Monday, 30 December 2013

A New Bank in Town

There's a new bank in Bodrum. The name echoes my feelings about the current state of the Turkish Lira.

Oh Dear!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Virgin

This is my favourite photograph from this week's festivities.  It is Jake the dog's second Christmas with us and my daughter's boyfriend, Celal's first ever and I feel that Jake is trying to give a bit of advice to the Christmas virgin.  I know I shouldn't anthropomorphise, but I can't help it:

"Do you see those gold tubes on the table? Before you're allowed to pick up your fork you have to pull those until they explode. Try not to knock over the wine goblets as you do it (they're the best ones). Inside are the dumbest paper hats that you are expected to put on your head before you're allowed to eat. Yes they do look ridiculous but it's a ritual these foreigners insist on. The payback is that you get the best meal of the year. You will probably even get to eat the chocolate log, which they don't allow me near. By the way, there will be bacon. If you don't fancy it, take some anyway and I'll be waiting by your knee to dispose of it for you. Did I mention that they are about to eat an indecent amount of food, so how about you take me for walk down to the harbour to make some room for it" 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

D.I.Y. Christmas

This Christmas marks a landmark in our family. My daughter has moved out into her own apartment and for the first time in 21 years we got the decorations box out of storage and had to divide up the goodies.  She thought I should keep the angels, as I started collecting them long before she was born and I thought she should have all the red tinsel and baubles as she is brighter and more outgoing than me and red suits her.  We don't have Christmas trees but have made do, as we always do in Turkey, with a twiggy branch sprayed white.  This year we sprayed two.
This divvying up of Christmas paraphernalia has given cause for reflection and as someone who has spent roughly half my adult Christmas celebrations in the UK and half in Turkey I feel it's time for some comparisons.  One obvious omission  here is the lack of Advent. We don't light a candle on the first Sunday in December and the weather is usually too sunny to even think of winter but having visited the UK at the end of October and walked around a garden centre where Santa and his grotto were already set up, this is a good thing.  I can measure the number of times I hear Noddy Holder belting out his Christmas money spinner on the fingers of two hands here, whereas I would probably need the fingers and toes of a whole primary school in England.  I can comfortably start contemplating seasonal food preparation in the third week of December in Turkey and I won't have to have sat through the mandatory work Xmas lunch in the first week of December. (Is there anything worse than the false jollity of wearing a paper cracker-hat in the company of your work colleagues, eating dry roast turkey, at least 3 weeks before the 25th?)

Felt Christmas trees - What better way to decorate the tree.
The best thing about Christmas in a country that doesn't celebrate the Nativity is that we do it ourselves. When I first came to Bodrum, there were no decorations available, but plenty of pine cones, white spray-paint and sequins. Add red ribbons, hand-cut wooden snowflakes and bells and we didn't miss our fairy lights and baubles.  With the eruption of New Year celebrations in Turkey recently, all manner of flickering lights, trinkets and gaudy sparkles are now available in the shops but it's still more fun to make your own.  My daughter and I had a "craft bag" that was much mocked by my friends, but gave us great pleasure as we made Christmas pom-poms, chains, cards and crackers that you had to shout "bang" when you pulled.  So I was really pleased to wander around the Xmas market in Bodrum last week and see that the next generation of ex-pat mums has gone one better than us and is making cakes, mince pies, decorations and crackers that actually bang  to sell to each other.  This has to be better than  mega-supermarkets and chain stores goading us to spend more and more to add to their already obscene profits.

Ekim-Turquoise Secrets' beautiful Christmas cakes and biscuits

Angie's mince pies

The bi fit girls' Christmas floor show

If you haven't got a fir tree, decorate the next best thing. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Slow Soup

Bodrum is just emerging from seven days of freezing temperatures, power cuts and dug-up roads, just the combination to make even the most mild-mannered a bit irritable.  Nothing could be done about the mini ice age that swept through, but for those reliant on electric heating - a better time could have been chosen for "power line maintenance work".  After 30 odd years, I accept (without ever understanding) that the roads have to be dug up each winter, but one year it would be nice for warning signs to be erected a few hundred metres before the massive hole blocking the road. I suspect that this is really a ploy to make Bodrum drivers practice reversing - a manoeuvre most spend their entire driving career avoiding.   
So when the odds are against me keeping both warm and my temper, I opt for soup.  Thick, homemade soup is an instant  cure-all.  I've read that chicken soup actually does reduce the length of a cold or flu, but for good chicken soup you need a roast chicken carcass, which isn't on hand when the electric oven is off, so we usually opt for lentil or leek and potato which can be cooked in 30 minutes on a single gas ring. I was confident that there wasn't a broth I didn't like until I came to Turkey and here I met my soup nemesis - Tarhana.  It's a difficult concept to explain to those not brought up with it as tarhana is basically a home made packet soup - a lot of work goes into it initially but once done it is stored in cloth bags (not the plastic you see in the picture) and used over the winter.  Recipes differ, but the general idea is that yogurt, wheat and flour are mixed together and allowed to ferment for 7 to 10 days producing lactic acid and this mixture is then dried in the sun and the resulting crust is crumbled to be rehydrated at a later stage. 

I came across these three types of tarhana at the Friday market; the first is "children's tarhana" - made with milk, yogurt, flour and onions, the second is "hot tarhana" made with yogurt, flour, onions, hot red peppers and tomato paste, and the third is "normal tarhana" made as before but with sweet peppers rather than hot ones.  To make the soup, a couple of tablespoons of dried tarhana are added to water or stock with a tablespoon of tomato paste and heated and stirred until thick.  My problem with the soup is that the fermentation process is an unstable procedure and the airborne yeasts very variable and I have often had a bowl of bubbling soup put in front of me which looks appetising but smells of something more akin to what the dog regurgitated.  It's an aroma that is difficult to get past if one is to enjoy the taste.  I have a bag of tarhana soup in my kitchen and I do make it for my husband who loves it, but I test each bag before I engage in soup making to weed out the ones with the whiffy bacteria.

I am very much in a minority of tarhana phobics. On Friday, the Bodrum chapter of the Slow Food movement served tarhana soup and dried "peksimet" bread at the weekly market and the soup was all gone in less than an hour. By the time I got there just before 11am, only a few crusts of bread were available for the photo call.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Future View

Until very recently, Bodrum was not an easy place to access by land.  Several hours had to be spent on the road from Izmir or Dalaman before we eventually got our own international airport. One of the joys of the trek to Bodrum was finally getting to Güvercinlik and being able to see this beautiful blue sea and knowing that there were only 20 or so minutes left before the road would head downhill and the magnificent castle would come into view.  It  was a trip I never tired of as the deep blues and vibrant turquoise would lift even the heaviest heart.

The sea is still just as blue but I wonder how many generations will enjoy the same excitement as they drive out of  Güvercinlik.  The first 2 kms is already blighted by an ugly hotel construction that is several stories higher than legally allowed and has been a concrete shell for the past two years.

Further down the road, newly-built hotels feel it is their right to isolate  the view for the sole enjoyment of their own paying guests and we passers-by are left to look at stone or brick walls

or densely planted conifers. 

The entrances of these same hotels suggest that they are places where appreciation of nature is not high on the agenda...

... and where gilding the lily is the order of the day.

So I shouldn't really be surprised that just after the sign telling us that we are about to catch sight of Bodrum (a sign which in my opinion is also an unnecessary detraction from the view) ....

this construction has just sprung up.  I assume it will soon have walls to completely block the view. 

There are many examples of "golden goose extermination" on this peninsula but this has to be one of the best/worst. 

If you are wondering who The Fisherman of Halicarnassos is click here:

Monday, 2 December 2013

Turkey Consular Conference - A Customer's View.

Last week I was invited to the 2013 Turkey Consular Conference at the Ramada Resort Hotel.  I had no idea what to expect but an announcement on Facebook telling us that all British consular offices in Turkey would be closed for staff training on 26th and 27th November suggested that this wasn't going to be a cosy local affair.  It was in fact a meeting of consulate staff from all over Turkey with representatives from Athens, London, Malaga and Sharm El Sheikh also attending.  I was one of three "outsiders" brought in to give our opinions on present consular services and comments on suggested strategies. Those of you who read this blog frequently,  know that I'm at home rambling over an ancient site or stirring a bubbling pot in the kitchen - power-point presentations,  flow charts, "mission statements" and "visions" have never been in my vocabulary but I have to admit I enjoyed the presentations and got stuck in with suggestions on how to improve the service.  (If your consulate office has Skype available for client use - remember you read it here first).
What came across most strongly is that this particular group of individuals are all determined to  provide the best service for UK nationals in Greece, Turkey and Egypt and that they are reliant on feed-back from us Brits overseas to learn how to best tailor their services to our needs, so if you have any reason to contact a consulate please let them know that you will be happy to answer questions on the experience if asked.
We all travel more confidently knowing that the British consular system is there should we lose a passport or have an accident but the question was inevitably raised as to whether UK nationals who choose to completely relocate to another country should be entitled to consular help in that country. I personally think not, except for emergency travel documents, but would be interested to hear your views.