Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bozcaada - Tenedos

December 27th we headed out for a week* of adventure. We started with a ferry from Gelibolu to Lapseki and then travelled nearly an hour south to Geyikili. At Geyikili after a long wait we caught one of three daily Gestas** ferries to the island of Bozcaada.  as the family travel planner and booking agent, I wasn't surprised by the view from the ferry, but I still thought it was a "WOW".

The arrival of the ferry caused a mini rush hour at the harbour and of course that was the moment our mostly uncooperative new Garmin GPS choose to completely lose its mind and quit transmitting.  Thankfully one of our back seaters pointed out that we were right behind a taxi displaying the name of our hotel.  So in a Turkish version of "follow that car", we tailed the taxi until he parked near a construction site on a dead end street.  Getting out, we discovered the driver was also our host at the hotel and the hotel was in fact steps away.

Parking in front of the hotel meant we would have to make two turns down tiny lanes which would have been fine if we were driving something smaller than the X-Trail, maybe a Mini or a Smart Car.  Anyway our host found us a better place to park, far from the drift of construction debris and only a couple of short blocks on cobbled streets from our hotel.

We didn't do much more than nap, take a walk and eat supper the day we arrived. Oh and I had to find the ATMs so I could get enough Turkish Lira to pay our hotel bill in cash. I booked with which said the hotel would take credit cards but small private hoteliers prefer cash.

Cam is tall.  Bamboo is taller.
The next day after a deluxe Turkish breakfast in the "garden" of the hotel, a small walled patio outside the kitchen, we went for a drive.

With all the talk of refugees in small boats, I was rather distressed to find this torn raft, PFD and a couple of very small mismatched shoes on an otherwise deserted beach.

Up the hill we found a monastery converted into a restaurant. It's a beautiful site with amazing views. We explored and rested and enjoyed the sunshine and the view.

Sam found a bunch of dry leaves to crunch through. 

Nicole, Cam and Sam listened to Johanna who narrated all the things she found over the embankment in the overgrowth of shrubs.

Amazing vistas - everybody got a picture!

And then I turned around and saw a trail leading up.

Me at the top of trail.

These houses near our parking spot seemed deserted, but laundry moved on and off the line.  

The Fortress of Bozcaada
The Fortress of Bozcaada has been in existence since Venetians were in the area in 1464 and perhaps earlier.  The island was under Roman rule from 133 BC.

Turkish "castles" and fortifications are often nothing more than ruins due in part to their age, earthquakes and the incredible cost of upkeep. This one was a nice surprise.  

The castle was renovated by the ministry of culture and tourism between 1965 and 1970. This period was the most recent period of Greek emigration from the island.  It wasn't until 1990 that foreigners were allowed to visit the island.

Bozcaada from the fortress.

These were the only others at the fortress the day we visited.

I don't know how many photos I have of Johanna on top of things - but it must be a lot!

Later we walked the town.  Local jams and wines are for sale. 

When the Turks come to town ... eventually entrance to your Greek Orthodox church is barred.
Here's the wiki link to the history of this island and their Greek inhabitants.

Wine's a big deal on this island. 

Sack of potatoes anyone?

Harbour (Palm Trees)

Lots of fishing boats in the harbour. 

One last story:  We had supper at the same place on the harbour the first night and the last night we were in Bozcaada.  The first night we saw a man come into the restaurant with a whole fish in a plastic grocery bag.  He ended up in the kitchen.  The second night, the same thing happened, but this time I paid attention.  It wasn't long until the same man walked past the restaurant towards the fishing boats docked on the harbour.  This time he had no fish, but grocery bags and a six pack. The fish is fresh and local and fishers are paid in cash.

* Sadly our week away was cut short because of cancelled ferry sailings to Gokceada.  The weather took a turn on December 30, so instead of trading one island for another we came home.
**Just a note about Gestas's website.  Good Luck!  Yes they do have an English page but you're better off translating the Turkish site with Google Translate or better yet get a native Turk to interpret or phone.  The folks who answer the phone have just enough English to tell you they don't speak English.  If you've got a little Turkish, you'll make out okay. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Anniversary Sort Of

Four years ago, today, we arrived at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, dazed and slightly exhausted from a fabulous week in London. Upon arrival, we scrambled to board a second flight and travel to Ankara where we applied for residence permits.

Today, we got out of bed in time to meet a Turkish speaking colleague of Cam's in Gelibolu.  He helped us get passport style photos so that we can once again apply for residence permits.

We've been through this process a few times, but have been mostly isolated from the paperwork and bureaucracy. There is a manager and an office brimming with lawyers who handle the fine print. All we've had to do is provide copies of our documents, get our photos taken, sign some forms, have a criminal records check and get our address confirmed by the local municipal office. Whew!

Today reminded me of that first time four years ago, when it all seemed like a grand adventure.  Today, it was just an item to cross off on the "to do list"; somewhere between breakfast and going to the bank.

December 2011 Saros
Nicole, Sam and Johanna exploring

How to ride a donkey

We've lived here four years and in that time I've seen a lot of sights which have amazed and surprised me.  I keep thinking at some point, I'll be as oblivious as the people around me. 

We went to Gelibolu this morning to get groceries. The kids and I walked from the Pazaar to Kipa and saw this gentleman crossing the four lane road on his donkey.

You should notice than there is traffic.  He is sitting side saddle and what he has in his right hand is not reins but a riding crop which he uses on the side of the donkey's head to turn it left or right.  For our farm friends notice that he is wearing pretty nice shoes, a suit jacket and a dress shirt.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Firing Range

I've written about the Turkish Navy using the two islands in the Saros for target practice before.

Tonight after supper (in the dark) while Nicole was outside taking her laundry off the line, I heard the local pack of feral dogs barking and someone firing a hand gun. They fired it 6 or 7 times.  I don't know if they were shooting because the dogs were barking or the dogs were barking because of the shooting.  Either is an equally valid possibility in this place.

In the spring and summer, the son of one of our neighbours fires his gun into the ocean, usually after we've already been in bed and asleep for a couple of hours. I am not sure if you ever really get used to being awakened by gun fire.

Nicole came in a few minutes after we heard the last shot.  The dogs are still carrying on at the far end of the village. I haven't heard anymore shots, but then I am not in bed yet either.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Octopuses! Buckets! Oh My!

       I have this… personality quirk that makes me dive headlong into things before I think about them.
       The latest of these episodes involved an octopus; Sam and I were outside, looking at the water when he spotted the beastie. As the creature was not far from shore, I immediately turned tail and ran for my fish net and rubber boots.  On my way back out the door I collected a four gallon bucket as well.
       I knew almost immediately upon entering the water that I was going to get my feet wet. The octopus was juuuust out of the range of my boots.  I rolled up my pant legs and continued my careful wading until I was close enough to try and scoop/herd the octopus into the bucket with my net.
The octopus, not pleased at being disturbed, let loose a cloud of ink and disappeared. It was a very exciting few seconds because he did two things, he splashed me with ink, & he quickly changed directions and came towards me.
        I might have yelled.
        A little bit.
     In my mind, there two categories of sea creatures: those who rely on speed to survive, and those that rely on camouflage. Octopuses rely on the latter, but it wasn’t long before I spotted him again, slowly squishing himself under a rock. Determined to catch him, I tried again and managed to scoop him into the bucket.
       This isn't the first time we've seen octopuses in the bay, Johanna and I first spotted one a few years ago when we were wading. Throughout the year we see divers with harpoons hunting them and other sea creatures. The other week Dad spotted some men who were fishing for pleasure and had caught an octopus. If I'd wanted to I could have taken my octopus to Gelibolu and sold him to one of the fish restaurants. 

         Throughout the time I had him in the bucket, my octopus tried to escape –  you’ll see that in the video that is coming soon.  And these things come bigger?! 
- Nicole

(Picture cred: Mom or Dad)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 2015

May had been an interesting month.  The weather is lovely one day and cool and rainy the next. The turtles and snakes are out and about in the neighbourhood.  The giant black King bees and swallows are flitting about too. The cherry tree across the back lane bloomed and so did our rose bushes.  Lawn mowing has turned into a weekly necessity. The canola has bloomed and there are some fields of grain just about ready for harvest.  The rice fields on the peninsula have been planted and flooded too. (photos below)

Nicole finished her volunteer work at the English school mid month.  The owner of the school invited us in for tea and cake and to say good bye this week. She wanted some insight into our plans for the fall.  If Nicole and I wanted full time jobs, I think we could easily have them.  Cam's work was a little bit busier with the annual holiday lead up panic from his bosses. We spent a 4 day weekend across the Marmara at Assos. (See photos below) to celebrate my birthday.  Cam located the Russian monument in Gelibolu after two years of looking. (more photos) We spent a day with a Canadian couple, friends of company management,who were on vacation in Turkey.  They have lived in a variety of countries from Borneo to Colombia, so they had interesting stories to tell.  Our experiences of life away from home have been very similar. Nicole and Sam wrapped up their school courses this month and as the month closes we're all getting ready to pack for our annual leave.

White Russians fled Russian between 1917 and 1920 as a result of the revolution.  Some came to Gelibolu, Turkey.  There is a fascinating collection of photographs of Gelibolu and the Russians refugees as well as long lists of Russians at this site.

The monument is fenced and the grounds are only open to the public some days.  The monument is located south of Kipa on a dead end residential street. Put the latitude and longitude into your GPS and you should be able to drive right to it! (N40.414733 E26.662709)

 For my birthday this year, Cam took us to Assos/Behramkale for a few days.  It was lovely and warm and the scenery was spectacular.

 Assos is the name of the ancient pre-Roman town that included a hill top Athena Temple, Roman theatre, agora and harbour.  There are also some ruined Byzantine era churches on the hillside.  There is limited access to the sites and to be honest not a great deal to see - except the amazing feats of engineering and rock moving!

Arches on either side of the theatre used to lead to the seats, but are now blocked off.  Sam's grown a little but this still isn't very spacious.

 This port at Assos, down the hill from the theatre, was the one Paul, the Apostle. used to get a boat to Lesvos (Acts 20). Lesvos or Lesbos is a large Greek island.  There is limited ferry service from Turkey, but you can get ferries to the island from mainland Greece.

Assos Harbour

 We drove around the area for a bit.  In one flatish spot outside a village we happened upon a few of these stone structures.

 I went for a closer look and discovered they weren't empty!
 They were full of sheep trying to stay cool.
 We stayed cool in the hotel's pool.
A village oven.

 Asso - Athena Temple
 Cistern  near the temple.
The Temple of Appolon Smintheus (Lord of the Mice) is located beside the town of Gulpinar.(Gulpinar is about 30 minutes from Behramkale) As usual signs are rare, but we only had to ask for directions once.  The site is enormous and has signs in English and Turkish   The ruins include the temple, (Photos above and below), a bath house and a section of Roman road.

We had a bite of lunch at the "cafe" next door.  They had running water and toilets!  The fellow who served us followed us to the car to ask where we were from and to compliment Cam on his Turkish.

 Cam drove a very scary narrow winding coastal road to get us to Babakale.  The town is located on a cape which is the most westerly point on the continent of Asia. Its refurbished clifftop castle overlooks the Aegean.

We just about had the place to ourselves until a bunch of rowdy school boys arrived with their two "minders".  The boys jumped from spot to spot and raced around the ramparts in herds. Like most Turkish sites, there are no "safety measures" (guardrails, fences etc), just a sheer drop of some tens of feet to rocky ground below.

The view from the ramparts.

After the castle, we went for ice cream right next door and sat in the shade of the castle wall.  As we left the little tea garden area, a waitress offered us certificates commemorating our visit to the village and the most Westerly part of Asia.

 On May 11 I took a few pictures of the rice fields being flooded. When we drove by two days ago (May 29), the rice was already growing above the water level.

The rest of these photos I took while I waiting for Nicole to come from the English school.  There is an area in the centre of the Gelibolu where there are no cars allowed. (but watch out for garbage trucks, scooters, motorcycles, delivery vans and occasionally truck mounted cranes.)

 On the left, the video store.  On the right the candy store - with an ice cream cooler out front. None of these stores have central heating and most have no a/c.  If the door is ajar the shop is open for business.  It's not unusual to go into a shop and find no one else there. The clerk will follow you through the door a few minutes later, because they've been lounging outside or chatting with friends nearby.

 Women dress in a variety of ways.  We occasionally see women in burqas with niqabs, but more often women wear head scarves and long coats. In our area, I think most women dress without  demonstrating any sort of religious affiliation.

There are lots of benches in the area.  The flags are for various political parties.  There is a national election in Turkey June 7.