Thursday, 31 December 2015

Let it snow

A lot of my 2015 has been spent in airports so just to finish the year, I spent 7 hours of 31st December in an airport lounge and nearly 4 hours sitting in a plane on the apron as the snow collected around us.  
It would be churlish to complain, after a year when families risk their lives to cross from Turkey to Europe and spend days in wet clothes waiting to be registered if they succeed, a few hours sitting in the warm, while others assess whether my travel can be safely attempted, is a luxury that I wish we could afford to all humanity, not just the chosen few. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas In Reverse Order

Archaeologist Ayşe Temiz leading the protest against the new jetty 

Boxing Day was spent in an appropriately pugilistic manner, protesting against a blot on the landscape.  The struts of an illegal jetty in front of The Halikarnasus Club have been spoiling the view of the castle from the Kumbahçe side of Bodrum for too long and despite the promise of their removal being dangled as a carrot (pre-election) by local political parties,  the stakes are still there. This was annoying enough but when news came out of the blue that permission was about to be granted for the (illegal) jetty to be built, the residents of Bodrum were out on the streets to show their displeasure.  We've just heard that the tender to rebuild has been withdrawn today, so fingers and toes are crossed and will be until those ugly posts start being pulled up. 

The beach was definitely the place to be on Christmas day - warm and sunny with not a breath of wind. As we sipped our mulled pomegranate juice and munched our imported cheese, a woman swam leisurely past, a sight common enough in the Antipodes on 25th December, but not here. 

I can't say much about the Christmas Eve Mayor's party as we only popped in for a short while and left before the host arrived.  A combination of 2 head colds and smokey braziers is not a comfortable one and we didn't want to spread our unseasonable germs around, so we arrived on the dot of 7pm.   I couldn't  help but notice how amazingly prompt people arrive at a party when the drinks are on the house.  It's a pity we can't get such a good attendance for the Consulate information meetings! 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Season's Greetings

Winter Solstice, Bodrum

I don't know  how many readers of this blog celebrate Christmas, but to all those that do,  I wish you a  happy one.  I have handed over my red, Christmas pudding-adorned apron to my daughter as we are eating the festive meal at her flat tomorrow. I am only responsible for the meat. As it's a normal working day in Turkey, we shall eat in the evening, when my son-in-law-to-be arrives home from work, but we plan is to spend the afternoon walking the dog on the beach, with a flask of mulled pomegranate juice and some choice cheeses to remind us of the date.
After 12 years living in the UK, where I often produced a Christmas dinner at work before I went home to do it again for family,  you can not imagine the bliss I feel at having no deadlines and no pressure to perform at Yuletide.  I have spent less than 2 hours shopping for food and presents, got stuck in zero traffic jams and trawled around no multi-storey car parks looking for a space.  If anyone here tells me that they miss Christmas in the UK, my jaw drops in astonishment.  
This Christmas Eve afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to Prof. Dr Rüstem Aslan, Director of the Troy Excavations giving a lecture  about the recent excavations and the new museum being constructed on the site and in the evening will wander down to the Mayor's drinks party for foreigners living in Bodrum, usually a Boxing Day day event but two days earlier this year.    Archaeology and wine - a good start to the season. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Calendar Girl

I have finally become "Miss February".  Panic not, no clothes were removed.

On my first day back in Bodrum at the end of November, I was walking with Jake past the Private Hospital, just down the road from our Bodrum house and noticed an advert for a Photography Contest. I think I've previously mentioned that I joined the H3A photograph workshop this year so I decided to look through my "homework" pieces to see if there was a suitable picture to submit.   I found a couple of shots that complied with the "rule of thirds" with which I'd only just become acquainted and after fiddling with their size,  downloaded them onto the competition website. Each time I tried, I got a "jpeg false" reply, so gave up and completely forgot about the whole thing.  So it was a lovely surprise to get a phone call saying I had come third, won 500TL and a mini check-up at the Özel Bodrum Hastanesi.  The prize was presented by the Hospital Director over coffee and cakes last Thursday. So I apologise for a bit of trumpet blowing but I was well chuffed to get into the top three.

Tuncay Özdal (2nd) M Uğur Alpay (1st), BtoB and Op. Dr. Abdullah Servet

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Christmas 1983

Wandering around the Maritime Museum last week, I noticed a small photo of a familiar face.  

In September 1983, my boyfriend, dog and I were given notice to leave our rented house in Tepecik, Bodrum. We had to be out the day before Bayram, despite this falling mid month, and we searched high and low for somewhere to go.  If you think the rental market is difficult in Bodrum now, it was even worse then and on national holidays, every single spare bed and mattress in the town was sold to a tourist. Many would arrive in Bodrum and end up sleeping in their cars; we only had a bicycle, so that wasn't an option.  I can't remember how, but Boatyard owner, Erol Özyurt heard of our plight and offered us his house in the middle of Bitez citrus gardens. It had no electricity, no bathroom and an outdoor loo but we were overjoyed to accept his offer.  There wasn't a track to the house and we had to cross a small (at the time, a torrent later in the year) stream and a few fields to get there. Guests would have to be met and guided in or else be lost wandering for ages.

Lon and Deniz being shown the way through the orange trees
Within a week, we had put in electricity poles, dug out the alaturka loo in the garden (although it took us a year to actually put a door on it), added a water heater and shower and we were set to spend 2 happy years living amongst the trees, only leaving to buy our own house.  I'm not sure how I would cope now with having to put on wellies and grab a torch to go to the loo in the middle of the night, but then it was an adventure and what most of my friends were having to do too. Going through old photo albums, I found this picture of a Boxing Day party, and realised that I'm in regular contact with these friends still and my mother often recalls that warm sunny December day.
So, as I passed his photo in the museum, I offered up a big thank you to Erol Bey for being so generous  in offering us a home and making my first Christmas in Turkey a beautiful one and the first of many.

Boxing Day 1983

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bodrum Encapsulated.

There is a compact museum in the centre of town that catches the flavour of the Bodrum I fell in love with in 1982.  The Deniz Müzesi / Maritime museum honours the essence of the small seafaring village that grew out of ancient Halicarnassus and morphed into the international hangout we live in now.  Boats are celebrated and boatbuilders are given the reverence that they deserve. Bodrum was so cut off from the rest of mainland Turkey that the sea was the main highway - the "boat" was essential. In this museum, beautifully made nautical models of all different types are on display. Whether for fishing, sponge diving, transporting goods or pure pleasure, you'll find an example here.  They are so well made that I wish a cohort of tiny folk would raid the museum one moonlit night and sail these Borrower-size vessels off towards the horizon.  

The importance of the natural sponge to the local economy in the mid half of the 20th century is acknowledged and the faces and names of long-gone sponge divers are recorded for their descendants to view with pride.

Not all our divers are "long -gone',  see Bodrum's last sponge diver

The trailblazer  of Bodrum's artistic, poetic, touristic and literary future: Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, a.k.a The Fisherman of Halicarnassus is recognised with a display of some of his personal items (with more to come soon)  and his books are on sale in the museum shop.

The museum curator is Sema Sagat, who has taken the collection and concept from a temporary display in a tent outside the castle,  to this permanent site just opposite the PTT on Bodrum's main road down from the Bus Garage.  (Look out for the massive Eucalyptus trees, planted by Cevat Şakir, outside the entrance)
The building has been shut for most of 2015 for urgent restoration but is up and running now and
should be a mandatory destination on any Bodrum itinerary.

Open Tuesday to Sunday;  
November to May - 10am to 6pm.  June to October 11am to 10pm. 
Admission fee 5 TL (under 16 yrs - free. Over 65 yrs - half price) 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A Festive Tipple

The upcoming festive season, an upset stomach and a friend's birthday have contributed to this post.  I have an iron digestion so am not used to being laid low by tummy trouble, but I spent all of Saturday in bed, only crawling out to take the dog for walks. I have my suspicions about a piece of sushi I had to be sociable (never understood the attraction) but will point no fingers as I may have caught a local bug.  Sunday wasn't much better and I missed a joint walk up to Pedasa with a local archaeologist, which was a real shame but luckily Roving Jay went along (despite eating from the same sushi plate so my indisposition must have been from a rogue germ) and we will hopefully get to read about the visit soon.
I wanted to take along something festive to writing group on Monday as it is our facilitator, Martha's birthday week.  I wasn't up to baking so I decided to brew up a mulled pomegranate juice. It is very simple to make but I admit the squeezing is a pain. It is best done in an old fashioned pull-down orange juicer, but an ordinary push down one will do, if you cover yourself and all surfaces before you start. If you live in Turkey, take a jug to your local juice stall and get it done well away from your kitchen. If you are in the UK, I'm sure Waitrose sells fresh pomegranate juice by now.

In Turkey, we have sweet and sour  pomegranates, you need the sweet for this recipe, unless you are prepared to add a lot of sugar.

Put half a litre of water in a pan with:
6 cloves,
6 cinnamon sticks,
A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into sticks
The peel from 4 oranges
12 cubes of sugar

Boil until the water is reduced by half.

Juice the four oranges and add to the water and bring back to just under simmer,

Add  1 litre of pomegranate juice and bring back to just under simmering point.

Taste and add more sugar if necessary.  You may need 4 or 5 more sugar cubes

You can sieve and serve this now, but it tastes much better if you cover the pan and leave the spices to infuse for a few hours then warm just before serving.

It makes a great alternative to mulled wined and if you are careful not to boil the juice you will still retain a lot of the vitamin content.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Bilge Kaltakkıran 1932 - 2015

It was a beautifully bright and warm day today. A fitting day for the funeral of a man with a wide sunny smile who was a founding father of the Turkish Tourist trade. A larger than life character who was one of the first to encourage us Brits to visit Bodrum. A man with a silver tongue who managed to get us here despite a 5 hour bus transfer . A man who eventually swapped his London house for a large white villa overlooking the turquoise Aegean Sea, where he and his wife, Rita, could enjoy the Bodrum that he'd been promoting for so many years.  Rest in Peace Bilge.

I mentioned Bilge in my first ever blog post and later on in July 2012.

1982 4th Jan 2012

In March, 1982, I flew to Izmir on my 23rd  birthday, accompanied by Carolyn. We had both been employed to work on a  flotilla of small yachts in Bodrum's brand new marina.  We were met at Heathrow by Bilge and Haluk, Turkish businessmen in their early fifties who met us at the check in and introduced themselves as representatives of  the company we had just joined. This was news to us and we weren't sure why we were travelling with them  but they were convivial company and as the complementary wine flowed on the flight we noticed that everyone else on the flight seemed to know these two gentlemen by name. We soon learnt that Bilge owned an travel agency with a very up-market address in London and Haluk owned a hotel in Izmir.  We landed to the North of Izmir at the  military-run airport, and were met by Haluk's driver.  It was during the drive to the centre of Izmir that Carolyn and I started to get a bit nervous at being in a car with two "mature" Turkish men, who we'd only met 4 hours before, and appeared to be on our way to a hotel with them. That hadn't been in the plan. We had assumed  that we'd be taken straight to the boats that were wintering in Kusadasi. My unease increased as Bilge started telling us about Haluk's fantastic  penthouse apartment above the hotel and  how we would enjoy the views of Izmir and then added that they had some video tapes with him that were impossible to get in Turkey and  he was looking forward to viewing them on Haluk's new VHS player. At that, Carolyn and I looked at each other in wide eyed panic.  The word yacht "hostess" started to take on a completely different connatation.  What had we signed ourselves up to?  How could we have been that naive.

Izmir1982  5th Jan 2012

Our arrival at the Anba hotel gave us an insight into how royalty feel when they travel; our bags were whisked away as we were ushered through the reception. Unfortunately we weren't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. Our only attempt to stem the inevitable sale into slavery and a life under a red light was to cling on to our passports which involved a mild tussle over our hand luggage with a porter as he tried to obey his boss's orders and divest us of all our bags. Eventually we were shown up to a room on the first floor which was the first relief of the evening. However after a shower and change we were summoned up to the penthouse.  Supper was being served there. Should we go?  Would it be madness to accept or churlish to refuse? We decided that as there were two of us, we'd go up, also we were starving as the meal on the flight had been inedible.
The penthouse was very plush for the early eighties. A fantastic selection of meze were on trays in front of the TV.  As we piled up our plates, Bilge was keen to get started on the videos, he'd been waiting all week to watch them.  Carolyn and I tensed, ready to make a dash for the door but as the tape whirred for a few seconds,  the familar strains of Match of the Day's theme tune piped up and we all sat and watched the last Saturday's Arsenal and Chelsea matches.

As I arrived in Istanbul last week, I was remined of Haluk and Bilge as all the Turkish businessmen on the flight had dutyfree bags from Heathrow with goodies they had brought back from England.  They probably all have Sky Sport now and can watch which ever match they like but there are still things from the UK which are valued.  My first arrival at Izmir was  a good lesson as Haluk and Bilge were perfect gentlemen and I was always treated with total respect when employed  in Turkey. I ended up working for Bilge for 2 years in the mid 80s and I'm still in touch with the late Haluk's son. The hotel is still open and I intend to make a trip back there this year for old time's sake.

(Note for 2015. The Anba Hotel has now been pulled down and a new smart chain is going up in it's place, but still in Haluk's family).

Rent a Wreck  11th July 2012

Posting about tractor rental reminded me of my own foray into the car-hire world. In 1984, I got married and decided a life on the ocean wave was no longer for me so took a land-based job.   Bilge, the gentleman I mentioned in my first two posts, offered me employment as sole rep for his villa rental business.  The villas were mostly in Aktur near Bitez, which was one of very few established villa sites.  It looked very pretty from the outside with Bodrum's ubiquitous purple bougainvillea tumbling over the white-washed villas, but the owners had strange (to the 1980s British market) ideas on what constituted acceptable holiday furnishings.  Most had filled their houses with the tatty outcasts from their Istanbul and Ankara homes. One had used his old office furniture and expected his guests to eat at a desk. Looking at the design magazines today, they were 30 years ahead of their time.  Bilge decided to offer all his clients free car hire and instead of doing a deal with Avis or Hertz, bought 12 ancient Fiat 124s which he called his "Recycled Ferraris" These would be parked outside the Bodrum office on transfer day and handed over to the clients as they got off the bus.  We would then drive in convoy the 10 kms to Aktur. (Bear in mind when reading this that the clients had enjoyed free booze on the 4 hour flight over and had just endured at least 5 hours on an un-airconditioned bus).  These cars were already 10 to 15 years old and not all would make it through the week, or even the trip to the villa.  Most of my time was spent ferrying mechanics to stricken cars all around the peninsula. In the days before mobile phones I'm amazed at how often I was called out to change tyres. Occasionally a wheel or two would fall off and I'd have to go out a rescue a family in my jeep. Visitors to Turkey were a game lot in those days, true travelers rather than tourists and we had very few serious complaints but had to put up with the full whammy of British dry humour and sarcasm.  The most memorable being the client who walked into the office with a steering wheel in his hand asking if this was my idea of a anti-theft device.