Tuesday, 31 July 2012


This film from 2006 turned up on Facebook today.  It's a timely reminder that I'm feeling quite homesick. Sweden is very tidy and organised and after 4 weeks of order, politeness and reserve, I'm ready for a return to the illogical, loud and edgy world I came from. If you watch the film, you'll hear Don and Sanne explain how they came to Bodrum in the 1970s and why they are still there. If you haven't visited yet, this might tempt you to come and have a look.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Peninsulas beginning with B.

I'm staying on the Bjare peninsula in South-West Sweden and  write a blog devoted to a peninsula beginning with B in S.W. Turkey. Initially the two places seemed completely alien to each other but over the weeks a few similarities have emerged. Patriotism is championed in both areas. The Swedes here are as keen as the Turks to fly the national flag. Yellow and blue flutters above all civic buildings and in about 25% of gardens. Several  flag poles have emptied this week. Does the flag comes down when the occupier goes on holiday? Perhaps they take it with them. 
The soft fruits and tomatoes grown in Bjare are surprisingly good. I didn't expect to taste a tomato as delicious as those grown in the summer fields at home but the ones here are tastier. How can this be with the amount of rain and the lack of sunshine I've experienced this month?
Swedes and Turks share a love of yogurt and fermented and soured milk. All sorts of ayran variations are  available here. Some salted, some not - all tricking the unsuspecting tourist into choosing the wrong carton for their morning coffee.
And finally, both countries are useless at producing cling-film! It doesn't stick to itself and falls off in the fridge When I get to the UK next month, I'm going to stock up on a year's supply of Tesco's best and keep a roll in my travelling bag.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tourist tales

I've been a tourist in Sweden for the past couple of days. Travelling around with a guidebook in one hand and a map in the other. This is novelty as I'm usually the "tour guide", imparting the local knowledge. Over the years I've had the pleasure of meeting thousands of interesting and entertaining visitors to the Bodrum peninsula but it's the  annoying ones that stick in the memory.
I was called to one villa to sort out a complaint about a "drunk neighbour" who started singing tunelessly early in the morning. On asking if he could be heard a further 4 times a day and pointing to the mosque I was told that if they'd wanted to hear that rubbish, they'd  have booked a holiday in Bradford. Another client complained that the mosquito tablets we provided were useless. She'd chewed one every night and was still getting bitten.When I showed her how to insert one into the machine she looked at me as if I'd reinvented the wheel. I had clients who booked apartments on the beach and complained in one case that there was too much sand and in another that there was too much sea and one client wanted to move accommodation because her white stiletto heeled shoes didn't work on the beach. My favourite request is from the the customer who wanted me to book her a "round the island" boat trip. I couldn't oblige because the island she had in mind was Turkey.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Road Manners

I've been observing teenage boys playing computer games while I've been away and their aim seems to be to survive in one piece while causing as much collateral damage as possible in their wake. Similarly,  if that isn't the intention of the average driver as he gets into his car in Turkey, it is often the result. The Swedish roads are very different. Speed limits are set very low and seem to be universally adhered to. 30kmph is the suggested maximum in the towns which is only just above a crawl. I have only been overtaken once while here and I forced the driver to do it as I dithered over whether I was heading for Boarp or Paarp. I sat in a traffic jam for 30 minutes in Bastad and a motorbike waited behind me the whole time, even though there was no oncoming traffic. I have to drive past three small cottages in a narrow lane on my way to the shops and I've been very careful to keep my speed below 20 kmph as I pass, but after a few days two cute signs painted by children went up which I assume are warnings to cut my speed.  It seems I'm viewed as the irresponsible driver for once.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Swedish Caper

I've been in Sweden for the past two weeks getting to grips with the many ways to preserve a raw fish. I should have winged my way back to Bodrum yesterday but plans changed and I'm still in the land of the Volvo. I was very organized this trip and, expecting a lack of internet access, lined up my blogs to be published while I was away. This one is off the cuff so excuse the editing. I've gone through several bottles of capers while preparing my Swedish fish dishes and it struck me as odd that we don't use capers in Turkish cooking. Especially strange because they grow in the hills behind my house. The caper is the bud of the very pretty flower below. Once the flowers have finished berries form, these are also becoming popular as a flavouring. Neither buds nor berries can be eaten raw. They have to be treated like olives and soaked in several changes of water before being packed in salt or bottled in brine. I'm keen to get home to try my hand at caper preservation. I'd also like to see some serious sunshine. It's rained every day so far. I now realise that when you see a beautiful golden skinned Swede, it's not a tan it's rust.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


When the temperatures reach the mid 30s, a visit to an archaeological site is the last thing on my mind, and I'm very grateful that I can now time all my trips to coincide with the cooler months. On boiling hot days, I like to look back at winter photos and plan future trips.

My favourite destination has always been Stratonikeia, between Milas and Yatağan. The site is an archaeologist's dream as Greek, Roman and Ottoman remains tumble round the Turkish Republic houses. The Villagers of Eskihisar were forced to leave their houses as the ever expanding coal mine encroached on their land. Abandoned villages always have a forsaken air and Eskihisar had the added menace of massive slag heaps looming over the ancient city walls.  Only one old lady refused to leave and as the years went on she got progressively more dotty and would yell  at us as we apologetically picked our way around the ruins.  She is long gone now but luckily my talented hubby captured her in water colour. 

I returned to Stratonikeia this April for the first time in 10 years and found a happier atmosphere in the village. Two families have moved back and a team from Pamukkale University were busy excavating and restoring mosaics.  The mosque has been repaired despite having no worshippers and the tea house was open.  The towering slag heaps have been seeded and are turning into rolling green hills. Excavations have turned up exciting finds detailed below in the links. But the most thrilling development is an initiative between Muğla and Italian Education ministries to educate children using Statonikeia and Herclenium as examples. With a tag line of  "Who doesn't know the past can't have a future, so teach through history", I am completely won over.



Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Rent a Wreck

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 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.  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.

Introdruction to Bulent:


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Rent a Tractor

As an admirer of entrepreneurial activity, my eye was caught by a new venture at the entrance to our village.  A spanking new tractor was parked next to a shabby tent. For a couple of days, a young chap sat smoking outside the tent watching the cars pass and twiddling his thumbs. Business was slow as most of the farmers in our area either have ancient tractors or dig the land with hoes. After after a week of feeling sorry for him I noticed the tractor pulling a plough in a nearby field and from then on he was out every day. As is the way in Turkey, when someone spies an opportunity, it won't be long before a replica business springs up next door.  I call it the "petrol station syndrome." It only takes one petrol station to open on a road and within a year there will be two, and then four and then eight.  It took one month for my friend to attract competition. So by my reckoning, at the beginning of 2013, we will have 4 tractors and 4 tents. Let's hope no one decides to build a petrol station.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Crimes against Cucumbers

This title was just too good to ignore. My old friend, Angie Mitchell Sunkur published a very good cookery book 8 years ago; "Secrets of a Turkish Kitchen". If you are new to Turkish cuisine and would like to learn more, you won't find a more accessible volume of recipes. The original is now sold out so for the new imprint, Angie has updated the book and changed the layout. As it is being published in Turkey, the book has to be passed by a publication committee before it can be printed.  This is proving to be a long process. What could be offensive about a cookery book you may think. We were discussing this on the phone when Angie uttered the classic line, "They are looking to see if I've committed any crimes against cucumbers". With that thought dangling, I'll leave you to your imaginations.

Publication is imminent and you can order a copy directly from Angie: <angiemtravel@hotmail.com>

Monday, 2 July 2012

Agnus Castus

If you have travelled out of town anywhere in South West Turkey you will have driven past this bush.  It's spike-like blooms can be any shade from pale lilac to a deep purple and it's always buzzing with bees and butterflies. In the villages around Milas, its green leaves are boiled up to dye the skeins of wool for the carpets that are still woven in almost every household. Its branches were used to make baskets, but I haven't been able to find anyone still doing this. The leaves can be macerated in oil to make an insect repellant. I should try it on my ant infestation. Its many names; Chasteberry, The Chaste tree, Abraham's Balm and Monk's Pepper refer to its ancient use as a libido inhibitor. Roman women were said to spread it on beds while their husband's were away on campaigns and monks used it to keep their thoughts pure. Research in Germany has proved that this plant, while containing no hormones itself, has a balancing effect on the body's endocrine system. Taken either dried in capsules or as a tincture every morning, it has been found to reduce the adverse symptoms of polycystic ovaries, p.m.s. and menopause. I discovered it about 10 years ago when I lived in England and I bought my supply from Hambly's Herbal Dispensary in East Sussex http://www.hamblys.net/ . I recommend my female readers take a look at the website.  It took me several years to realise that the main ingredient of the precious little bottle was growing in abundance at  the bottom of my garden.  So this Autumn I will be out with my basket harvesting my own berries.