Friday, 31 January 2014

Bodrum's Oral History Group.

Plenty of posts on this blog look back two or three thousand years  to when Lelegians, Carians, Persians, Greeks or  Romans were busy settling, raiding, overthrowing or abandoning this region of Bodrum. There are multiple ancient historical sources and a couple of centuries of archaeological reports to sift through, most of which are now accessible on line.  A small post on one archaeological site can lead to hours and often days of fascinating research as one university paper leads to another.  Unfortunately the same can not be said of the recent history of Bodrum, so I was extremely happy to sit in on a meeting of the Bodrum Oral History Group, who are trying to record the memories of Bodrum's oldest residents before their stories are lost for ever.  The group are traveling to different villages and towns in and around the Bodrum peninsula, asking questions and prompting recollections, recording as they go.  Their aim is to open a local museum where all the recordings will be indexed so that future generations will be able to visit, look up their forebears and listen to their stories on dvd or mp3.  It's an ambitious and exciting project and I hope it bears fruit. 

On Wednesday, the group's attention was focused on Mumcular and surrounding villages and I went along to listen first-hand to some of the stories.  There was a lot of laughter, songs and a few tears as life without running water and electricity (which didn't arrive until 1974) was described.  All the speakers had spent their early lives rising before dawn to plant and tend tobacco or herd goats and sheep, with beekeeping and carpet making as sidelines.  At one time or another, the majority had also seen their yearly profits disappear in the hands of unscrupulous rogues who would make off without paying their dues.  What came across in bucket loads while listening to the stories, is the great sense of humour these folk possess. It was a joy to witness. 

Yusuf Özkara giggling at the fact that nothing interesting happened in his 18 years as a night watchman. 

Mustafa Bacaksız, nicknamed "Steel Uncle"  - A musician and songwriter. 

Yusuf Akgöl, nicknamed "Chinese Yusuf" travelled the world as an engineer before returning to Mumcular 
and Orhan Tan who worked for the municipality - " when water arrived I became a plumber, when electricity arrived I became an electrician and when vehicles arrived I became a driver". 

Organisers and participants in Mumcular's splendid meeting hall which doubles as a wedding venue. 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

To write is to travel.

Bodrum castle in January

To write is to travel without leaving your seat. To write well is to populate your head with a never-ending stream of strangers. To write entertainingly is to listen to the strangers and determine which are leading you down fruitful roads and which are diverting you to dead ends.  A name is all that is needed to spark a train of thought that can take a family from birth to death, from Asia to Europe, from the Earth to the Moon. Everyone of us can hear the names but only the writer can take others on the journey. The strangers in your head may laugh, cry, shout or scream but the writer has the power to make the laugh bitter, the cry of surprise, the shout of triumph and the scream of delight.  I'm wondering if I've got the willpower to harness the strangers to take the journey from prologue to epilogue.  Probably not - I'm more suited to short bursts of prose inspired by the streets of my daily walk and inspiration is a bit thin today.  It must be the Lodos, the southerly wind that causes headaches and general lethargy until it builds into a massive storm that batters and floods. A warning has been issued telling us to batten down but walking through Bodrum today the sky behind the clouds is still blue and the air warm enough to abandon jacket for a cardigan.  Next week the North wind will blow cold crisp air across Bodrum which will, hopefully, concentrate the mind and galvanise creativity.

Monday, 20 January 2014

No Excuses

Climbing to Pedasa acropolis c. 1985

I first visited Pedasa in about 1985. Access was via a hard climb from the Bodrum to Turgutreis main road, or a jeep trip through the centre of the Bodrum rubbish tip, (which was a revelation with its Dickensian rag-pickers living amidst the garbage), and then a rock strewn walk through mud and prickly shrubs.   When we arrived at the acropolis, apart from a sense of achievement at finding the site and a fantastic view of the sea to the North and South, we appreciated very little of the archaeology as nothing had been excavated.  If you have read my posts on Syangela and Termera you will know that access to most of the Lelegian citadels still involves a brisk walk and climb and I can understand why visitors to Bodrum are reluctant to waste a day hiking through rough terrain to see a “pile of stones” (my daughter’s description of most archaeological sites.) 
Time has rolled on and now there is no excuse to leave Pedasa off your itinerary. Extensive excavations are underway and a new road has been constructed.  Now it’s possible to drive all the way to the newly discovered Temple of Athena and the Sacred Road and the path to the acropolis has been laid with railway sleepers to aid access
According to Homer, the founders of the Lelegian towns in Bodrum  came originally from Pedasos near Troy and moved  South after the Trojan war.  Pedasa was the most important of the 8 settlements  and it was the most mentioned in ancient sources. The current archaeological excavation, which started in 2007, dates the town from the 2nd millennium BC to the 13th century AD.   Pedasa now has its own web site, unfortunately only in Turkish, but I recommend you have a look for the great photographs of ceramics, glass, jewellery, statuettes and coins found during the excavation plus aerial views of the site.

Steps to Pedasa acropolis 2014

Recently uncovered sacred road to the temple of Athena

Well sign-posted road to Pedasa from Konacik

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Chestnut and Red Onion Tarts

I've made these delicious tarts a few times over the holiday period and have been asked for the recipe on each occasion so, as I haven't written any food posts for a while, now seems like a good opportunity.  The new internet sanctions coming into force may jeopardise all but food and travel blogs in Turkey hence it's time to up my foodie credentials.  These tarts can either be made as small bite-size canapés or a large tray bake to serve with salad as a supper dish.  When buying chestnuts, choose the biggest ones you can find; in Turkey I favour Bursa Kestane. They are more expensive but are much easier to peel and in the end you will get more cooked chestnuts for your money.

For the pastry
200 gr plain flour
100 gr butter
pinch of salt
cold water 

For the filling
3 large red onions
500gr chestnuts
200gr white/feta cheese
olive oil for frying

I make my shortcrust pastry the old fashioned way by rubbing the butter into the flour and salt until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and then adding chilled water slowly by the tablespoon until the mixture comes together  and can be made into a ball.  When pushed for time, I've  put all ingredients except water into a food processor and whizzed it together before slowly adding the water and this also makes acceptable pastry, but it's not a light as the finger-tip method.  Most important is to wrap the pastry ball in film and chill for at least an hour.  While it's in the fridge, make the filling by cutting a cross in the rounded side of each chestnut. Place on a tray in an oven preheated to 200C for 20 minutes, turning each chestnut over after 10 minutes. Set aside to cool until you can easily handle them, but don't let them get cold because this makes getting the skins off  much more difficult.  Peal and chop the onions and fry until soft but not browned in a splash of olive oil.  

Roll the pastry as thinly as you can and either cut circles for a tart tin or line a large baking tray, you should have plenty of pastry over to keep in the fridge for another day.   Break the pealed chestnuts into smaller pieces and mix into the onions and either fill the tarts with this mixture or spread it over your pastry base.  Break the cheese up with a fork (I find rinsing feta in water before I use it improves the flavour) and sprinkle over the onion mix.  I bake this for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 200C. If you have the option to have the heat in the oven coming from the base, you will get crisper pastry.
If you can't find chestnuts or can't be bothered to prepare them, use 100 grams of pine nuts instead. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Second Look

These three derelict buildings stand at the entrance to our village. They've been in this sorry state since way before we bought our land in 1990. With the exception of recent graffiti by love-lorn adolescents, they have been left to their own devices. Over the past 23 years, I have occasionally wondered who owned them and why they haven't been restored but my interest wasn't sufficiently piqued to investigate.  Until now that is.  The main benefit of giving up the day job two years ago was time. Time to read, time to walk, time to cook, time to do nothing and time to chat with our neighbours.  A chance conversation filled in the history of these ruins and now, as I drive past, I fancy I see the ghosts of a completely different era. The building on the left was a mosque and the other two were teahouses. The main road from Izmir to Bodrum ran right in front and, although I can't imagine there was that much traffic in the 1950s and 60s, the teahouse customers would have had a ringside seat.  Historians and hippies alike would have passed by and probably broken their arduous journey at one of the cafes.  In the daytime, the tea houses were the quiet domain of the fathers and grandfathers but in the evening, the village delikanlı (literally crazy-blood young men) would take over the cafe with music and alcohol and party under the watchful eye of the large bald proprietor,  sufficiently far away from the village houses that their parents were either unaware or prepared to turn a blind eye.  Serving alcohol in close proximity to a mosque has long been illegal in Turkey so this brazen flouting of the law added spice to the night's entertainment.  The nearest military police station was 6 kms way in Mumcular and luckily for the miscreants, the law drove around in a very noisy jeep. At the sound of gendarmes approach, the lads would bolt for home, running across the fields rather than along the road, to discourage any keen soldiers from the chase.  When the new coastal road was opened, these buildings were abandoned and are now waiting to fall down, but there are still elders in the village who remember, with a glint in their eye, when they were capable of running across a stoney field after a drink or two.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Two Years

I picked a bunch of anemones from the garden to celebrate BacktoBodrum's second birthday

When we left Bodrum in 2000, we moved to East Sussex and my daughter started at Mayfield primary school.  On her first day we parked at the bottom of the hill, walked through the picturesque main street  and followed the crowd through the car park to the playground gate. As we turned the corner, an amazing vista of "England's green and pleasant land" was spread out before us.  As someone who felt a bit starved of "Englishness" after 19 years in Turkey, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all.  I couldn't help but turn to the mother beside me (who on reflection did look a bit like Cruella Deville) and say "Wow, isn't that fantastic."  She turned and with a withering glance said "No, it's ******* boring." Thus my bubble was pricked.  My new eyes on an old scene were not appreciated.
Returning in 2012 to Bodrum I was determined to keep my "new eyes" open and enjoy every aspect that Bodrum has to offer. It's very easy to get depressed about political inconsistencies and obsessed with the march of construction over Turkey, but I'm determined to try and see each new day with new eyes and bring the good things about living in Turkey to your attention. So I will continue wearing my rosy spectacles with just the occasional moan as a balance.
 Wishing you all a slightly belated but optimistic New Year. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Village Life in Bodrum - Under Threat?

2014 will see the 11 local councils in the Bodrum area merge into one large municipal council with one mayor overseeing all. As I mentioned before (click here), the candidates have been busy meeting and greeting in all the surrounding villages campaigning for votes. The village I live in has begun to enjoy the benefits of becoming part of an organised municipality.  For the first time ever we have a rubbish collection service,  and the local roads have been covered with tarmac. I am not so easily wooed; being a cynic by nature, I wonder who will repair the roads when the winter rains create the inevitable pot holes in the very thin asphalt.  (I secretly hope that no one does, as  I resent the cars speeding along what has always been  a quiet track at the bottom of our garden).

Our first official rubbish collection.
So all was going swingingly as computers and wheelchairs were being handed out to housebound villagers as the press photographers snapped the generous benefactors and grateful recipients.
Then the first official letters were received by the muhtars (village mayors), stating that as their villages are being incorporated into a municipality, their village status is to be "upgraded" to mahalle (district within a town) and as such, all chicken coups and animal barns have to be relocated to an area outside the residential zone. Whoops! Suddenly these local politicians aren't being looked on so favourably by your average villager who keeps a dozen chickens in his yard along side a couple of cows and goats.  The mayor of Bodrum, Mehmet Kocadon has tried to calm the situation by saying that his officials have no choice but to send out the letters as the law banning animal husbandry in towns has been on the books since 1930, but that he will be appealing to Ankara to think again on these restrictions.    Having already been told in the last 12 months that they can't sow the seeds they choose or plant any more olive trees this year, this new blow to village life is not going to be accepted quietly.  All in all, 2014 is going to be a very interesting year in Turkey.