Saturday, 18 October 2014

Life Goes On

As the chickens come home to roost just across the South Eastern borders of Turkey, life in the South West goes on as normal.  You'd have to look very hard here to find clues that a "war" is raging at the other end of the country.  A small protest in central Bodrum demanding Turkish intervention in Kobane wasn't even reported in the local papers.
Here it is olive picking time again; at least it's time to collect the green ones, there are still a couple of months left to collect the black ones.   We were a bit late with ours and many of the green olives were turning colour, which meant that my thumbs were an even darker shade of brown after an afternoon cutting each olive three times.

These will be soaked for a couple of weeks in water, refreshed on a daily basis and bottled in salt water.    Who knows what the Iraqi/Syrian/Kurdish/Turkish situation will be when we get to taste the new harvest in a month or two.

For those of you interested in the political situation, please take a few minutes to read The Senior Dogs'  latest post from Istanbul which really brings it home to me how lucky I am to be living in this particular corner of Turkey.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bodrum Talks Teas.

Photo credit - Robert Patrick
Friday's talk gave us a few reasons to sweat;  tricky translations, non-compatable memory sticks, non-existent air-con and the inevitable mobile phones piping up every so often, but over all it went very well and more people than expected turned up. 
I've been asked to transcribe the whole talk for the H3A website, so I'll  put the link on here when it's available. But, in the meantime, here is a snippet: 

Linden Flower Tea  - Ihlamur

Linden is an herb that comes from various species of Tilia or Lime Tree. The flowers were historically used to soothe nerves and treat health problems associated with anxiety. These flowers were steeped as a tea to relieve indigestion, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. Today, linden is used in many cough and cold remedies. Active ingredients in linden help promote sweating, which may help treat people with fevers. Tilia has been studied in only a few test tube and animal trials. It appears to have antispasmodic (reducing muscle contractions), astringent (drying), diuretic, and sedative properties.
Frequent use of linden has been linked with heart damage. Do not use without medical supervision if you have heart disease.

Kara baş otu
French lavender – Kara baş otu

French lavender tea is used in Turkey mainly to remedy forgetfulness, and is thought to be useful against Altzheimers. It is also used for good blood flow and against coughs. The tea is sold in Turkey as a cure all for heart and circulation problems, stress, insomnia, prostate problems, high cholesterol, shifting mucus, bronchitis, muscle pains, head aches, and hand tremors. Use the flowers to make tea, and either drink or use the liquid to bathe an aching area, or mix the flowers with honey and eat. 

Olive leaves

Olive leaf - Zeytin yapragı

In the early 20th century, a bitter compound called oleuropein was discovered in olive leaves and in the past 20 years this substance has undergone considerable research.
Initial results show positive results in boosting the immune system against both viral and bacterial attack, promoting increased energy levels, strengthening the cardiovascular system and helping ease aching muscles.

As the winter cold and flu season approaches, I produce my own olive leaf extract. The easiest method is to collect a handful of leaves from trees that haven't been sprayed, chop and infuse in almost boiled water for 5 minutes, strain and drink. The leaves can also be dried and made into tea. I admit it's not a very pleasant taste, but it improved with a teaspoon of honey.
The second way is to steep the leaves in alcohol, olive oil or glycerine  to make a tincture. I pop a few handfuls of leaves into a blender then pushed them into a clean glass bottle and fill it up with vodka. I turn it every day and after 6 weeks I have my tincture. Half a teaspoon morning and night seems to be the recommended dose, although tests at over 100 times this amount showed no harmful effects. I don’t take it all the time, just when I feel a cold or sore throat coming on.

This formula can now be bought over the counter in pharmacies and herbalists in the UK and Turkey. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

A basket full of Bodrum teas.

I got back from Greece just in time to miss all at the Bayram festival sacrifices, which suits me. The rest of the week has been taken up with preparing for a talk I'm giving today on local remedies. This is the basket I prepared to take to the lecture. It is one of my favourite baskets, a Sussex trug brought all the way from England but filled with local Bodrum teas: St John's wort, Sage, French lavender, everlasting flowers, Linden flower, olive leaf and "cough grass". Once the lecture is done and dusted I will have time to devote myself to blogging again .... Watch this space.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Flying Dolphin floundering

If the passenger-carrying metal tube in which you are sitting is going to break down, then it's preferable to be in one with foils rather than wings. My trip on Tuesday was going really well: after my long sit down in Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines got me to Athens airport 10 minutes early and I hopped on the 5 o'clock bus to Pireaus, getting to the harbour in plenty of time to board the Flying Dolphin No 29 to Hydra. For the first time I was in Seat No. 1, with lots of leg room. My 25 companions in the front cabin were jolly French tourists on a trip to Ermioni for dinner.  The vessels on this route have all seen better days. They creak, shriek and wobble and throw out alarming amounts of black exhaust. On a rough trip they also leak and if you put your handbag on the floor, you'll find a wavy salt-encrusted line half way up it the next day. 
We left the harbour on the dot of 7:20 PM and I could almost taste the pork loin washed down with a glass of Santorini White that I was planning on demolishing before I headed up the many steps to the house. In anticipation of this tasty supper, I'd forsworn the free wine at Istanbul and only had a light beer, soup and sandwich.  We'd progressed about 20 meters when the eardrum piercing screeching started. I'm not an engineer, but metal scraping on metal is a good indicator that an engine is not fit for a two hour journey.   We slowed down, the noise abated. We speeded up, the noise started again accompanied by a shudder. We slowed down again.  This carried on for 2 hours.  There were vague announcements that there may be plastic around a foil. Oh yeh! After 2 hours, just when I should have been finding a table in the harbour, there was announcement that we were returning to Piraeus.  I'd been following our progress on my iPhone and knew that we'd been circling outside Piraeus for the past 120 minutes.  We hobbled back into port and got on Dolphin No. 17 which was sitting in exactly the place it had been when we left 2 and a half hours before.  I finally got to Hydra at 11:30pm, climbed the endless steps and made do with a cup of tea and a cream cracker, wondering if the French tour party were still in such a good mood as they carried on to Ermioni to see if their dinner was still on offer at midnight. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A comfy chair

Airports aren't much fun.  They give travelling a bad name.  I had a 5 hour stopover in Istanbul yesterday, not long enough to get out into the city but a very long time stuck on uncomfortable seats. So I found myself a comfy armchair.  I had to pay 15 Euros (39TL) for the privilege of sitting on it but it came with 2 hours free internet, unlimited tea, coffee, beer, wine, rolls, soup, cake, salad and newspapers so well worth the outlay.  I don't have any posh credit cards, so I just paid up at the door.   If you find yourself at Sabiha Gökçen Airport and are travelling with Pegasus or Turkish Airlines, I suggest you head upstairs for the lounges too.  The escalator is a bit of a tease - it only starts to move as you approach, so make sure you head for the one on the right hand side!  The lounge in the domestic side is 29TL but alcohol free. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Nature's Medicine Cabinet.

I've been talked into giving a lecture on the natural remedies found in this part of Turkey and this has had me going through all my old posts looking for inspiration.  I was surprised to find a few that I'd written, but never posted. It's always a nice surprise to find a ready-made blog post that only needs a bit of updating.

St John's Wort - Kantaron

If you walk around any rural market in this area, you will see plastic water bottles filled with a red or burgundy coloured oil.  If you ask what it is you'll be told "Kantaron" or Kantron" and this will be accompanied by a mime of rubbing an arm or face. The bottle will set you back between 7 and 10 TL and I suggest you purchase a supply for your medicine cupboard. What you are actually buying is a tincture of St John's Wort, which for centuries has been a renown cure-all. In ancient times it was hung over front doors to ward off evil and disease.  In Germany it is medically accepted as an effective treatment for depression and in Turkey it is used to cure boils, burns, cuts, cold sores, piles, insect bites. muscle pain and ear-ache. My fellow blogger Ayak, was sold some by a pharmacist to treat a dog bite and she was impressed at its curative properties.  It is clinically proven to be anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is also undergoing trials to see if it is effective in treating age-related memory loss, and tests on mice are positive so far. (Do mice have problems remembering where they left their keys?) It is also traditionally used in some countries, (but not here) to reduce cravings for alcohol.

It has its drawback backs though.  It interacts with many commonly taken drugs, so should never be used if you are taking prescribed medicine without first checking with your doctors, especially if you are taking anti-depressants.  It also makes skin sensitive to sunlight, so if using it you have to keep well in the shade.  It is poisonous to cattle, but the effects of the poison are reduced if the animals are kept out of the sun.

It is a common weed, so now you've seen the picture, you will notice it everywhere,  especially in Spring.  To make the tincture, either the buds of the plant or the seed pods are collected and put in jars for 24 hours, then olive oil is poured on top and the jars left in the sun for 6 to 8 weeks. The resulting red liquid is then strained into bottles.  The whole plant is often pulled up and dried and used as tea, and in other countries, 40 grams of flowers are infused in 1 litre of wine, left for a month, strained and sweetened and 2 tablespoons are taken daily as a pick-me-up!

The more I research local remedies, the more I find that are backed up by scientific studies.  It's a fascinating subject.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Writers' circle.

Writers in a circle

Fish seemed a good idea until I started to fillet 12 sea bass.
Bob and Fatoş dig in, but my Mother is overwhelmed by the many dishes. 

Last October I wrote about about starting a new Writing group in Bodrum and I'm happy to report that we met very two weeks from then on, either in the Maya Hotel or Gambilya Restaurant, to exercise our writing muscles until June arrived and summer activities, travels abroad or visiting friends and relations made us all too busy to continue.  But Sunday marked the Autumn Equinox which brings summer to an end and makes us all think about the coming winter months.   For those in Northern climes, this may be a bit depressing but for us in Southern Turkey its great. July and August have been too hot to do much except recline in the shade, so Autumn heralds a return to activity; both physical and mental.  We celebrated the end of summer with a few glasses of wine and ginger fizz and a pot luck lunch under the pine trees on our terrace.  Just to give credence to our name, Martha got us all sitting in a circle and had us note down our thoughts on "peace"; September 21st being the UN's International Day of Peace.  As our minds ticked over and pens scratched, the only sound was the breeze among the trees.  Peace epitomised!
At the other end of the country peace is long gone. On UN Day of Peace, I could only think of the desperate Syrians, fleeing for their lives across the Turkish border to escape IS.  A peaceful solution will be a long time coming and Turkey will struggle with a refugee crisis that has seen 140,000 cross the border this week alone. Peace doesn't stand a chance.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Senior Dogs and Bodrum Dog *

Senior Dogs Abroad is one of my favourite blogs. Mark and Jolee's perceptions of Turkey chime with my own and I admire their grasp of the political situation in the country. If you need a deeper insight into the machinations of modern Turkish life, I recommend you click on the link to their blog.  If you are planning to visit Istanbul, then I insist that you reserve an afternoon to delve deeper into their posts, it will be the making of your trip. Luckily for me, they left Istanbul and Burgazada behind this week to make a whistle-stop tour of the South West and Jake and I got to meet them.  If you look very carefully, you can see Bodrum Castle in the background of this photo.   We are hoping to tempt them back for a longer visit and give them a young dog's guide to walking the Bodrum peninsula.

* The Bodrum Dog refers to Jake, anyone who suggests otherwise shall be excommunicated

Monday, 15 September 2014

Nations torn apart by politics, reunited by music.

As my Turkish blog is becoming increasingly Greek in the summer months, it's satisfying to have both national flags side by side on this post.  I have also mentioned that my favourite archaeological site is Stratonikeia and that I have fond memories of the ancient theatre so I was very happy to catch a H3A-organised bus to Stratonikeia yesterday evening.  These flimsy fabric emblems, that incited horrific bloodshed and enmity, were flying together  in the theatre last night to celebrate a Friendship Concert featuring the AK-DER Turkish music group and a Rembetiko group from Kos. The concert was introduced by Prof. Dr. Bilal Söğüt, the director of the archaeological excavations, which ticked another box on my blogging list  (if only there had been a rescue dog dancing the sitarki while cooking a kebab, I would have had a full house).

As usual with most events of this kind, it started late which had the audience whistling and hand clapping, trying to get the performers to stop glad handing and get on stage, and then the seemingly unending speeches had to be got through with everyone thanking everyone else.  The Mayor of Nisyros may have regrets today at inviting the whole audience to his Greek island and promising to greet everyone personally on arrival, but his sentiments were received very warmly.
Eventually the musicians were allowed to take centre stage and played over two hours of well known songs which had the whole audience joining in.  Three brand new pieces which to my untrained ear sounded exactly like the old favourites, seemed to be well received. I've included a clip of  "Izmir Kavakları" (Izmir Poplar Trees) which started off in Greek and ended in Turkish; appropriate if one considers the history of this great city.

The streets were full of stalls selling honey, olives, local remedies, crafts and refreshments.  It was great to see the once-deserted  town so full and bustling.  

The ladies of the chorus in their striking turquoise outfits. 

A photo grabbed before dusk fell. The theatre eventually filled up to numbers that would have been respectable in the years after its construction in the reign of Augustus  (63BC-14AD)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

My First Lime in Bodrum

This post is for Kath and Dave, our globe trotting, camper-van driving friends.  When they departed last year, to return to real life in Surrey, they left us the money to buy a lime tree. This I duly did and yesterday I picked my first home grown lime.  These tasty green fruit are hard to come by in Bodrum, and impossible to find in the village so the possibility of being self sufficient in the next few years is a wondrous concept.  We celebrated our harvest with the best gin and tonic of the year.  The next lime I  pick shall be kept in the deep freezer and grated sparingly into Thai curries or desserts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the coriander seeds and lemon grass plonked in the garden earlier this week.

Kath and Dave may no longer be driving around Europe, the van has been exchanged for a MG, but Kath hasn't given up blogging. Cakes by Kath is her new blog, showcasing the magnificent birthday cakes she makes for friends and family.