Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How do we find the Turkish winters?

Some years ago we were sitting in a restaurant on Çalış seafront and were appalled to hear a British lady sitting with friends say "God, I'll be glad when the tourists have gone home" We very quickly left the establishment. Personally speaking I love the buzz of the place when the holiday makers are here. At the end of the day the Brits who live here now presumably started off as holiday makers themselves once, as did we!

But we love the winter too, albeit very different. This year the autumn weather has been incredibly kind to us but there is no denying that we are finally heading into a Turkish winter. So what does that mean for us?

Although it can be quite warm during the day time until well into January, it gets dark and cold in the evenings very quickly and it is all the more noticeable when it has been a warm day. Up in Uzumlu it is colder than down on the seafront (around 5 degrees) which is a blessing and a curse in the summer and winter respectively.

Like most ex pats we live in a villa rather than a traditional Turkish house and they are very much built for summer use and it can be a devil of a job trying to keep warm in the winter. We have installed a wood burner which runs a central heating system, but we still have problems with draughts from the windows and doors. During the winter we burn a lot of wood and good hard wood is not cheap to buy, so it is quite an expensive affair.

Sun loungers have all been taken away for winter storage
But it is nice to have some decent days when we can still go out. We know people who have a beach BBQ on Christmas day. We remain reluctant to let go of the apron strings of our traditional Christmas at home, but may well try something different at Christmas in the future.

In January this year we went up to Cadianda for a picnic and had a great day, we virtually had the place to ourselves and with the bonus that there is no charge in the winter months. February and March brings the worst weather with lots of rain and we do have some spectacular storms at any time during the winter.

Enjoying a picnic at Cadianda on 15th January this year
But weather aside there are a lot of other changes here too, the most noticeable being the absence of holiday makers. Most people visit Turkey for the sunshine and that and the fact that other than a few days over Christmas and the New Year there are no direct flights from the UK into Dalaman airport means that the area is much quieter than during the holiday season.

A lot of the restaurants down at the coast shut up shop for the winter as do some of the shops. But Fethiye is a normal working town and other than along the harbour front and Paspatur which closes until spring, there really is not so much difference. In the village where we live pretty well everything remains the same all year round.

The restaurants that do stay open in the winter immediately drop their prices and many of them also do some incredibly good value set meals in an attempt to bump their trade. The market traders don't jump in with such ridiculous prices because they know that you probably live here. Some shops too are happier to negotiate prices because there are not so many buyers around which makes trading more competitive.

Eyna Restaurant Çalış preparing their specials board
A huge plus for me with my obsession of second hand stuff is that the Çalış car boots are held monthly from the autumn through to the spring. Their dates are a definite in my diary!

Oooh I love a rummage at the car boots
Pool and darts tournaments start between the hotels and bars. Those dates are definitely not in my diary, but a lot of people do enjoy them.

One of the down sides of winter is for the street cats and dogs. During the summer there are a lot of holidaymakers who feed them and they have numerous restaurants to hang around to get food. A lot of these places are closed during the winter and suddenly their food source goes dry. Also some of the resort shops get puppies at the start of the season because they think they attract trade, then when they close their shops they just abandon them leaving them to their own devices. Most areas have animal aid groups who set up winter feeding programmes but the cost of this is enormous and they are of course reliant on donations to pay for it and willing volunteers to visit set areas every day to feed these hungry animals.

Of course a visit to any of the local beaches is wonderful at this time of year they are quiet and tranquil and so beautiful, and taking walks is so peaceful. It seems so strange to see the resort beaches with no sun-loungers, sun bathers or swimmers around. Just the odd dog walker, fisherman or street dogs having a frolic.

Street dogs enjoying a frolic on the quieter beach
I'm a sun lover myself, so I can't wait for spring but I enjoy the winters here too. Its a beautiful place to live whatever the time of year summer or winter they are just different.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Perseverance pays off!

Usually when I am writing about our endeavours at home, it is all gloom and doom, with us feeling exhausted and fed up. The major project we started in May has gone on and on and on all through the summer. We have been working incredibly hard seven days a week for the last few weeks, because we have been very aware that our back was against the wall with the weather. But the weather has been incredibly kind to us with the sunshine continuing to the back end of November and we are more than pleased that we have finally, very nearly managed to finish the first half of a new courtyard type garden at the back of the house.

We began back in May of this year with a rough piece of garden with builders rubble, boulders and stone. It has taken us almost exactly 6 months of hard labour.

End of May - first low walls for raised beds in & digging tonnes of soil out of the way for the first shed
The ground when we began - complete with stones and boulders some of them a good foot down in the soil
All that needs to be done now, is to finish building the coffee table between the outdoor sofas, plant the new raised beds, put doors on the sheds we built and complete the paving - but it is too wet to do that after our recent storm. David is currently putting the door frames in, and I have taken the plants we have had in tubs all summer and replanted them in the new beds.I have no idea if they will survive the winter or not but they stand a better chance there than in the tubs. At least for now they look pretty and if they do survive then that will be a bonus.

As we are today with the paving and the coffee table to be finished
We will soon be going out and looking for some suitable plants. We want lots of climbers to give us privacy and to cover our rather tatty bamboo screen fence, and some really nice Mediterranean type plants to give us lots of vibrant colours. Unfortunately in Uzumlu there are a lot of plants that we can't grow, due to the frosts we have up here in the mountains. It is particular galling to see certain plants that we love growing quite happily down in Fethiye and Calis, but knowing that they just will not survive up here.

New raised beds awaiting some colourful shrubs and climbers
I love Bougainvillea but was told it would be very difficult to grow up here. Four years ago we tried to grow a purple one over our driveway arch, because we were told they were hardier than the other colours , but it didn't survive the winter. However, a Plumbago plant which we were also told would not survive the winter here has, so maybe as the garden becomes more enclosed we may be luckier with some plants. We also planted a baby lemon tree which is not supposed to grow here, but we managed to nurse it through last winter and this year it has grown on well. I think if we can get it through another winter it may just survive OK. Fingers crossed anyway.

In the UK we were very careful which plants we put together because of colour clashes. Here it doesn't seem to matter and we want some really vivid colours all mixed together because somehow in the sunshine it works. 

We like a hotch potch of bright colours ....................
............ and we've added the odd ornament .............
................... or two!
So many of you who read our blog have helped us more than you could ever know. When we have felt exhausted and low, your words of encouragement have spurred us on. When we despaired that it would ever be finished you convinced us that all the effort would be worthwhile. Thank you all for your kind words because we may well have abandoned ship without your support. 

It is always difficult when you have an idea in your head, but absolutely no experience in designing a garden from scratch. You do wonder if your ideas will work in reality. But we both love what we have done so far and wouldn't change a thing. But most important of all, the dog likes it and you can't receive a higher accolade than that!
Bebek gives our new outdoor sofa the seal of approval

Friday, 15 November 2013


BIG RED - "Hello! .............

............. HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!"


BEBEK - "RED YOU'RE SO RIDICULOUS!................

.................... TCH! SHE'S SO STUPID!!!!!!"

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Celebrating the departure of a village lad off to complete his military service

Living in Turkey, we are obviously aware that all Turkish males are obliged to complete compulsory military service. But until recently I was not aware of the importance that the Turkish people themselves place on this event.

A few days ago I was invited to accompany a Turkish friend from the village to attend lunch at a family's home in the village. The lunch was prepared in honour of the family’s son who was about to leave home to do his compulsory military service.

In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all males from twenty to forty one years of age. Women are not conscripted. They now complete 15 months, although there is currently a proposal which if the Cabinet pass into law will reduce this time period to 12 months. It is anticipated that this ruling may take effect from March 2014.

The exceptions to this obligation are for those who are engaged in higher education, who can first complete their programs and then may serve reduced time, or for Turkish citizens who reside outside Turkey who in some instances can pay a fee to be exempt from their mandatory military service.

Refusing the obligatory military service due to conscientious objection is illegal in Turkey and is punishable by law.

By attending this gathering I began to understand how the villagers feel about conscription. The family were so proud of their son who was about to go off to complete his military service. Completing the conscription carries a symbolic value. It is regarded as a passage of rite to manhood, and traditionally families do not consent to their daughters marrying a man who has not served his time.

In honour of the son who is about to leave home, they open their doors to family, friends and neighbours to attend a lunch. What a lunch it was I loved it.

Having first removed our shoes at the door, as is the custom in Turkey, we sat in small groups on the floor chatting and laughing together. A cloth was then placed in the middle of each circle of people, followed by a huge tray of different sorts of homemade food, and a spoon for each of us with which to tuck in. We were served with chicken soup, lamb stew, rice with chick peas, salad and lots of bread. Plus rice pudding and halva. It was all delicious and the camaraderie of those present was fantastic. Some ladies helped to cook, others were serving the food and more were washing up.  There must have been around forty people sharing this family’s joyous occasion. I had the most wonderful time and I was so grateful to the family for allowing me to attend this event.

I have seen men who are about to leave home to attend their term in military service driving around Fethiye proudly displaying the Turkish flag covering the roof and boot of their cars. I was also at the airport in Dalaman one day when around twenty family members and friends accompanied a lad to see him off to do his service, taking loads of photographs to commemorate the occasion.

Personally I am in favour of compulsory military service, I feel that it probably would do youths of other countries a lot of good to learn discipline, share some hardships and learn some team work. But then I’m an old fashioned girl with old fashioned values. I was honoured to be invited into this family’s home and share their pride.

I have mentioned before that we have a sizeable goat herd which comes by our house most days. When we first started coming to our house in Uzumlu for holidays they were accompanied by a young lad who we guessed to be in his late teens. Every morning he would take the goats up the mountain and stay there with them all day long, until early evening when mother (we assumed) came to the bottom of the mountain and shouted for him to bring them back down.

Shortly after we moved here permanently he disappeared and the goats just came out in the evenings with several family members accompanying them for an hour or two. Now we could be wrong, but our guess was that the lad had gone away to complete his military service.

This summer he re-joined the family, but is no longer on his own all day with the goats, but is supported by the rest of the family in the mornings and evenings. It is as though he has earned their respect, and rightly so he is a lovely guy. He left the village a boy and has returned to the village a man.

Turkey commemorates Mustafa Kemal Atatürk today

75 years ago today Mustafa Kemal Atatürk passed away at 9.05 am on 10th November 1938 aged 57.

At the exact time of his death people in Turkey pause for one minute's remembrance of the man who was the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey.

He passed away at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul where the clock in his bedroom remains set to the time when he died.

In our village sirens are normally sounded over the loud speaker system at 9.05 on this morning in commemoration of his death. He remains close to the hearts of the Turkish people.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Giving myself a firm talking to ...........

I don't know whether it's just a stage I'm going through, but today I feel as though all the hard work we are doing is never going to stop and that our property is never going to look the way we want it to.

Yesterday, I explained my mixed feelings about learning Turkish. How on some days I am bouncing with confidence that I am finally cracking it and that other days I feel it is totally beyond my capabilities. Well today I have ambivalent feelings about what we are doing in the garden.

As I have posted many times before, when we bought our property it was a new build with the land around it being much the same as the mountain side, complete with the boulders and large rocks. The only attempt at making it look like a garden was that somebody - presumably the builder - had planted three Oleander bushes,a small palm tree and a thorny thing.

This spring we had the front garden looking fairly good, having laid membrane and stones around the pool patio and planted some tubs with pretty flowers. Since May we have been working in the back garden trying to bring my idea of making a courtyard garden into fruition. But this has meant a lot of building work and although we have done a lot, there is still an awful lot to do.

In the meantime, the front garden has deteriorated through neglect, as has the house and at the moment the whole place looks like a cross between a builders yard and a gypsy encampment. It's very difficult to keep on top of maintaining what we have already done and moving forward with the rest. I am just hoping that we are going through the stage of it looking worse before it gets better, and that suddenly it will all start to come together.

Because we have both been so busy, the poor dogs have not had much attention lately, so they are all totally over the top. Big Red can open all the doors so we have to remember to lock the living room door if we are not around or she is off upstairs to ransack the bedrooms. She jumps all over our bed and takes my slippers away plus any other clothes she can find. So you suddenly see your jumper or some other item of clothing in the middle of the front garden, by which time it has been dragged around and needs to be washed again.

We still have two houses being built on the land in front of our house so from early in the morning until sunset there are builders constantly working and making lots of noise which in turn makes the dogs bark, so I have to keep coming round to shut them up. At the moment I feel like I am paying for working outside by all I have to put right when I come back inside!

I am fed up with constantly feeling dirty, with having broken grubby fingernails and being tired. I am fed up with piles of sand and piles of bricks and piles of stones and piles of earth everywhere.I think the reality is that what we are trying to achieve is really a job for a team of builders, not two retired fogies! Maybe we need to have a load of  people over for a working holiday to help us move forward a bit quicker.

Also I feel guilty. I feel guilty for feeling this way right now, because I know so many people who would give their eye teeth to have what we have and to be living in Turkey all year round. I absolutely have no regrets about that. There is nowhere I would rather be.

Outdoor sofa finished, and painting begun 2nd November
On the plus side the outdoor sofa has finally been finished and today David has started to paint the concrete, and to build the raised beds on the other side of it. I have finished filling the raised beds we have already done ready for planting and weather permitting that half of the courtyard garden could be finished within the next week or two. Also whilst looking for this picture I came across this photograph which was taken on 25th October which is only 8 days ago, so we are moving forward for sure.

8 days previously - shows we are moving forward
So I think I need to stop for today, have a glass or two of vino, give myself a firm talking to and wake up tomorrow with a more constructive mindset to crack on and get it done. Then we can start to really enjoy our time in this wonderful country.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Trying, trying, trying to learn Turkish ........

Why is it that sometimes I go to my Turkish lessons and feel I am really starting to get somewhere with learning this (for us Brits) tricky language, and on other days I feel like it is a total waste of time and money and I'm never going to manage it? I don't seem to have an in-between state it always seems to be one extreme or the other.

I find learning Turkish incredibly difficult. As I have mentioned in previous posts I do not have a natural 'ear' for languages, and with the structure of the Turkish language being so very different to English, sometimes it seems an almost impossible task.

Funnily enough I do understand the grammar side of the language fairly well. It's remembering it all that I have a problem with. I actually like the fact that Turkish is an agglutinative language - meaning basically that you string extra bits on the end of words instead of adding a whole load of extra words like us English people do. The confusing bit is in which order to add them.

Turkish doesn't really translate into English very directly, the way things are said and sentence structure is entirely different. It is therefore very difficult to use any of the on line translation sites because the English equivalent of the Turkish words usually makes for a paragraph of indecipherable gobbledygook!

My spoken Turkish (what little I do know) is very badly pronounced until I really absorb a word and then it is slightly better. I often wonder what the Turks think to our accents and mine in particular! English people often consider English spoken by a foreigner to be quite endearing. I feel absolutely sure this is definitely not the case with me speaking Turkish!

On the encouraging side, I find I can now shop for most things and conduct the conversation fairly well in Turkish. Plus the small amount of Turkish that has actually stuck inside my head I am now able to think in Turkish rather than think in English to then translate in my head first. That's an improvement.

I have definitely learnt enough to impress David when we go shopping, but as he gave up learning after a couple of lessons he is easily impressed! But it's still good for my ego anyway.

But if I'm honest half my trouble is that I don't put any time in between the lessons to study. We have been so busy all summer, that it has been impossible to find the time. If we have homework, more often than not it is done quickly just before I leave to attend the next lesson. So I have high hopes that during the winter months I am going to be a reformed character and put in the time to crack this Turkish speaking lark.

So just wait until the spring when I am still telling you all that I'm still struggling and that I lied!