5 talents to the Delian League in 447BC. Like the other 7 Lelegian towns around ancient Halikarnasus, Termera consists of an inner fort on a defendable peak, surrounded by thick stone walls and naturally treacherous  descents.  Following the line of the walls we came to a stop at a rock tomb fronted by a recent excavation trench.  After 10 years of land surveys, Dr Adnan Diler from Muğla University became concerned at the extent of the illegal treasure hunting in the area and with the support of Turgutreis Town Council and the Archaeology team at Bodrum Castle, he obtained permission to start digging to preserve what remains of this settlement.  His first season in 2012 has already produced evidence of occupation from 7th Century BC.  Historical sources tell us that Termera was ruled by  Tymnes, his son Histiaios and grandson Tymnes in the 6th and 5th centuries BC  and we have physical evidence that this dynasty produced coinage in the shape of a silver coin with a kneeling figure of Herakles and the word TYMNO on one side and a lion's head and TEPMEPIKON on the other.  Charles Thomas Newton relates in his diaries how he bought the coin from a merchant in Kos in the 1850s.  It is now in the British Museum. In the report of his discoveries in Halikarnasus, Newton mistakes Aspat Hill on the coast as the site of Termera.  Later excavations identify the present site on Asarlık Hill.

While researching the site, one phrase turns up again and again; "Termeran Evil" or "Termeran Mischief". A term I hadn't come across before but refers to an action where an evil doer is given a taste of their own medicine.  The myth being that Termenos, (who could be Tymnes 1st )  the founder of Termera,  a "Lelegian of beastly nature" and a notorious pirate was fond of getting rid of his enemies by cracking their skulls with a lethal head-butt.  Herakles killed Termenos by first drugging him and then crushing his skull.  George Bean puts forward the theory that the phrase reflects the suffering of the people of Termera when Mausolos forced the population to leave their homes and move to his new capital Halikarnasus.  A return being permanently blocked when he turned their city into a prison.  Evidence from past excavations seems to prove that the city population was much reduced in the 4th century BC. 

As usual I read up on the site after I visited so a second trip will have to be made as there is a 9 metre long, double vaulted cistern and several tombs which we didn't get to see.  This time I will drive to the village of Mandira and try the shorter, less precipitous route to the top.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Walking with friends.

I don't usually do group walks as I prefer to wander around at  my own pace, but when H3A announced that they were walking to the ancient Lelegian town of Termera, accompanied by two archaeologists who had been involved in a recent rescue excavation on the site, I was keen to join in.  It's always a joy to visit a site with an up-to-date source of information, rather than second-hand knowledge trawled from the internet. It would also be a novelty to walk cross-country to a Lelegian or Carian site without getting lost en-route. 
The walk, initially planned for the end of January, was postponed twice because of heavy rain so it was the end of February by the time we all convened in the village of Akçaalan above Turgutreis to start  the ascent.  The head count was an impressive 50, which is an amazing number for a Sunday in February, unfortunately this figure did not include the two archaeologists, who couldn't attend so we were without our experts. 

After a brief pep-talk by team leader Ali Bey, with a reminder to not disturb any relics, we were off at a brisk pace.  I'd arrived with a friend I've known for 30 plus years, and we happily strode forth, chatting all the way. With several other old friends and a sprinkling of new ones in the group, I realised that walking en masse is actually a very enjoyable activity. Especially in beautiful spring sunshine, surrounded by blossom and wild flowers. I was without my walking boots as I'd left them in the village so was attempting the walk in wellies,  but had good reason to appreciate my forgetfulness when the path turned into a stream. 

After about 40 minutes, our merry group came to a halt as our path petered out. We'd obviously missed a turning.  I'm so glad that it's not only me that gets lost on the way to these sites.  An adventurous group of four, plus Jake the dog, set off cross-country uphill, while the rest of us turned around, retraced our steps, stopped for a group photo, picked some wild thyme, took pictures of the anemones, discussed the current political state of Turkey, found the correct path and eventually met the intrepid foursome plus dog on their way down. 

The dog lead was handed over and Jake made his second climb of the day.  If any animal deserves an honorary doctorate in archaeological studies, this dog does. 

View from Temera. 

Next time I'll post a few details of the site, (after a bit of internet trawling) . 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Happy Accountancy Day!

Let's all rejoice!  March 1st is Accountants' Day in Turkey and marks the start of a week of celebrations in some towns. (Well, I saw a sign for a football match and concert in Adana).  Does any other country honour this profession with its own day or week?  How do accountants let their hair down? Having been a teenager in the early 70s,  Monty Python introduced me to my first "accountant".  Time for all mountain climbing, paragliding, lion taming accountants to stand up and be counted.