Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Bodrum in the News

I've been reading that hotel bookings in Turkey are down on last year because the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have featured in the media as dangerous destinations. "So have we" you say. Facebook and Twitter are full of irate residents complaining that the gutter press has it in for our glorious home and is trying to ruin our holiday industry for the sake of a sensational headline. Except the newspaper I am reading was published in 1991, the inaugural issue of Bodrum Halicarnassus Free Newspaper, the first English paper in the area. So if you feel Turkey-bashing is a recent occurrence, think again. Those of us who have been knocking around these parts for a while are quite used to it. It used to annoy me and as the owner of a travel agency, worry me, but now I see it as a blessing. If it keeps away the sort of visitors who believe everything they read in the Dailies Mail and Express, long may they continue to slag off the country. You only have to take one look at the comments on the online versions of these rags to see that you would never want to share a airline departure lounge or stretch of beach with these folk.
I'm glad I kept this little newspaper. It was my first step into journalism and as editor I had to write most of the articles and rope in friends to provide the rest. In the pre-internet age, it was an attempt to bridge the gap between the local Turkish newspapers and guide books. Just looking back 24 years puts into perspective how little the press really affects us and I hope it offers solace to those of you whose livelihoods depend on the foreign Pound, Dollar or Euro. I'm sure no one would suggest that the tourist industry in Turkey has been moribund for the past two and a half decades because of the mud thrown in its direction. Let's keep Turkey for the discerning traveller, who really appreciates the history and culture and let those who think Bodrum is a stone's throw from the Syrian border stay at home.

(Having said all this, vigilance is important, no one can anticipate where the next terrorist atrocity will occur. Whether you are in London, Istanbul, New York or Timbuktu, keep your eyes open. I was in a check in queue in Athens airport last week and a woman with a case came up to the Turkish couple behind me and asked them in broken English to look after her bag.  They agreed and she disappeared.  After a couple of minutes I asked them if they knew the woman. They didn't and I "suggested" in my school ma'am manner that agreeing to look after a stranger's bag was not a good idea.  Their answer - if it blows up,  it blows up.  Every time I think I'm a fully integrated member of Turkish society, there is always a little reminder that I'm on a different planet. )

Saturday, 25 July 2015

An Evening Afloat in Bodrum

There are a myriad of restaurants to choose from in Bodrum from the cheapest street cafe to the ultra sophisticated hang out where you will need a mortgage to pay the bill, but I have argued for the past 30 years that the best place to eat is afloat. The most memorable meals of my life have always been accompanied by the gentle slap of waves on a wooden hull.   I've cooked on yachts and know the limitations of a small galley but Bodrum's cohort of sailing chefs do not let this hold them back and using the abundant fresh produce and tapping into the legacy passed down from captains who worked their way up from deckhand, they consistently produce the most delicious food imaginable. If you have the means, you can hire a gület for a week or two and enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and supper served in the lap of luxury but this opulence is available to those of us on a more restricted budget too.

An evening trip is the perfect way to enjoy the delights of a floating Turkish kitchen:  A short motor out to an empty bay, a swim,  a glass or two of white wine as the sun sets while the crew sets out 9 plates of meze and the captain is busy cooking 8 sea bass.  Dining on shore soon loses its appeal.

Include two talented guitarists in your party and entertainment is sorted. I'm happy to report that I haven't forgotten the words to "Sloop John B".

And when the songs are sung and the wine bottles drained, there is still a quiet motor back to the harbour to enjoy, with just the moon and milky way for company.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Back to Bodrum - At last

Home Sweet Home 

This bunch has my name on it, if it hasn't ripened in 4 days, I'm eating it anyway. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Greece - 28 Centuries

Laws are like a spider's web. If a fly or mosquito goes into one, it gets trapped, but if a wasp or bee does, it breaks it and leaves. The same applies to the law: if a poor man strays away, he gets caught while the rich and powerful exempt themselves from the law and walk away.

Thus spoke Zaleucus, a Greek philosopher and legislator in the 7th Century BC.  Nothing much changed in the past 28 centuries then.   The poor are yet again going to be stung for the tax-avoidance  of the rich and powerful who have walked away with their riches and left the have-nots to face another bout of stinging cuts (which will achieve nothing and be a massive waste of bail-out money).  The general feeling on this island is disappointment that their vote was ignored and resignation that there is no more to be wrung out of the working population. Their jobs are secure as the well-off Greek diaspora still want to holiday on Hydra.  Most of the folk I talk to are keen to get their children jobs abroad, they see no future here.  Someone should have listened to Zaleucus.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Best Place for Bayram

I was chatting online with my daughter, bemoaning the fact that I wouldn't be home for the Bayram holiday and wishing myself over the Aegean Sea to Bodrum.  I then flicked on to Facebook to read that friends in Bodrum were already suffering the effects of the influx of city drivers. In Turkey, a car registration plate declares its place of origin. Istanbul is 34, Ankara 06, and Izmir 35 etc. It is mostly alphabetical with a few new counties tacked on the end.  In the South, we dread the hoards of 34 plate cars descending on to our narrow roads, bringing their bad city driving habits to add to our own pretty ropey ones. The average 34 plate driver seems to spend hours driving round and round before eventually finding the worst place to park, usually blocking a local's access to their front door or barricading them in. Traffic accidents multiply as tempers flare and the best thing to do at this time of year is lock your car keys away for a week and try to stay at home.  So I retract my wish to be home for the holiday, despite missing husband, daughter and dog, because I am in the best place for Bayram - a traffic free island.  I plan to fly home on Sunday, when the hoards will be returning to the cities.

An example of bad parking on Hydra, these animals deserve 34 plates. I was always told never to walk too close to the back end of a donkey, it's impossible to follow that advice here.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A single ingredient recipe.

Can a recipe that has only one ingredient even be called a recipe.   Who cares! 
Take two handfuls of the best salted almonds you can find and place in a grinder. Pulse until ground and then wait for the grinder to cool down. This also gives time for the almonds to give up their oil.   Pulse again until almonds turn into a paste.  Voila! Almond Butter.   Great on toast or spread on roasted aubergines and courgettes. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Shock, Swedish Style

Swedes don't pull their punches.  They speak with a bluntness which to us pussyfooting Brits sounds rude. I admire plain speaking but am incapable of doing it myself. I will tie my tongue in knots trying to be diplomatic.  Don't ask me my honest opinion about your hair, dress sense or the size of your derrière because I am incapable of saying anything other than you look gorgeous.  I'm used to Swedish candour but I have been shocked by my Swedish bathroom. If I had to hang a full length mirror, I would put it by the bedroom door so that guests could check their appearance as they left the room. I would not put it DIRECTLY OPPOSITE THE LOO.  There are some activities I do not want to watch, does anyone look their best in this position.  I suppose I should thank the Hovs Hallar Hotel for this wake up call about the flabbly state of my thighs.  Every time I try to eat anything, the image in their bathroom mirror comes back to me and puts me off my food.