Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Happiness = a tennis racquet and three tennis balls.

My master was an ardent atheist, if he had died in England he would have been laid to rest in a woodland burial site.  This wasn't an option in Bodrum so the graveyard nearest to our village house was his chosen spot. A shady corner plot under a pine tree.  When it came to choosing the gravestone, my companion remembered that he used to say he would always be content if he had a tennis racquet and three balls.  He had no expectation of an afterlife, but if he could see his gravestone, I think he would have approved.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Dog's Dinner

Hüseyin Karasu and me, outside Mozaik Bahçe

A misleading title; it was lunch and I didn't get any. 

Last week my permanent house guest and walker was invited to lunch. Usually in these circumstances, she takes me for a long walk from 11 to 12 and then leaves me with some tasteful music, a full water bowl, a few bone-shaped meat-flavoured treats, full access to the sofa and then she heads off for a couple of hours. I don't mind being on my own, it gives me time to think about my writing commitments.  This lunch date was different. It was in Fethiye. Three hours drive away and obviously 3 hours back.  Add the 3 hours or so she would spend gossiping and eating, there was no way I could be left at home for 9 hours.  So the lunch acceptance email was phrased thus: "I can come but lunch has to be at a dog friendly restaurant." Trip advisor was consulted, the top 10 restaurants in Fethiye chosen and emails sent asking if cute pooches were acceptable dining companions.  Only one restaurant replied. Stand up and take a bow MOZAİK BAHÇE.  I hear the food was great, the prices very reasonable, the staff friendly and for lone diners with canines, there is someone who will hold your four legged friend while you go to the loo. (An unimagined problem for couples with dogs).  My mistress wants you to know that if she had been researching places to eat, she would have forsworn Trip Adviser and only been advised by Turkey's for Life  because Julia and Barry really know where to eat and drink in Fethiye. 
Did I like Fethiye?  Yes until 4pm, when a brown labrador in the marina made some very rude comments as I passed and then took a chunk out of my thigh. He mostly ended up with a mouthful of white fur but my rear end and dignity is still stinging. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

As you were...

As you may have noticed, when times are troubled, my two legged companion struggles to find a suitable subject for her blog; not wanting to get immersed in politics, but feeling that a frivolous topic would appear crass. So she has again handed the pink pencil over to me. Since the last time I was in charge, viewing figures have dropped by 20% so I'm hoping my loyal canine literary followers will get back on board to woof up the numbers. 
We set off for our walk at about 9 am yesterday morning. Clouds hung heavy over Bodrum castle and the streets were empty. Hardly a car passed and we met no one along the way. It seemed that the 79% of Bodrum voters who didn't get the result they wished for had decided to stay in bed - who could blame them.  We had a solitary ramble and went home to pore over the news reports.  By three o'clock I was ready for another amble. Out we trotted into bright sunshine and busy streets. The seafront was full of families, (I assume the schools were closed for the day to make up for them doubling as polling stations the day before), strolling couples and fellow dogs and their walkers and there was a general holiday feeling in the air.  And that just about sums up this country.  Whatever you throw at us, those of us still at liberty will take it and carry on.

(ps I hope you notice my use of pathetic fallacy - this dog is on a mission to make BacktoBodrum more erudite - I'm busy chewing my way through a Thesaurus)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Eat up your greens

Did you mother tell you to do this, mine certainly did and I wasn't too keen on them. These days nobody has to tell me to eat up my greens, especially at this time of year. The markets are bursting with greenery in all different forms. And you don't have to buy them.  On any drive into the countryside you will see families field-walking, heads down - a bunch of leaves in one hand, the other poised to grasp a mallow leaf, wild asparagus shoots,  green fennel fronds or even uproot a thistle.  These plants have lovely names that don't exactly roll off the tongue but sound great when you've mastered the pronunciation ebegümeci,  tilkişen, arapsacı and şevket-i-bostan.  Just roll those words around your mouth,  they feel almost as good as they taste.

On Sunday,  Bodrum's H3A organised a herb festival at their Gürece headquarters,  with three types of mixed greens dishes and a herby börek on offer, all made by the local village ladies. Business was brisk and diners spilled out into the garden to eat their greens on the grass.  (In Turkish that could also be eating your grass on the green). In total 86 paying visitors turned up before the food ran out and 50 latecomers were disappointed and had to get their 5-a-day somewhere else.  They also missed the scones, cream and jam made by Camille as a UK contribution to a typical Bodrum lunch.

If you want to try your hand at Bodrum greens, have a look some of these past blog posts on herbivorous themes.

A passion for Prickles
A Prickly Eat
Wild Asparagus
Eggs in Samphire Nests

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Ottostop Design

A slightly unnerving Sunday today as Bodrum is hosting a "Hayır" rally, (supporting a No vote in the upcoming referendum) and the area around the castle is full of police, riot police and a TOMA, an armoured vehicle. I have never seen anything like this before in Bodrum and I don't like it. However, if I hadn't walked to this part of town, I would have been blissfully unaware as the rest of Bodrum is unaffected.  

Last Sunday was completely different.  I had a fantastic time on board Karen V, one of Bodrum's most long established day-trip boats, learning how to screen print. 

The course was organised by Leyla Temiz, a bubbly Mancunian, with an infectious laugh and an enthusiasm for screen printing which has seen her abandon a career as an English teacher in Istanbul to set up Ottostop Design, a screen printing business in Fethiye on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

After a brief introduction and demonstration we were allowed to get stuck in with stencils, inks and squeegees and although we couldn't produce anything as beautiful as Leyla's pomegranates and watermelons, we all made something worth taking home.

Several times I questioned Suat and Karen's judgement in allowing a group of amateurs with ink covered fingers to slop colour so close to their cabin cushions, but I think they escaped unscathed and to stage a workshop on a boat was an inspired choice, not only for the light but a crew member serving wine was very welcome (plus a delicious fruit cake made by Leyla's mother Pat, which deserves a blog post of its own).

You can catch Leyla's lessons in several Turkish towns and cities - details and photographs are on her Facebook page Ottostop Design Facebook  and you can buy her prints and follow her blog on her website Ottostopdesign.com

Photo from Ottostop Design Facebook page 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Enriching Stitching

It looks like I'm a material girl after all; there is nothing better than an afternoon spent planning, drawing, choosing fabric, cutting and sewing.  Daughter Esi, friend Melanie and I spent Friday afternoon in the Mine Art Gallery in Palmarina, Yalıkavak in the company of textile artist Bettina Franckenberg, learning how to create a patchwork worthy of a frame.  If you are quick, you can catch Bettina's  'Light in the Darkness' exhibition before it ends on 8th April and see her fascinating hand-stitched patchworks and machine-stitched collages.

All the patchwork I'd done in the past was with repeated motifs and shapes so it was fun to learn how to create different patterns and be a bit more artistic and we were all proud of the work we took home. 

From the manner in which a woman draws her thread at every stitch of her needlework, any other woman can surmise her thoughts.  ~Honore de Balzac

I'm not sure I agree with Balzac as I'm pretty short sighted and have my eyes so close to the stitches I can't see anything around me, but Mel and I decided that we should start a Bodrum 'stitchin and bitchin' group which would negate any need for mind reading  - Any takers?

Photograph from The Mine Sanat Galerisi Facebook Page

Read more about Bettina and her exhibition on this Facebook Link - Scroll down for English.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Ever hopeful

Let's start April on a positive note to try and allay the general feeling of unease that pervades the country.

In the mid 1990s Teo and I visited the village of Ekinanbar to photograph storks. The village was famous for having a stork nest around every corner. Some villagers couldn't light their fires in the winter because they had a nest on top of the chimney.  The atmosphere in the village was doom ridden. The new Bodrum Milas airport was being built on their door step. As we drove out of the village, we doubted the storks or the village would survive.

I went back to the village on Thursday and the airport is indeed as close as possible without having cows as baggage handlers but there is no sense of gloom. In fact the village is one of the most cheerful places I've been to in a long time.  Nearly every house is surrounded by a profuse mixture of flowers and vegetables. Barns full of cows abound and the two central coffee houses are full of chattering men while the women are in the gardens making börek or sweet fritters. We lost count of the number of times we were asked in for tea. 

We did finally accept an offer of tea at village school, which has 40 pupils in Years 1 to 4, and gave this young lad a chance to try binoculars for the first time.  When he got them the right way round, he was impressed. 

And the storks are still there, not in the great numbers of the past, but there. 

However big the obstacles look, whether they are the size of wind turbines or as small as a cross on a ballot paper we should always choose to look on the bright side.  Our worst fears may never happen and it's a terrible waste of precious time to worry about them.  

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: 


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Vin Bodrum

When we built a house in the countryside 26 years ago, we had plenty of grand plans, most of which are still on the drawing board, so when I meet a couple who have had the courage to carry out and make a success of a 'grand plan' I get quite excited.
Erhan and Füsun Yürüt started making wine at home in Ankara in the 1980s.  They experimented, researched and attended courses until their home brew showed promise. In 2010, they decided to turn their hobby into a retirement business and moved to Kızılağac, a village just outside Bodrum town. Here they built a winery in the basement of their house and despite not having the acreage to grow their own grapes, they had the courage to invest in the equipment to make up to 12,000 bottles a year.

Their Vin Bodrum was launched in 2014 and local artists were picked to design distinctive labels.

One sunny afternoon last week, after an informative tour given by their daughter Duygu, I was lucky enough to find myself sitting on their terrace sampling the fruits of their labours.  Being a boutique winery, they can be choosy when picking their grapes and try to source locally from Mumcular and Gümüşlük, but going further afield to Şirince and Urla when necessary.

Always experimenting, Erhan Bey had just taken delivery of five oak barrels to add to their stainless steel storage capacity. 
Not yet available in supermarkets, there are several restaurants on the peninsula that serve Vin Bodrum. I made sure of my supply by buying a box of rose; not a wine I usually choose but I was particularly taken by this one.  Read more about the business, wines, the Yürüt family and how to access their wines on their website  http://bodrumwinery.com/wines.php