Friday, 24 January 2014

What is it with car boot day and my wedding ring?

Last Sunday was car boot day - my favourite day of the month in the winter. This week was even better than usual because we had a really good friend staying with us for the weekend. She is shortly going away for a month to the US and Mexico so she made the trip from Antalya where she lives, to spend some time with us before she leaves.

So early Sunday morning we set off to the car boot. Of course I found some 'gems' - some Turkish guide books which I collect, some Turkish cookery books which I love and a lovely old brass oil lamp for our back garden unfortunately without the glass, as the people forgot to take it but hopefully I should be able to find one somewhere. Our friend also bought us a most unusual plant for the garden which we love.

This months treasure!
As usual on car boot days we went on to Eyna Restaurant on Calis seafront for a couple of cups of coffee while we waited for the 3C's charity shop to open. Normally we have a full English breakfast but this week we stuck to just coffee as we intended going out for lunch later on.

More goodies found in the charity shop - more Turkish guide books, a pair of brass candlesticks and a little brass dish which I quite liked for putting sweeties in (not that I should really be eating sweeties!) which when I had a closer look was engraved with 'David' so had to be bought!

We then went on to Fethiye to see if there was a shop open selling the glass for our new lamp. Unfortunately they were all shut so instead we had to go and have an Efes on the seafront. Parked next door to Adress Restaurant on the harbour front was a lorry with 10D cinema. Well being big kids at heart we just had to go in. We sat and watched three films and I thought is was brilliant and screamed so much I had a sore throat for the next two days! When we came out we saw what had been an empty lot now had several people standing about and noticed that outside is a TV screen showing the people who are inside while they watch the screen. That must have been a good show for them!

Just big kids at heart!
Sated with our Efes and a shared bowl of chips at the Restaurant we decided to set off to Ovacik to see if we could find somewhere for lunch. We thought we would try the Seashell Restaurant because they were doing a three course roast dinner for a really reasonable price.

Clean and spacious restaurant

Even the toilets were immaculate
The restaurant was spotlessly clean and the owners were really friendly. We had a choice of leek and potato soup or cheese rolls for starters then a choice of meat which the owner carved - we had a mix - and then you helped yourself from a large choice of vegetables. Dessert was apple crumble and custard - yummy! The meal was generous and very good value although they need to learn how to make mashed potato from my husband who is the bees knees at that, however their Yorkshire puddings were better than we make, so that levelled it out. The restaurant was empty when we arrived but very quickly filled up, so it must be popular with the locals.

Good value meal and as much as you could eat
Whilst we were waiting to be served, I thought I would have a wander around outside, because I'm nosey like that and because I thought I could take some pictures. Whilst having a wander I found a large dog tied up and went to talk to him. He got a little excited to see someone and leapt up and put his paws on my shoulders and licked my face - yes he was that big!

What a lovely 'large' boy!
 After I had given him a bit of a fuss, I rejoined the others at the table and one of them noticed that my chain was hanging broken round my neck. What does that mean? It means of course that the safe place I have put my ring for the winter months after losing it from my finger has turned out to not be so safe after all - it has gone!!!!!!!

So four of us spent the next half an hour looking for it. I even went into the toilets and removed most of my clothes to be sure it wasn't caught up in them or my boots. I had become resigned to the fact that this time I really had lost it. But my Turkish friend said I will go out now and find it because I have spoken to Ethem Dede, went outside and within minutes had it in her hand!

She explained that Ethem dede is the saint for finding lost items and that you stand behind a door (she went to the toilet door) and say this chant:-

"ethem dede, ethem dede,
gömleği keten dede,
kaybolanşeyi (the item you are looking for) bulursan,
sana üç - beş göbek atam dede"

You are asking grandfather Ethem who owns a cotton shirt to please find your object. You agree that if he finds the object for you, you will belly dance 3 - 5 times. Of course if you do not do the belly dances he will not help you next time, so she had to disappear to the toilets to carry out her pact.

All I can say is the rest of us could not find it! So we were able to return home after a busy and eventful day of wonderful company, good food and with my new treasures and my now infamous wedding ring!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Babadağ - we felt we were on top of the world!

In our heads, when we thought Babadağ we thought paragliding and as neither of us dare participate in that particular pursuit it had never actually crossed our minds to go there. But when a friend was extolling its virtues as a place to visit and asked us if we would like to go up and take a look we thought yes why not.

We enjoyed the beautiful views from the cafe terrace

Babadağ (Father Mountain) towers above the beautiful Oludeniz beach and is part of the Taurus range which runs across southern Turkey. With a principal summit at 1.969 metres it is renowned for being the best paragliding site in Europe and one of the best in the world. If unlike me, you dare take the plunge it must be one of the most beautiful descents that’s for sure.

It is possible to walk to the top of Babadağ (hike would probably be a better word), however as we are ‘Fogies’ we preferred to drive. Nowadays the road has been greatly improved and I hear that further improvements have been made this winter. It is very steep in places and of course there are some sheer drops beside you at times which are a bit scary, but the road is tarmac or paving for most of the way. The scariest part is passing the jeeps and minibuses that are ferrying the paragliders to the top, their drivers obviously know the road very well and are extremely confident at flying past you, whilst you stop and dither to let them go on by.

One thing is for sure, that the drive is stunningly beautiful with increasingly astounding views the higher you rise. We kept stopping to take a few moments to savour the beauty, only to do the same again a few hundred yards further on as the views became better and better.

On our way up a stop to look at the view overlooking Ovacik and the coastline

 However, what did surprise us was that there is so much more to a visit to Babadağ than the sports side and that even if like us you are not going to paraglide it is well worth the trip up there.

Around half way up the road branches off to the left, and we took this road to have a nosey. The road does turn into more of a track and you need to drive carefully but it is well worth the detour. There are several farms tucked away in this valley and this is where we saw the timber köşk we loved, built into a tree, that we put the photograph of on our facebook page a few weeks ago.

Love this  köşk

Babadağ is mainly composed of limestone and is notably rich in flora which includes Acer Undulatum a species of maple which is endemic to Babadağ where it grows at altitudes of 1,400 metres to 1,800 metres. It is also home to forests of Cedrus libani stenocoma (Turkish Cedar), trees which can grow very large indeed.

We visited in October just prior to Kurban Bayrami (The Feast of the Sacrifice), and I did wonder if the goats that we saw wandering the mountain realised how lucky they were to still be there and if they were missing any of their friends.

Did he know how lucky he was to still be here enjoying foraging on the mountain?

We drove as far along the track as we dare, whilst we could still turn around OK and stopped for a while to look at the view – stunning. We could see acres of agricultural land cut into the mountain and some really remote properties that obviously belonged to the people who farmed the land. We thought it was a beautiful place to live.

What a peaceful existence it must be living here

Meeting the summit road again we meandered onwards and upwards until we reached the first launch pad where we abandoned the car to have a coffee at the café there. We watched the paragliders taking off for a while, and I have to say it is totally beyond my comprehension how anybody could volunteer to jump off the mountain. Once you start running down that slope there can’t be any turning back or changing your mind!

The launch pad for the first level - oooooooh!

From there we agreed to walk to the top, so we set off up the paved road and after a fairly short but steep walk we reached a higher take off point, where we stood and watched more brave souls preparing their gear and then taking off into the air. We were amazed at the sheer quantity of people who were there. Braver people than us I may add!

Launch pad at the second level - up, up ...................

................. and away!

For years we had watched the paragliders landing on Belcekiz beach below, as we lay sunning ourselves and had always assumed that it was a pastime for holiday makers who were rather braver and sportier than us. We were surprised therefore, to discover that the majority of the paragliders had come here especially to jump from this very famous launch site.

After watching them for a while and taking some photographs we set off to reach the top. I am afraid we were conned by our friend who first of all said “It’s not much further”, then when he could see us flagging – it is very steep – told us ”When you get to that bend you are about there.” The only problem being that each time we reached the bend in the road he said it again about the next one – about eight times!

Just round the next bend - Yea right!

But we were determined that having got this far we were going to get there so we with plenty of grunting and groaning from the fogies we finally made it to the very top. There we discovered a third launch site, which is apparently for experienced solo paragliders only and no tandem launches are allowed from there as it is too dangerous for amateurs.

Solo paraglider waiting to take off from the top platform

Whilst mentioning the danger of this pursuit, it is a fact that several people have died over the years jumping from Babadağ. But apparently the rules and regulations have been tightened considerably over recent years and the more recent fatalities have been solo flights not the tandem flights which the holiday makers do. The number of flights per person, per day is restricted and is obviously seriously implemented because you have to stop at ‘checkpoint charlie’ on the way up, to check in if you are paragliding, and they do check your car for equipment if you say you are not.

It was fascinating watching the paragliders and if I am honest I am more than a little jealous and wish I had the nerve to do it, it must be the most amazing experience – but heights is so not my thing!

Right at the top is the fire watchers house where he spends the summer as a look out for any forest fires. I hope he has a freezer because it is a long way to get a pint of milk if you run out!

The ideal home for you if you don't like neighbours

But also there are the most wonderful, spectacular views. From there you can see Fethiye, Kaya Koy, Ovacik, Oludeniz & Hisaronu and the beautiful coast line for miles. You can see Patara beach in the distance, Kemer and the Antalya road cutting through the mountains. We could even see Uzumlu our home village.

Fethiye and Ovacik far far below

Far below you can see the paragliders making their descent and landing on the beach below. We all love a good story and there is a tragic local legend regarding Oludeniz and the Belcekiz beach below.

Long ago when cargo ships passed by this area, they would stop to pick up fresh supplies of water. The captain’s son went ashore to collect the water and there he came across a beautiful nomadic girl called Belcekiz and they fell in love. Each time he left, she would sit on the mountain looking out to sea waiting for his ship to return. One day as the ship arrived a storm blew up. The son told his father where there was a bay sheltered from the wind to sit out the storm in calmer waters. His father however, thought it was just an excuse for his son to see his lover and ignored his advice. During the storm the captain hit his son with an oar, knocking him into the sea, where he drowned.  The bay where his body was washed ashore became known as Oludeniz -Dead Sea. Belcekiz when she heard of his death threw herself off the mountain. The place where she fell became known as Belcekiz.

Belcekiz beach - the landing site 

 For the benefit of anyone who wishes to make this trip, there are options. If you choose to go paragliding then transport will be provided by the company. Although I have never done this I have heard that Sky Sports is a good company to use, they have an excellent safety record, many years’ experience and I have often seen them recommended on local ex pat advice pages.  

Sky Sports come recommended

It is possible to walk directly from Oludeniz using goat tracks and a brief part of the Lycian way. The distance is 13 km. Alternatively you can walk along the road which is further, but easier walking.

If like us walking that far uphill is a no no, then obviously it is best to go by car so that you can stop where you wish and meander into the valley, but it is also possible to go up by dolmuş too which run throughout the season.

We loved our day on Babadağ. Thank you Brian for taking the time out to take us there.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Fogies look back on 2013

The year 2013 was a hectic year for us, a year of extremes. Highs and lows, happy times and sad times, plus plenty of laughter and some tears. It was also of course our first complete year living in Turkey, as we moved here in April 2012. Here is my review of what 2013 meant to us.

Of course the top spot for the year has to be our wedding. On May 15th in our village and surrounded by our family and friends we became Mr and Mrs Neale. We planned the wedding ourselves and in our opinion nobody could have improved it. Our criteria for the day was that we were married in our village, that there was a heavy Turkish  influence on the proceedings and that it would be a fun day for everyone to enjoy and remember and I think that was exactly what we managed to achieve. We were so grateful to all of our guests who travelled from near and far to be with us on our special day.

Getting married Turkish style in our adopted village among friends and family. What could be better than that?

Our greatest achievement for 2013 (apart from finally getting wed) was to finish transforming the first half of our derelict back garden. It was incredibly hard work, but we are so happy with what we have achieved and we look forward to hopefully finishing the other half  this year.

Sheds built and the first half of the back garden done

Our best day out was a difficult choice with the top three being our picnic at Oren, a visit to Babadag mountain and a picnic at Cadianda. But after much deliberation we voted unanimously that the day at Cadianda was our favourite. We are both interested in historical sites, it was much larger than we had imagined and provides spectacular views of Fethiye and the agricultural areas and mountains behind it. It was a lovely day. We are so lucky to have such a place on our doorstep.

Sitting and contemplating in the Cadianda arena - we  love it there!

But our day at Babadag was a very close runner up because of the stunning views it offers. Photo credit: Brian Lloyd

2013 saw the arrival of two new puppies first Bebek who was then followed by her sister Big Red three weeks later. They are a blessing and a curse and Red is the naughtiest, most difficult puppy I have ever had the pleasure(?) to meet. But they are part of the family and we love them both dearly. They take our animal tally up to three cats and four dogs. There are so many needy animals we all have to do our bit.

Bebek (Baby) our new pup 

Her sister Red who joined us later 

Our best meal of the year will probably surprise you, because it was not at a restaurant but on one of the Çalış boats. We not only loved the trip but definitely loved the food cooked by boat owner Ali Tuğsat's  Mum. It was real home cooking and very different to any boat trip food we have ever had. We highly, highly recommend his boat Alis 1 for providing a brilliant day or evening out.

 Ali Tuğsat at the helm of Alis 1
It was an absolute joy to have so many of our family members here together in May to attend our wedding and especially to have my grand daughter making her first trip overseas to be here. Also all credit to David's sister and Brother in law who travelled all the way from America in their seventies to be here, in spite of the fact that they thought we lived in a desert amongst terrorists!

My beautiful grand daughter Rosie enjoying her first ever paddling pool

But it has not all been wonderful and in line with our warts and all attitude to our blog here are some of the low points of 2013.

The lowest part of the year, was the deaths of three of our animals. Our 22 year old cat Horrace who had made the journey with us from the UK had to be put to sleep due to problems associated with his great age. A little cat we had adopted Peggy was lost to cancer at barely a year old. But the worst of all was the illness of our beloved black Labrador Tyson, due to pancreatic tumours. He was larger than life and to this day remains conspicuous in his absence. All three of them gone but not forgotten. Many, many tears have been shed this year.

Tyson very seriously missed

I won the 2013 award for most painful condition, in fact I had all three nominations this year! Regular readers of the blog will know what an accident prone year I have had. First my meeting with yakarca (sand fly) which left me with hundreds if not thousands of bites which I then had a reaction to. I have never known itching like it. Secondly, crushing one of my fingers between two very large boulders whilst gardening. The finger still looks crushed and the nail is only now starting to grow back. But the winner of this year's pain award without a doubt was the scorpion sting, involving a trip to the hospital in the middle of the night and having to be given intravenous serum and pain killers. I will be looking more carefully for them in the future before I march off barefoot!

My favourite picture of the year I would love to say was taken by me, but in fact it was taken by James Dorrington who took our wedding pictures for us. I know I am biased because it is my grand daughter but I think it is a fantastic picture worthy of being a poster, so here it is. I haven't even put a caption because I think the photo says it all without any words - Rosie and her dad.

Photo credit: James Dorrington

So a busy year and a mixed bag of highs and lows. We have met some lovely people since moving here, Turks and ex pats alike many of whom will undoubtedly be friends for life. So that is the highlights of the Fogies 2013 now we will see what 2014 brings.

Friday, 10 January 2014

A great christmas and slobbing in the new year

Well here we are back again after our Christmas/New Year break. As regular readers of our blog will be aware 2013 was an action packed year for us for a number of reasons, and my next blog post will be a review of our first whole year in Turkey.

Because we have had such a full year, we decided to have a well earned break after Christmas and we have been a pair of total slobs for the last fortnight.

But first Christmas! I have always loved Christmas and have been an advocate of a traditional Christmas at home all my life. Whilst we have embraced our new life in Turkey and all the changes moving here has inevitably brought with it, the one thing I had not managed to cut the apron strings of, was having our usual traditional Christmas complete with decorations, Christmas music, silly hats and all the food and drink that you would associate with full UK style Christmas fayre.

The dogs thoroughly enjoy Christmas too - Kizi dressed for dinner!

So, we had friends come to stay over and basically we spent the whole day eating, drinking and chatting away until the wee small hours of Boxing day. What more could you ask than to have good food, plenty to drink and wonderful company. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Cheers! Loads & loads to eat and drink

When we lived in England we both worked rather longer than normal full time hours, so over the years we had got into the habit of cleaning right through the house in the run up to Christmas, because frankly it got in a bit of a state over the months with so little time for housework. Of course old habits die hard so we have continued to do this since living here. By Christmas we were both exhausted, so next year this will be done at a different time of year maybe in the autumn. We do also 'spring clean' in the spring, meaning that twice a year all those out of reach places are cleaned thoroughly along with cupboards, curtains etc.

However, as obvious at it may seem to all of you, it has not occurred to me that this does not need to take place in the run up to Christmas any more, it can be done at any other time, which will mean we will not be as tired as we were this year after all the preparations. I think it takes time to adjust to a different way of doing things after so many years of outside influences dictating how things were done.

The funny thing is that we both came out of this Christmas no longer feeling that we have to have this traditional Christmas any more. The apron strings have finally been cut and we can try out a new Christmas Day. I feel strangely liberated by the feeling that I no longer have to conform to the Christmas I have always known before. So time will tell what we decide to do next year for Christmas, but whatever it is it will be our choice and because we can!

As we have problems with our heating system, which has not been running properly this winter, we have already burnt 4 tons of wood, and frankly there is no money for more right now, so David has joined the Turkish villagers in hunting and gathering sticks for the fire, which we now only light in the evening. This is not popular with me because I HATE the cold, it makes me go into shut down mode and I get miserable and snappy. I could actually sit and cry when I am cold, how pathetic is that? I am a sun worshipper and can't wait for the cold days to pass on by. Unfortunately we live on a tight budget, and have no choice but to sit it out. Don't think for one minute though that we have any regrets, we would both rather be poor here living in this beautiful country.

Consequently, rather than blow more money on going out, we opted to stay at home this year for New Years Eve. Our friend Eddie came round and I cooked a three course meal and we had a couple of beers. After dinner we were all incredibly tired and struggled to make midnight by telling each other ghost stories to keep us awake.

As midnight approached and we were dallying around wondering how to know when it was exactly twelve, suddenly there was a massive bang, and we rushed outside just in time to see the tail end of one of our neighbour's fireworks. How good was that!

After the celebrations, frankly we were exhausted so since the new year we have done nothing bar the essentials in life - feeding ourselves and the animals and the daily household chores. David who woke up on Boxing Day with 'Man flu' has sat like a couch potato for two weeks, watching the TV and reading his kindle. Miraculously I managed to avoid catching the cold, but have also been a blobby for the past two weeks. I have discovered silly games on the computer which I have played for hours and hours, jigsaw puzzles and read books. It has been heaven!

But we are now back to fighting fit and are looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings to our little corner of the world. We look forward to seeing family and friends over from the UK later this year, visiting new places and doing new things and maybe finishing the work in the garden at last. Who knows?