Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saying our farewells in Istanbul - Arif and Fred

Arif is the best cook in Turkey and also the most hard-working one. He owns and runs the Nemrut Et Lokantesi in Beyoglu and the two of us can have a substantial meal there for 4 euros for the both of us. I will upload a collage of today's lunch tomorrow.

In the meantime, we have arrived home. With a water leak in the basement which has damaged all our LPs, many of our old photos and lots of other things, not to mention the nasty smell, it was not a great homecoming. Annoying letters from the tax man and bad news on the work front didn't make it any better. Bad news also about a dear friend of ours and the main thing is that things go well with her, more important than any destroyed LP sleeves...

But! At least the garden looks good and it was great to have Henk pick us up from the airport (after a rather dreadful flight).

I was hoping to go to the office tomorrow but with the water damage in the basement, I think I need to stay at home and help Fred out with everything which needs to be done.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Washing the wool in the Catak stream

While the men are out on the hills tending the flocks, the women and girls are washing the newly shorn wool (mainly by beating it with those sticks)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Catak landscapes

Catak landscapes by CharlesFred
Catak landscapes, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

We had our last day in the east today and the road took us to Catak, under Lake Van. Beautiful landscpaes, wonderful people and hospitality, running streams and walnut groves and hardly a car in sight. Funnily enough, having arrived in Catak, we were surprised to see a busload of young Koreans being dropped off in town!

We are now back in noisy old Istanbul amongst the hustle and bustle of the big city to finish off our month in Turkey witha weekend in our favourite city.

An Anglo-Arab colt with friends in Ercis

You returned from Bitlis to Tatvan and Ahlat by the northside of Lake Van???
First idea that came to my mind: this is somewhere in the Wild West

Yes, this is what we did. it was interesting but the south side was more beautiful, although around Ercis it became wonderful again and again we made for the hills just south of Muradiye, at a time when the children were bringing the cattle dwon from the mountains, the sheep having already been put to bed.
What a beautiful part of this amazing country!

Scenes from Nemrut Dag

Scenes from Nemrut Dag by CharlesFred
Scenes from Nemrut Dag, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

The largest crater lake in Turkey, 2,400 meters high, such beautiful colours and scenery.

Two goatherds

Two goatherds by CharlesFred
Two goatherds, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

I am sorry but I really cannot resist these scenes. So the car has to stop, I rush out with my camera and greet them with a Merhaba and before too long they are on my photostream!

These photos are from the countryside of Siirt province, a province which seems to be mainly overlooked by tourists. I only found 548 photos tagged with Siirt on flickr, so I will have added over 1% to that total this morning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We used to have these flowers in our garden back in Beaconsfield

We decided to take a car out for the rest of this week to explore the highways and byways of the eastern part of Turkey and after some frustration at Europcar's lack of orgnaisation (again, just like in Oman), we had a black Chevrolet at our disposal. We spent the rest of the day following the southern shore of Lake Van from Van to Tatvan, where we are now. We picked up a hitch hiker on the way who turned out to be a totally charming Islamic teacher with limited English skills. He treated us to some great hospitality here in Tatvan until he went off to visit his friends' new baby in a local hospital. Just getting ready to find some dinner and hopefully a bar with beer and live folk music, which is the way we like to spend our evenings here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brother and sister and chick

Happy Birthday dear Fiona! Thinking of you all day, especially when I saw these two, who followed us around this incredibly cute little village. She was a bit shy in all the photos but this stopped when her elder brother picked up this chick who was running around, looking a bit lost...

Young cowherd

Young cowherd by CharlesFred
Young cowherd, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

We managed to get our driver to take the road over the mountains and then get him to stop for scenes like this - cowherds and shepherds with their flocks, set against this beautiful mountainous golden landscape. So wonderful!

Today we went out for a drive into the golden brown countryside of Van Province

Wondering what to do on our second day in Van, we suddenly came across a taxi stand with some photos of touristic places, one of them being the waterfalls at Muradiye. Well, we had thought about taking public transport up there, but it was over 60 kms away and the problem with public transport is that you cannot stop to take photos. So, we were soon asking how much it would cost to hire a taxi for the day and in a few minutes the deal was done. For an agreed price we would have the taxi for the rest of the day until about 5 or 6 and the taxi driver would take us to the waterfalls and also a castle and some villages.
Well, we are always a bit apprehensive about taking drivers out (except for our very dear Abdul Kader in Hama in Syria - may we hope all is well with you and your family), especially ones who do not speak a word of English! It looked bad when the first thing we did when leaving Van was to fill up with petrol for 80 lire, for which we had to advance our driver 100 lire. Then, it became apparent that he had completely missed the tuning for the castle. And then he made up some stupid excuse not to drive to the old bridge in Muradiye. Then last of all, he seemed to refuse to take us to the town of Ozalp, being seemingly more keen to drive us back to Van as quickly as possible.
However, surprise, surprise, he DID take a turn-off and we were soon driving along small country lanes through the most beautiful wide expanses of countryside, mostly golden brown, backed by the mountains which provide the main boundary between Turkey and Iran. And he did stop, time and time again, when I would spot a shepherd or a cowherd ro some birds or particularly spectacular scenery and all of a sudden our day had become perfect, especially as we were met by such large smiles and waves everywhere we went.
But then, all of a sudden as we were descending from the hills, the road surface changed to recently laid black tarmac which was soft and gooey under the hot sun. The gravel layer had not been put on yet. Fred first noticed there was a problem when his hand turned black from the tarmac being thrown up, then it was the turn of my forearm. The car did not seem to be too badly affacted until we came to the bottom to the main road and our driver stopped to find that his car had turned BLACK! Ooops! Now it was our turn to feel guilty for having put him through this. We offered to help clean it with cloths and although it worked a bit there was not enough cloth nor hours in the day. Fortunately, just down the road there was a car wash and after seemingly lots of shouting, they agreed to give it a go, first some young boys would go over the car with a cloth, turning it brown (a mixture of yellow and black) until the older young man with the jet water spray had a go and blasted all the dirt off in a matter of minutes and thankfully the car turned yellow again and we were only 20 lire poorer.
Of course, by the time we were back in Van, it was all dusty as the Turks are widening the road through the east of the country to Iran and India beyond with heavy road works going on every 5 kms or so.
The financial transaction at the end went off without a hitch, the petrol HAD been included in the price we had agreed and we only had to pay the balance, plus a handsome tip for our patient driver. And what a relief that was after our nightmares with car rentals in Eritrea and Somaliland...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunset over Lake Van

Sunset over Lake Van by CharlesFred
Sunset over Lake Van, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

There is massive police presence in Van, where many of the locals celebrate their Kurdish roots at a time of high tension following the killing of thirteen Turkish soldiers in Diyarbakir last week by Kurdish terrorists. The Kurdish colours of red, yellow and green were out in force at this music festival and the police kept their distance, albeit dressed in riot gear with armoured vehicles parked in the nearby streets, three just outside our hotel.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some of the friends we made today

It is always strange to have to leave a place (or places) you have enjoyed and made friends and to come ato a new place and wait to see what happens. We crossed east to Van, near the border with Iran and were greeted by dark clouds, patchy rain, unmade roads, police everywhere, including their armoured cars and it all looked a bit bleak. However, as is so often in Turkey, by the end of the day we could look back on a number of pleasurable meetings some of short duration, some longer. These are some chaps we met up on the top of the Rock of Van overlooking the massive Lake Van, site of ancient civilisations from over 5,000 years ago. More pictures from here later.

All of a sudden, we are ın a completely dıfferent part of Turkey

World Aba Guresi Championships in Antakya

Thıs champıonshıp started on Saturday ın the Ataturk Stadıum ın Antakya wıth the fınals later today.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You too

You too by CharlesFred
You too, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Antakya has a world famous archeological museum with many beautiful and well preserved mosaics being the main attraction.

Here the host is saying to his guests ' You Too', which can mean that he wishes for you what you wish for him. In this case, it looks like a large-ish penis!

So close to Syria

lADY IN BAZAAR by CharlesFred
lADY IN BAZAAR, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

The bazaar of Antakya is very large and reminds us of some of the bazaars to be found in eastern Turkey, less so the souks of nearby Syria. However, this woman brought back immediate memories of the bedouin women to be seen in the souk of neighbouring Aleppo.

The border with Syria seems to be open and there seems not to be any trouble in Aleppo. We are tempted to go across but we have made different plans and we don't have visas anyway.

While we are at it, we can mention that we were invited to the fleshpots of :Lattakia just down the coast from here, but we turned down that invitation, reluctantly...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The world of flickr meets

The world of flickr meets by CharlesFred
The world of flickr meets, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Lovely to meet Kemal and Berkin here in Adana. Thanks for a lovely day, lads and look forward to seeing you this afternoon again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Impressions from our 20 hour train journey to Adana

Sunflower fields towards journey's end, although the journey did last a couple of hours longer than it should have done. It was another great experience, bringing back memories of the 32 hour trip we made from Istanbul to Aleppo back in 2005 at the start of our six month journey through Middle East and Africa. That time we took the Toros Express, this time, the Icanadolu Mavi Express, which is more modern with air conditioning and a restaurant car. Leaving at just before midnight, we had time for a beer before climbing between the fresh white sheets and rolling off into sleep as the train headed eastwards, waking up somewhere short of the city of Konya.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A beautiful woman with her beautiful son in Balat

A day for the young ones by CharlesFred
A day for the young ones, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

A day for the young ones

A day for the young ones by CharlesFred
A day for the young ones, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Aspects of the Mihrimah Cami in Edirnekapi

Finally, the Mihrimah Sultan Cami, is open. After many visits, we were so happy to find the doors open today so we could see the magnificant mosque restored in all its glory after being damaged in an earthquake in 1999. Like the Sulimaniye Cami in Edirne, it was designed by the great Mimar Sinan and again, this has to be one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Here are some impressions of this magnificent building.

Henk arrives in Istanbul

Henk arrives in Istanbul by CharlesFred
Henk arrives in Istanbul, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Henk's second time to Turkey, first time to Istanbul. What a great evening we had last night!!! Here's a video of a spontanoeus rap in our favourute Munzur Bar sometime late last night:

Seamen relaxing at the end of the day


Serefe by CharlesFred
Serefe, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Nothing nicer than a cold beer on a beautiful sailing boat with your colleagues after a long day looking at figures and spreadsheets... Cheers!

Summer Sunday afternoon along the Asian side of The Bosphorus

Summer Sunday afternoon along the Asian side of The Bosphorus

Another perfect jumping opportunity... and another one for Sergey!

Introducing the 650th Oil Wrestling Championships from Kirkpinar, near Edirne

Introducing the 650th Oil Wrestling Championships from Kirkpinar, near Edirne

Introducing the 650th Oil Wrestling Championships from Kirkpinar, near Edirne

Just a few pics to get started before going to bed. The day was long and I went through four batteries, so very many pics to get through, a few good ones in there, although not so good of the actual wrestling due to the umpires keeping standing in my way, anyway, we will see. All I can say now was that it was a memorable and amazing experience. Such a contrast between the aggression of the wrestling and the tenderness which the men showed each other both before and after the fights.

Two hats in Balat

Two hats in Balat by CharlesFred
Two hats in Balat, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

As taken by a rather precocious street girl in Balat...

Charles at the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne

Back in Edirne for the day and we could not pass up the opportunity to visit the Selimiye Mosque twice. We were here two years ago in October, when it was cooler and a bit quieter but still on a blazing hot day in early July, it was every bit as beautiful as it had seemed the first time.


Karpuz by CharlesFred
Karpuz, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Fred in our Istanbul home

Fred in our Istanbul home by CharlesFred
Fred in our Istanbul home, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Izgara kofteci

Izgara kofteci by CharlesFred
Izgara kofteci, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

There is a great selection of vegetarian food here in Turkey, with lots of dishes comprising tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, rice, potatoes, bulgur wheat. And the food can be very cheap indeed. We are averaging about 2 euros per head a meal. We happened to be in Edrine and one of the local specialities is kofte, which is why we had this...

A field of sunflowers

A field of sunflowers by CharlesFred
A field of sunflowers, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Always nice to go on holiday and come across a field of sunflowers (very typical of the Balkans). Here we were in Thrace, close to the borders with Bulgaristan and Yunanistan. Seeing these bright sunny flowers immediately puts one in a holiday frame of mind.

Welcome to Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul by CharlesFred
Welcome to Istanbul, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

School's Out!

School's Out! by CharlesFred
School's Out!, a photo by CharlesFred on Flickr.

Fred finished yesterday and what a great feeling it is. Seven weeks of freedom from schoolkids, colleagues and most of all parents!

The government is going to take a week's holiday away from him in 2013, so this will be the last time but one that he has seven weeks. The idea is to reduce work prssure on teachers. Funny way of doing it. How about talking the right of children and their parents to appeal against the marks they have been given or all sorts of other measures? Dutch teachers already work harder than all their other colelagues in at least western Europe.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ohrid architecture

Ohrid architectureOhrid on Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is a must-see place to visit when in the region. The Turkish/Dutch budget airline Corendon have started flights to Ohrid again this summer after many many years of no-one flying there. I hope they are not too successful - wouldn't want to see too many Dutchies here!

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