Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Hello UK

Travelling to and from Bodrum is so easy these days, especially now the eponymous orange liveried jets fly in and out so regularly.  It wasn't always so.  Our only route used to be via the military airport North of Izmir with TKH,  (Turkish Cyprus Airlines).  Seasoned travellers would always make a point of visiting the loo a couple of times at Heathrow knowing that the facilities at the other end were only for dire emergencies or for those equipped with a peg for the nose and rubber overshoes for the feet.  Very strong bladder control was needed for these trips; a 4 hour flight and then 5 or 6 hours on the road. Before I put everyone off visiting Turkey, I should point out that things have changed.  Bodrum airport's toilets are immaculate, worthy of a 5 star hotel if a little too high tech for me.  The machine that delivers the paper towels is motion operated so I find myself doing a lot of waving under, beside and in front of the machine. My hands are pretty much dry by the time a towel whirs out.  
Thirty odd years on, the tables seem to have turned.  After a long wait at passport control at Gatwick, I decided a trip to the ladies would be opportune before collecting my suitcase as I had a long train journey ahead. I wish I hadn't.  Long queues, cubicles that hadn't seen disinfectant for a long while, no loo paper.  I felt embarrassed that this was a visitor's first impression of Great Britain.  Come on Gatwick airport - surely you can do better than this. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

All Change

The arrival of May signals change in Bodrum.  Shops that have been closed for the winter, open. Yachts that have spent the winter in the boatyards, go back in the water. The town fills with seasonal workers who have spent their winters at home.  There is a general air of optimism that, despite poor showings for the past couple of decades, this will be the year when tourists fill their suitcases with carpets, leather jackets, gold jewellery and pottery windmills. Winter woollies are packed away and summer clothes are put back in the wardrobe,  except this year April was much warmer than the first half of May.  

When we owned a Travel Agency in Bodrum, May usually started in a panic, as villa and hotel owners who'd known their first guests were arriving on May 10th would be still painting and decorating on May  9th and we'd still be waiting for deposits from Tour Operators, promised in April, to arrive in our bank accounts.   I don't miss those days at all. 
Now May heralds our move to the country, a bit late this year because of the cool weather, and Jake's haircut. A process that takes over 2 hours and leaves everyone exhausted. 

I was determined to get my winter knitting projects finished by May, and with a couple of evenings non-stop needle clicking, I managed to get my second blanket finished.  I've never attempted anything big before, but with the encouragement of the H3a knitting group, I'm now set up for the next cold winter.  I'm hoping to learn to knit round corners next year. 

May also herald my annual trip north to The a highlands of Scotland.  Which is where I'll be, with limited internet access, when you read this post. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mulberries at Gambilya

There is a bumper crop of mulberries this year and everyone is searching for ways to use up this juicy fruit. One friend is brewing mulberry wine and  I'm looking forward to tasting and writing about the resulting brew. Mulberries are ideal for sherbets and cordials. Most recipes call for the berries to be boiled with sugar and water but Lale, at Gambilya Cafe in Bodrum showed me a "raw" recipe.  The amounts are vague but approximately 2 cups of berries, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of lemon juice are mixed in a glass jar, which is shaken daily and left in the garden for 4 days.  The mixture is then passed through a fine sieve and bottled.  I would keep the bottles in the fridge, but I'm sure they won't be around for long as the syrup mixed with 4 parts water makes a very refreshing long drink. I think the addition of a shot of vodka and plenty of crushed ice would also go down well after the sun dips below the yardarm. She also makes a cordial using purple basil instead of berries, which, once diluted, produces the delicate pink liquid in the glass on the left. 

I haven't mentioned many ( if any) restaurants in this blog, but Gambilya is worth a recommendation as Lale and Selahattin have created a little green oasis in the centre of Bodrum, where healthy, clean
natural foods can be enjoyed in a peaceful, almost rural atmosphere. We hold our writing group here every two weeks, and each time we are treated to a different cake or dessert, created with minimum or zero sugar and lots of seasonal fruits.  Effort is made to use only locally sourced products and their lunch and dinner menus feature home cooked dishes which aren't found in other restaurants. 
They also have excellent wifi so if you are looking for a quiet spot to catch up on your correspondence over a herb tea or coffee, Gambilya is the ideal spot. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

"Work Related Murder"

"Work related Murder": A phrase I think we will become very familiar with in the coming weeks.  

The tragedy that is unfolding in Soma, where at least 200 miners are dead and many more unaccounted for, is heartbreaking.   I can't write anything upbeat about Turkey while so many families are suffering.  Year after year, honest, hardworking men lose their lives earning the minimum wage, making vast profits for the fat cats, who have no respect for the safety of their work force.  Not just in mining, I see this abuse every day in Bodrum.  Construction workers on unsafe scaffolding,  not a hard hat between them, as lumps of concrete crash down and not a minute spent on safety education.   How many more have to be poisoned, crushed, gassed, electrocuted and burnt as they work before lessons are learnt.  Flags may be flying at half mast all over Turkey but what use is that to the widows and fatherless children. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Pearl Wedding Anniversary.

Yesterday was our 30th wedding anniversary which means that today is the 30th anniversary of my life as a Turk.  It's a cliche to say that the time has zipped past frighteningly quickly, but that doesn't make it any less true. In the 30 years since I picked up my pink identity card (pink for a girl, blue for a boy) it has become much harder to take Turkish nationality.  I only had to say "yes'" and sign about ten forms and marriage to a Turk entitled me to become one too. I was able to work legally, pay my national insurance and be eligible for a pension in Turkey. Now there is a three year wait after marriage,  a police check and a language test and probably many more than 10 forms to fill in.
Living  and working in Turkey has not always been easy but it's that little bit of grit that makes the pearl.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Raw Food

Selen Cambazoğlu Taşbası, Zeynip Casalini and Pelin Dumanlı

My journey as a cook started on an archaeological dig. Once I found out that you got paid a lot more for dexterity with a sharp knife than a blunt trowel,  my career path as an archaeologist wavered and within 2 years I had swapped muddy knee pads and waterproof trousers for a sarong and sun hat, and was head cook and washer-up on a sleek charter yacht in the Med.  I would have probably gone straight into cooking after school, but grammars in the 1970's were all about going to university and girls were only allowed to carry on in home economics if their grades in "proper subjects" had slipped.  It's refreshing that a career in food is now an accepted career path, and is one that you can join at any time of your life.
I met three ladies last week who were all about enjoying good food.  Selen, an archaeology and history of art graduate, runs Culinary Bodrum, an agency that organises foody trips and workshops. Read all about it below.  Zeynip Casalini is a well known singer and also runs Begonvil restaurant in Oasis, Bodrum. She is a raw food convert, and it was to watch her make nut milk, avocado "cheese" cake and hummus from raw chick peas that we gathered at the Kumquat Restaurant, opposite  the entrance to Bodrum Marina. Pelin is a "super chef" with an impressive cv and a book coming out about cooking offal. She is also part of the Culinary Bodrum team and consultant chef at Kumquat.
A Mediterranean diet is already heavy on raw food, but an afternoon with these three has spurred me on to include more raw ingredients in my diet.  I am eating an apple as I write!

If you are in the Bodrum area, there is a pasta class tomorrow. Details on the website.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Mystery - Accident, Act of God or Crime.

We are getting ready to move back to the village. This always takes more time than expected because we are lazy. As befits two Pisceans sharing house, a lot of chat goes back and forth about what we're going to do, we visualise doing it and then we put it off.  When we're in the country, it takes us ages to move back to town because we really love living in the village and when we're in the town, it's a wrench to move back to the countryside because we really enjoy life in Bodrum town and only move out because we don't like sharing it with all the others who arrive in the summer.  We do eventually pull our fingers out and we have been paying regular visits to the village and have finally got the house spruced up. I've pulled several wheelbarrow loads of weeds out of the terrace and now there is just the pool to clean and a few bits of damp wall to touch up.  Or so we thought. Yesterday we arrived to find a bit of our guest house wall missing.  My first thought was, "A 12 foot giant has swung his pick-axe into the top of the wall".   I admit this is not the most likely scenario. My husband, who is more worldly, immediately blamed vandals, but any vandal worth his name would not leave all windows and pot plants unharmed and chose to bring his own ladder to knock a hole like this.   My thoughts then moved on to earthquakes.  We've had 100s of tremors in the past month or two and last week there was quite a long 4.1 shake.  Maybe this had rattled our foundations and made this bit of wall fall out.  This idea was entertained for a few minutes but we've had bigger earth tremors without any damage to the building and a quick call to the village confirmed that no one had suffered any damage.  Teo got the ladder out to look a bit closer.  Could an inept hunter have aimed for his supper and hit our house instead.  Hunting this close to a house is illegal but that means nothing here, but would a shot gun cause this much damage from outside our boundary?  Thinking of guns, I remembered that when I was at the house last week, a pretty lively wedding was in full swing in the village. Is our hole in the wall the consequence of too much rakı, machismo and firearms, a common mixture at local weddings?  We will never know.  Has anyone got any better ideas? 

Friday, 2 May 2014

Traffic-free Streets

Twice this week, Bodrum's streets have been peaceful.  Jake and I have enjoyed taking our morning walk down the middle of the road, unbothered by car horns.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if traffic could be excluded from the centre for a few hours every day, not just in the run-up to international sporting events. 

Sunday saw Bodrum host it's first Global Run. Competitors ran three laps around Bodrum, starting at the cruise liner port and looping back at the marina.  On a dull, pre-storm Sunday,  there weren't many people out watching, but over 1000 runners were on the streets. 

The race followed our afternoon dog-walking route.  I now know that we cover 5 kms .

The 6th stage of the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey started at 11:30 in the main square today, but the roads were closed early so Jake and I again had a pleasant wander before the riders arrived. 

All information about this year's race is on the http://www.tourofturkey.org/ website.
I wrote about the race last year in Bikes in Bodrum. This year I found a much better spot to watch the start but had to defend myself against the sharp elbows of the "professional" photographers who swung in at the last minute with long lenses flying.  
Even professional sportsmen take time out for a holiday snap. 

The start.