Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Three Weeks

A lot can change during 3 weeks away, especially if one leaves during a thunderstorm, wrapped up in wind-sheeter and polar necked jumper and arrives back to Spring sunshine, wild flowers and wide awake tortoises. The one above can move almost a quickly as Jake.

Before I left, I was beginning to wonder if my wisteria had died as it was showing no shoots at all, but it made up for its late start with a heady display.

Some changes are not so welcome. Driving to the village, I was surprised to see additions to the road; some of the corners had been bypassed to straighten the route. This made my heart sink as the only reason for this is to accommodate extremely long lorries.

And a couple of kilometres along, there they were. Wind turbines ready to go.  Locals have not been consulted in the siting of these leviathans and their installation threatens the eco-system of the forest. Pine trees need a certain amount of humidity to thrive, turbines reduce the humidity. Bees in the area rely on pine pollen to make honey so honey production - one of the original backbones of the Mumcular economy - suffers.  The last time I looked, there were 28 applications for wind turbine installations in our region - that's a lot of honey to lose.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Crossing the sky

On my latest trip I flew from Athens to Heathrow T5 with British Airways and returned from Heathrow T2 to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.  This gave me a perfect opportunity to compare two national carriers.  The cost was almost the same with THY coming out a bit cheaper per mile. Both included hold baggage of 23kgs. Both terminals at Heathrow were free of queues and I got from plane to car park at terminal 5 in less than 20 minutes.  A good reason to steer clear of flights to Gatwick as the passport queue there is always a truly long and winding road.  On board BA the friendly confident voice of the pilot always reassures but after that Turkish Airlines won hands down. BA has abandoned its inflight food provision and serves drinks and snacks from a trolley at a price, and an important factor now laptops and iPads are banned into the UK from certain countries - BA had no inflight entertainment.  THY served drinks and food; either köfte or a vegetarian pasta choice if you hadn't prebooked, I had chosen a veggie/fruit meal on booking at no extra cost.  There was an impressive choice of films and music available on THY throughout the flight and it was also available during takeoff and landing which should keep anyone missing their tablet happy and each seat had a charging point for phones. My battery is always on its last legs when I get back to Turkey, so this was appreciated.
In view of the electronics restriction, Turkish airlines are accepting laptops etc at departure; bubble wrapping, labelling and storing in a hard case (similar to those used for musical equipment) and say they guarantee their safe return.  Easy Jet have also announced a similar policy. BA hasn't made a press announcement yet on how it is dealing with this ban so I welcome comments from anyone who has flown from one of the restricted countries in the last week.

Friday, 24 March 2017


I've been travelling and have had a great time but it's lovely to come BacktoBodrum. 

Lee on Solent, unfortunately the hovercraft museum was closed

Sutton Hoo burial mound overlooked by Tranmer House 
Mausolus, a displaced Bodrumite in The British Museum

Famous wide East Anglian sky at Aldeburgh

On my last day in London, a mad man committed an atrocity that we now have to accept as one more daily risk to add to our list of possible misfortunes which includes being run over, contracting cancer, having a heart attack, being killed by a donkey or shot by a toddler (toddlers are way more dangerous gun criminals than terrorists in the USA).  It hasn't made me cross London off my travel list and I hope you won't too and, despite all you read about Turkey, I'd like to think that you will still consider Bodrum as a worthy holiday destination. I feel safe here but I'm keeping a wary eye on the under threes.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Wine and ham at La Tapa

I was invited to a wine and cheese evening at La Tapa restaurant in Bodrum; a glass of bubbly to start then 2 whites and 2 reds paired with 4 tasty cheeses, which gave me 4 ideas for further blog posts on the different cheeses of Turkey, so more on them later. Alongside the cheese plates, a platter of ham arrived on our table of 8.  Palma, prosciutto or any pork derived ham is a great treat for those of us living in Turkey so my eyes lit up and I throughly enjoyed my one slice.  After a while it became obvious that only 3 of us had tasted the ham and the other 5 were not going to be eating haram pork, all the more for the lucky three. 
To cap off a great evening that allowed me to pretend eating cheese and drinking wine was an academic activity because it was accompanied by short lectures, our neighbouring table passed over their untouched plate of ham.  

La Tapa is a great place for fixed price lunches and a la carte suppers and now has a charcuterie section where tasty hard-to-source cheesy and porky comestibles can be bought at prices that don't burn one's pocket. 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Artemisia - Warrior Queen of Bodrum

Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire

Who could be a better subject for 8th March, World Women's Day, than Artemisia.  She was born in  Halicarnassus, ie Bodrum and fought as an ally of Xerxes I, King of Persia, during the 2nd invasion of Greece. We hear a lot about her from Herodotus, a fellow Halicarnassian, and know that she led her own fleet and was not above a bit of tactical flag changing when necessary.  At the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE, which she had advised Xerxes against,  Artemisia's ship was about to be destroyed by an Athenian persuer so she rammed the ship of Damasithymos of Calyndos who was on her side.  The Calyndian ship sank with all hands and the Athenian ship, seeing this, assumed Artemisia had changed sides and left her alone. She hadn't but Herodotus points out that she was not on good terms with Damasithymos so this could be one of history's earliest records of femail multi-tasking. Xerxes seeing the attack, assumed that she had sunk a Greek ship and was impressed, saying " My men have become women and my women, men."

I'd heard that there was a film about Artemisia so tracked down '300: Rise of an Empire' and sat down a couple of evening ago to enjoy a bit of history.

I was about 2 minutes in when I had to look away - I don't think I've ever seen so much blood flying about on screen, all in slow motion. I persevered and worked out that I was watching the Battle of Marathon and the swash-buckling warrior cutting off heads and limbs willy-nilly was Thermistocles, but got very confused when he shot an arrow that killed King Darius of Persia, Xerses' father.  Darius wasn't at the battle and died several years later of natural causes. It takes a lot of suspending of belief when the premise of the film is Xerxes' turning into a massive gold skinned god to avenge his father's death when Thermistocles had nothing to do with it.  I listened to rather than watched some more and shouted at the screen a bit when Artemisia was given a completely false back story too, and then gave up.  It's a shame as the story of Artemisia would make a terrific film and doesn't need Hollywood to rewrite her history. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Blessed are the cheese makers.

I am very rarely invited on to the Turkish bloggers organised circuit, maybe because I write in English or perhaps because I am based in Bodrum rather than Istanbul, but on Friday I was and I have to admire their stamina. I was only with them for one day which started at 8:30 am and finished after supper. The others are on the Bodrum peninsula for 4 full days and are bused from activity to activity - meal to meal, non-stop, constantly updating their blog posts, Facebook pages and streaming live on Instagram. I still use a camera and don't even have my phone connected to the internet, I will have to up my game if I want to join their ranks.
Our first port of call on Friday was The Anadolu High School in Turgutreis to watch Austrian cheese producer, Robert Paget, make a soft cheese in front of students planning a career in catering. He talked us through the process from filling the bain-marie and heating the milk to 32 degrees C to adding the rennet and bacteria and waiting an hour to let the curds set. While we waited,  Izmir Public Health representative, Vet. Hekim Adnan Serpen, talked at length on the awful consequences of poor hygiene around milk production and the dangers of using raw milk and stressing that all milk be heated to 80 degrees before consumption.  At this point our translator added that his friend had died a terrible death after being poisoned by raw milk.   Great! Thanks for that and I had to ask, "Was the milk in our incipient cheese raw or pasturised?".  I sure you can guess the answer and the dichotomy of the dire warning we had just listened to and what we were doing was conveniently ignored as it is on most subjects here.
Back to the cheese making Robert tried to instil the concept that he wasn't just giving them a recipe for cheese, he was giving them the opportunity to enter the world of cheese in all its diverse forms, some they may take years to discover and this chance to see the magic bacteria turn sweet liquid milk into tangy solid cheese was their door.  Most of the students looked unimpressed but I think we discovered one future celebrity chef. Keep you eyes on Savaş, second on the left in the picture. Fluent in English and Turkish, he joined in enthusiastically and was live streamed on Oya Cuisine, Selin Rozane's Turkish Flavours and Dilekita as he helped cut the curds, so he has already been watched by most of the serious foodies in Turkey.
The blogger bus had to move on to the the next rendezvous so we didn't get the chance to see the curds being put into molds or the ricotta being drained, I'll have to wait until the next Slow Cheese Festival in 2019.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Slow Cheese Festival in Bodrum

If you are in or near Bodrum don't miss out on the Cheese Festival.

Head off to Oasis Shopping Mall to taste cheese, cream, butter and yogurt from all over Turkey

Bodrum Mayor, Mehmet Kocadon, was there this afternoon (and so was I, but I'll spare you the selfie)

Better still, learn to make cheese at home - there is a workshop open to the public.

Download the  festival program here: Slow Cheese Program 2nd to 5th March and spend the rest of the week-end being cheesy.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March On

The year is marching on at a fast pace and I feel I am lagging behind. I couldn't think what to give up for the beginning of Lent today but it is obvious that I should renounce procrastination. If I had a list of things to do, it wouldn't be getting any shorter and my list of things done (much more satisfying than the former) isn't getting any longer.  So today I have embraced action and booked my air tickets Bodrum-Istanbul-Athens-Heathrow-Istanbul-Bodrum (oh for direct flights!) for my March trip, bought my travel insurance - forsaking a single trip policy for an annual world-wide one in the hope that it may spur me to more exotic destinations, and am about to start emptying a wardrobe whose contents have had nobody to wear them for 8 months.

On a self congratulatory note, I have finished my wall hanging.

On an exciting note, our local football team, Bodrumspor who went up a league the season before last are currently at the top of the Spor Toto 3rd league and tensions are running high. It would be a great coup to be promoted to the 2nd league after only 2 seasons.

Football really isn't my thing, but holes in the ground are and a very large trench has been dug just along from the football pitch, on Temple of Mars street.  I've been peering in daily and was surprised that nothing much was appearing and then about 3 metres down this was found: