An unexpected extra day

This morning we got up and drove to the airport in Adana hoping to board our flight to Istanbul at 3:40 am. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not fly well. So when they told us there was a 35 minute delay to our flight, that was likely to be longer, this did not sit well.

The airport is very small and you can walk from the terminal to the planes in less than a minute. Quite why they insist on bussing us I don’t know, but it also means that we can see the plane from the window of the terminal. From there we could also see that there was no one on the plane yet, meaning that this was more than just a delay; the passengers weren’t being allowed to get on. Not great. So I made the silly mistake of asking what the delay was for, after seeing M talk to the airport guys and them showing him something out of the window. They told me it was a problem with the nose cone but it was sorted now.

Hmm, sorted? A man was on a ladder and there were still no sign of any passengers. Anyway, a few minutes later we were told the plane was cancelled. Just a minor disaster given that for once the lay over in Istanbul was less than two hours. The next plane to Istanbul wouldn’t arrive in time and the only other plane going to Istanbul were going to its second airport on the Asian side. And besides, they were all fully booked.

Normally our problem is about seating. M insists on trying his luck for a business class upgrade so doesn’t do online check-in to try and get us to sit together. So we end up farting about trying to explain that no, the kids can’t sit in completely different rows and nowhere near us or each other. (I am determined that next year he puts and end to this and just accepts that economy is fine and doesn’t put us through this stress again).

Not getting home today then. Luckily a lady from Turkish airlines came along to assure us she would do everything she could to get us back to the UK but it was highly unlikely that it would be either today or the airport we had booked the flight to. We had to discuss options and what airports we could consider and then she went off to try and find something. Trouble was she also had a plane full of other passengers to sort as well.

Of course the kids didn’t really understand all the waiting around and so we got all the usual stuff of “I’m bored.” What they really meant was they were tired and wanted to either be on a plane or in a bed. It took till about 7am before we heard that they could get us on a flight tomorrow but to Manchester, would we agree to it? Thankfully this year I had not left the car at the airport as the one we flew from is as far from our home as Adana airport is to our flat in Mersin. Paying for airport parking seemed silly when rail fares would work out cheaper and the train is pretty direct. Going to another airport is a different matter altogether. Getting the train back is more expensive than hiring a car (even with the different drop off charge) and takes way longer with more changes. Going home a day late and on a later flight I know that all we will want to do it get home as quickly as we can.

Manchester it is then. With that decided I thought we could drive back to the flat. Nope, we had to wait even longer for it all to be properly sorted. Add to that, M had asked his nephew to come and collect the car so now he was telling me we needed to take him back with us. Our car has 5 seats, not 6, but hey, this is Turkey. We eventually all pile in, with me very unhappy so I decide to drive as M’s driving seems to have got worse. The trouble was that I was also knackered and half way I decided it wasn’t safe because I was zoning. M took over and I sat in the back with a very heavy Lai lai on my lap. How can someone so small and skinny feel like such a dead weight?

We made it home but having cleaned the flat, packed everything, emptied the fridge and cupboards, we had no food left and had to bring all the luggage upstairs because I didn’t want the boys dirtying the only set of clothes they had for going home. One the way here it was shorts and t shirt weather back home but now there is a different of over 12 degrees. They will definitely feel it.

M and I sorted some stuff and collapsed to sleep but the boys refused. Well Smelly has caved in now after coming for a hug. I’ve had quite a few hugs this holiday and feel really lucky that at 14 he still asks for them. I also get the ‘I hate you’ s but at least it’s not all the time yet. The other two I am fighting a losing battle with to get them out of their going home clothes.

After two hours sleep I am now cancelling train tickets, booking a rental car, and trying to find out about flight compensation. The boys are just on screens because of course today is pool filter day so we can’t even have the joy of a final swim. We could go to the beach but I simply cannot cope with cleaning sand. That is a joy that just keeps on giving no matter how much you try to clear it up.

To add to my joy I have just seen the boarding cards for tomorrow’s flight. We are all sat on different rows. M seems to think that we will have to put up or do that awful thing of begging people to move. Like many Turkish men I know he simply doesn’t seem to see kids sitting away from their parents next to total strangers as a problem. Airlines don’t seem to view this as an issue either.

I have seen this happen on planes and people are just awful. They sit there shouting about how they ‘paid extra’ for their seat and have no regard for families who constantly find themselves in this situation if they haven’t also paid extra. The online check-in and paying extra for a seat is a real scam. It means people who are disabled have to pay extra just to make sure that someone doesn’t take the seats that should be reserved for people with disabilities. It means people can pay extra for extra leg room when people well over 6 foot, who may need it more, are forced to pay otherwise they don’t have options. I have known people with disabilities having to fight airline companies to keep their reserved seats and proving their disabilities because the airlines want the extra money that someone is paying for the seat. It’s humiliating for families, who have already paid way more than a single traveller for all of their tickets to have to beg to sit together and hope that there will be some kind people who agree to move. I have just seen it bring out the worst in people.

So that’ll be fun tomorrow. M knows that I struggle with flying. He knows that I freak without the kids very close to me while flying. Yet he let’s this happen year after year.

This extra day might have been a blessing if we all weren’t so tired and the pool was open. But as it is I now have lost the day that I was going to spend getting the kids kitted out for school. I can do some of it online but shoes – they need measuring. The boys always grow like plants in a pot during the summer so I can’t leave it to guesswork. Shoes are the most expensive part of the uniform. Plus Smelly needed a new blazer and I have no idea what size he needs, meaning he’ll have to start the new year in his old one till I can get him a new one. And then my wind down day before going back to work is gone too.

M always likes to take it right to the wire with this trip. I always argue, to no avail, that I need a few days to sort them out before school starts. Despite being really annoyed with him this year I at least thought we had one day, because of inset days. But no. To top it off he’s gone and bought a mountain of food that we don’t need because he’s Turkish and incapable of buying the very minimum. Two enormous packets of cereal, 6 eggs, pasta, bread and veg? Seriously? All the while all I see is that all my efforts to keep the house clean are being undone. Anyone who has a second/holiday home will know what I mean, and yes I am aware that that is a very privileged moan.

So now I have to go and clean the kitchen because M cannot cook cleanly. There is half a tonne of food left over but yet he has not cooked enough for me. We will be giving away cereal, butter, bread and veg in the morning that he should never have bought.

I know that people have their flights cancelled all the time. the trouble is that had we made it to Istanbul and the flight got cancelled from their we would have had a hotel and food paid for. But because we could go back to our flat we (I) have to deal with the repercussions and spend my time sorting out other people’s mess. I also have to gear myself up for flying tomorrow again and feel less confident, especially given that M decided to watch news on the TV in the airport where there was a report of a plane crash.

Just when I had started to relax and was thinking there were things I would actually miss this time round, something came to make sure I wouldn’t.

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Filth: part two

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Six sacks and yes there is a pillow in one

We are soon to depart once again. While we have been here we have done three litter picks on two beaches, plus wherever we went we would collect some rubbish. Elsewhere in the world the Amazon rain forest is burning at an alarming rate, deforestation is happening in many other rainforests, and plastic pollution, as well as other pollution, is on the rise. In addition, if you Google “Guardian beach clean” it will take you to a link of the sad story of a man who spent four years leading beach cleans in west Wales and has now given up.

His is a depressing decision based on the fact that he feels that he is making no difference. His argument is that while charities, with little money, continue to lobby parliament and have little power or influence, the major companies are allowed to continue to produce plastic. There is little or no legislation in the UK, planned or otherwise, to make companies, such as Coca Cola, bear any of the responsibility for cleaning up the plastic, which they continue to produce for their products. I have no idea what the situation is re the law in Turkey but, if this man is giving up in the UK he has at least achieved one thing that is yet to happen here: he has changed people’s attitudes and got people involved. So now people see it as their responsibility to: not make the mess in the first place; clear up mess they see, regardless of who made it; attempt to reduce their use of plastic; and avoid further contributing to the problem.

Sadly, I see very little of this attitude change when I come to Turkey. While I have seen some friends from Turkey post about litter on the beaches, I have not seen anything about organising beach cleans or trying to change attitudes towards litter.

We went back to Bogsak a few days ago and this time M brought with us bin liners so we could collect more of what we found. Many of the wild campers had left but oh my the mess they also left. Seriously? You couldn’t put your child’s dirty disposable nappy in the bin? You just dump it on the rocks. We also found at least 4 on our own beach within 100 metres and I just could not believe a mother was too lazy to bag and bin her child’s nappy when the bins were less than 100 meters from their camp.

We filled one bag almost entirely with beer bottles. I get that you want to camp. I get that you want to enjoy a beer by the sea, but I do not get that you are too damned lazy to take your empty bottles to the bin afterwards. I mean, glass isn’t a major cause of preventable forest fires in this country?

What really beggared belief, for me, was that people just walked past us collecting. Occasionally they would express disgust at the mess and M would talk to them about it. He would also ask them to take a bag and fill it as they walked. But despite their disgust, they also refused to pick up ‘other people’s mess’. Like we do it for fun! We do it because we see potential fire hazards, injury hazards when the glass breaks or the cans split and corrode. We see potential deadly hazards for birds and sea life when plastic bags float in the sea that birds and turtles mistake for food and ingest.

We did get one person help M carry one of the filled bags to the bin (of the 8 we finally collected) but only because his father told him to. Sadly, because there are still rubbish collectors who do it to make money over here, the father asked if we were collecting to sell. He was a bit embarrassed because M clearly was not of the usual class of people who do this (the desperately poor). He could not understand that we were doing it simply because we can’t bear to see filth wherever we walk. That we feel that if we don’t do our part then no one will.

I do understand the man in Wales’ reasons for giving up. It does feel like a never ending battle. So long at the plastic is being produce, people will buy it and will continue to dispose of it irresponsibly with little or no thought. As long as people stay selfish and see other people’s mess as not their problem we are fighting a losing battle.

That’s not to say there are no environmentalists in Turkey. Or that there are no companies trying to reduce pollution. It’s much easier now to buy eco friendly and organic products. The trouble is they are triple the price and only really in places like Migros and not other, less expensive, supermarkets. They are also, often imported, usually from Germany. There are a couple of Turkish companies, like Viking, but there is another Turkish company called Viking with a different logo that is not a producer of eco products, so that makes things confusing.

But what drove me other the edge the other day was when M went shopping and came back with some Turkish eco products that just don’t seem to get it. Like this one

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I know it’s got English on it but it’s definitely Turkish. It has Turkmali on the side of the box. So why did it drive me nuts?

The cardboard box comes in unrecyclable shrink-wrapped plastic. Each individual tablet is wrapped in unrecyclable plastic. And the mass of individually plastic wrapped tablets comes in, you’ve guessed it, a plastic bag! So these eco tablets may not cost the earth in terms of the chemical make up of the actual tablet for washing your dishes but they succeed in creating an unnecessary level of plastic pollution, most of which  you cannot recycle. One step forward but at least three back.

Why do I get so annoyed and start a rant post? Because Turkey can do so much better than this. Because Turkey is indeed, a beautiful country but it’s being ruined by plastic filth. I have yet to go anywhere in this country where M and I have not picked up a bag full of rubbish and take it to a bin, or home if there wasn’t one. It doesn’t matter how remote, whether there is actually a road or a rough track, you have to walk there or climb. I can guarantee that some idiot has been there before us and left their shit behind in the form of plastic bottles, cans, beer bottles, crisp packets, shoes, carrier bags etc.

Like the man in Wales, we have taught our kids to pick up rubbish when they see it and take it to a bin even if it isn’t theirs. We have taught them that looking after the environment is each individual’s responsibility and they can’t simply cop out by saying they didn’t make the mess because I guarantee if  you think that then you certainly made a mess elsewhere that you failed to clear up.

While the man in Wales spent a valiant four years picking up other people’s rubbish, he has not given up. There are still others doing the beach cleans and spreading the message. He is just finding another way to fight the rising tide, and it is a rising tide, of plastic in the seas. But while people in Turkey continue to liberally distribute their filth and fail to take it to a bin, there will only ever be yet more plastic in the sea. We will continue to do our bit when we’re here. I just hope that more people will start to do theirs.

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Well, that didn’t quite go to plan

The other day a man walked down our street shouting that he was selling fish. Not so unusual as there is a fisherman who comes occasionally, although usually with car or van. This guy just had a bag of fish. M was excited so I thought I would try to shout down from 14 floors up to get his attention. It worked and M went downstairs to meet him.

He came back up, pleased with himself and holding a bag of fish to sort and put in the fridge. He was especially pleased with the price. Really this should have been our first warning. I often ask him whether things are cheap cheap or bargain cheap because he does tend to struggle with understanding the difference.

He’d been told they were levrek, sea bream. And that should have been our next warning. I thought they looked a bit like brown trout in colour, till I got closer and saw they did look like sea bream in shape but not as silver and shiny. They did  look fresh though, so M washed them and put them in the fridge until later.

M wanted to barbecue them but our balcony is not suitable and we are not allowed to in the site garden. The local beach does have seating areas on both the beach and just behind, where people often have barbecues. He’d been out all day and complained that although we had charcoal, we didn’t actually have a barbecue. I have no idea why that was the case. But I thought we had decided to cook the fish at home, when he got back from whatever jobs he had that day.

I was bit surprised when he got back after 6pm holding a barbecue in addition to some things I had asked him to get. As I thought we were doing the fish at home I hadn’t started doing dinner because I was waiting for him to get home. Getting home after 6 is rather late as the sun is usually fully set by 8ish (no lovely long nights here). Anyway, I made a salad and sent him and smelly off with the fish and some stuff to get the barbecue going down at the beach. Meanwhile, I stayed behind to do some rice and other things.

After about half an hour me, Fatso and Lai lai wandered down to the beach to find Smelly and M being all manly and grr after having lit the barbecue. Here men very rarely cook, unless paid to do so. Therefore barbecuing is where they assert their manliness and make a big hooha about how they can cook (yeah right, the women prepare everything and you make fire and put things on it). Part of the hooha, for Turks at least, is that they must fan the barbecue. They can’t just light it and wait till the coals are ready. Nope, they must fan. They even have special plastic paddles you can buy solely for this important task. We did not have one but M made do with a clean (I hope) dustpan. This is all part of the reason I didn’t go to the beach with him, I cannot stand this ridiculous and pointless spectacle of ‘man fanning flames’ grunt.

It gets dark really quickly once the sun goes down and it was dusk when me, Fatso and Lai lai left the flat. It didn’t take long for us to find the others, and they had chosen quite a nice spot with a table and bench (even if the table did have deep scorch marks all over it). It was quite romantic as it soon became pitch black and all we could really see was the orange glow of the coals. Bit problematic though when we needed to eat. I solved this by using the torch on M’s phone and Smelly did the same with his. Smelly, however, seemed to want to permanently destroy my eyesight and burn my retinas by constantly pointing it directly at my eyes. We eventually mocked up a system where the phones leant against a tupperware box that created a pleasant glow and we could mostly see.

Time to eat and I was still annoyed that M seems to go plastic mad on his return to this country and had bought plastic plates and paper cups. We have reusable beakers at home and could have sorted something for plates. Not really doing very well scrapping plastic if our only concession was to buy glass jugs for the fridge to stop him buying and refilling PET bottles.

We had fish, salad, rice, and cats. Time to tuck in. Smelly hates sorting fish and is afraid of bones so I tried to fillet his for him. Alarm bells started to ring when this fish seemed to be full of bones, very tiny thread bones. Sea bream has sturdy bones and firm flesh making it easy to separate. I put some on Smelly’s plate then gave up and left it to M to sort. I turned to mine and tried to get some to eat.

It didn’t go well. Mine seemed to have even more bones and no matter how hard I tried to get some flesh from the main body of the fish, every mouthful was a mouthful of bones. The flesh wasn’t much better either. Not firm but certainly cooked. It just sort of disintegrated.

I am not one to spit food out, and when I really can’t stand it I will at least discreetly remove food into a tissue or paper napkin. But this was too much. This was the first time I have ever spat food out so spectacularly. I tried again but my next mouthful wasn’t just bones but so foul tasting it felt like I was eating fish guts. I can honestly say that is the first time I have spat food out, swilled my mouth out and spat again. OK we were at a beach so I could get away with it and it was pitch black but even so, still not cool.

I admitted defeat and apologised to M. He looked mortified and admitted we should give the fish to the cats. We wondered if even they would reject it. M soldiered on but seeing him grimace as he felt ever more thread bones and almost gag as one threatened to go into his throat, I told him to stop. He  did.

Wasting food is guhnah (sinful) in Islam and so for M to leave food it must be bad. He’s also not one for apologies, many Turks view apologising as weakness, but he kept on apologising for the fish. Again a sign that his pride was hurt rather than sadness that he had upset anyone else.

Still, we had rice and the salad. So we ditched the fish, which even after cooling it looked like the cats had rejected. We have no idea what the fish actually was and Fatso seemed to be the only one of us that made a success of eating a significant amount. Apparently the bones didn’t bother him too much. But we won’t be buying off that bloke again. They were definitely cheap cheap and not a bargain.

The barbecue wasn’t a total right off. Being away from the city we were slightly shielded from the light pollution, so the sky looked much darker and we could see the stars more clearly. In fact they looked so bright that we had a conversation about designated dark sky areas, such as Sark in the channel islands. We think Hayrettin, M’s nephew, has something pretty close on his farm in the mountains.

The boys also had fun putting out the fire, running to the tap with their empty bottles, filling them and then pouring it over the hot coals. We saw lights fly over the trees and Lai Lai’s investigations down to the sea meant he came back with reports of fishermen using lights on their floats. I also saw them wearing head torches; we used to have some of those.

Making our way back, we all decided that a nighttime barbecue was a great idea and we should do it again next year. Next time buying a couple of camping lights so we can actually see what we’re doing and not be blinded by phone torches. We should also make sure that any fish we get are what the seller claims them to be.

Bats flew over our heads as we walked home and all decided that we needed a shower as it was still 30 degrees and we were all a tad sweaty. Better luck next year.

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They don’t do it that way over here

A few days it was Lai lai’s ninth birthday. Each year we struggle to find something we can do to celebrate. We obviously have the usual presents and cake but we like to do something for their birthdays when it’s not a school day. I do arrange a party with his friends when we’re back home but the actual birthday day we want to have fun as a family and he gets to choose what we do.

In previous years we have gone to ‘Bowling Island’ and taken our cake, had some fun then come back to the pool. Last year, though, wasn’t much fun and we don’t want to do the same thing every year. This year left me feeling sad that Mersin doesn’t seem to have the same vision for the city as Konya. I never thought I would be envious of Konya! But it’s not just Mersin. Ankara has a serious lack of vision too. The only thing they seem to be capable of giving permission for are yet more mahoosive apartment blocks and shopping centres. In fact, visiting my friend she told me that it seems to be a game now of ‘who can name all the shopping centres in Ankara’ because there really are that many.

So what does Mersin have to offer for a birthday boy? Well, we’ve done bowling, the Deniz (Sea) museum they have already been to and found out it is quite dull with no interaction, there was nothing they wanted to see at the cinema and besides it’s all dubbed anyway, so what did that leave? There is a water park with slides in Mezitli run by the local council.

It would seem rather bonkers to pay to go to a pool when we have one in our own site but we don’t have water slides. They had been there before and M was not impressed with the level of cleanliness (or lack of) but we could only hope it wouldn’t be so bad this time. It wasn’t too expensive, about £5 per person, but by Turkish standards that’s still not cheap. Of course they don’t take cards, only cash, so that led M on a merry dance to find a cashpoint (ATM). I mean, back home we could use the nearest one but here you can only use a machine from your own bank without having to pay charges, which is why you often get clusters of 5-10 machines and supermarkets don’t have cashpoints in them.

Quite why the park didn’t take cards we couldn’t fathom but hey ho, back to the dark ages of cash we go. Once in we were bellowed at by a security guard asking if I was coming in by myself. Apparently they weren’t admitting single people that day. Quite why they couldn’t have a sign, or the cashier couldn’t have explained this I am not sure but then it would have taken security man’s opportunity to bellow away from him.

Paid, and through the gate, we found ourselves milling about before a woman came and aggressively pointed me towards the women’s changing and locker rooms. Again, quite why there couldn’t have been a sign or the cashier explain how things worked I don’t know, but aggression seems to be the staple mood of state and council workers here.

Changed and sorted we went to the pool area that wasn’t too crowded and there were plenty of sun loungers to choose from. There is a baby pool and a main pool with shallow areas so families with young kids can play together. The water slides are in a separate area. But they weren’t working. Or at least they weren’t working now. We couldn’t quite figure it out but they appeared to have a system where the slides were open  for half and hour then closed for an hour.

We had fun in the pool waiting. Fatso and Lai lai did try to play in the baby pool, where they do have slides and watery fun things open constantly, but they got kicked out for being too old. Then opening time came. There was a mad rush as every followed this line of lifeguards to the water slides. There were 8 slides in total but they only opened 7 and each one was manned. Each lifeguard had a whistle, plus a man in front of the landing pool, and boy did they make the most of having whistles.

M and I sat watching the boys try out each slide and race to get back in the queue. Tt seems we had picked a good time as the queues weren’t too long. But all the time M and I simply couldn’t understand this half hour opening business. If you go to a water park in Blighty the slides are constantly open. Maybe they’re trying to save electricity, said M but pumps don’t use as much electricity at heating or cooling systems. Maybe they’re trying to save money. Not quite sure how. If the slides were open all the time surely there wouldn’t be this chaotic rush, causing crowds in the landing pool. People could have a few slides, go back to the main pool, back to the slides and so on. You probably wouldn’t need so many life guards and they certainly wouldn’t be constantly trying to burst your ear drums with their whistles.

Sadly for Lai lai the half hour came to an end just as he came down the slide and there was no persuading the man blocking the entrance off that he should have one last go as it was his birthday. We weren’t that surprised as they are clearly very rule bound, 18 on one board and regularly announcing “no eating, drinking, running, smoking or taking photographs by the pool” (actually they used the word forbidden, they do love that word). We the had the choice of staying an hour more to go on the slides again, or leaving. We decided to stay but that was a dangerous decision given that Fatso was getting hangry and tired.

Why do they close the slides? Why do we have to wait an hour? All I could tell the boys was “I don’t know. They don’t do things the same way over here.” It’s not unusual that I have to say this because understanding a different culture is hard. Yet we all knew that if we’d paid to go to a resort hotel with slides they would have been open constantly. It’s especially hard when the kids see that the country has rules and laws but they also see so many people breaking them. While they know a lot about the country and it’s culture they are almost a step removed from it by not living here.

The next time the slides opened there were way more people, the queues grew along with wait time to get on the slides and the number of times you could go down in the holy half hour. I am convinced that keeping the slides open for longer or constantly would put a stop to this but they just don’t do it that way over here.

The boys had fun, Fatso was now so tired he had gone beyond hangry to hanging, and we were all a bit burnt from the reflected light. M, who previously had boasted while driving that he was brought up here so was fine without sunglasses, found the reflected light too much even for him. Time for lunch and home for the experimental cake Lai lai had asked me to make (vanilla with baked cheesecake in the middle).

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There’s a hole in my shoe and it’s letting in water

As a kid of the 80s and early 90s I loved a TV show called the Young Ones, which (for anyone who has never seen it) was a parody of student life in the 80s. Four students living together in a run down student house. A punk, a hippy, a sappy middle class kid trying to be a radical poet and a fly boy. As with all these things there were several spin off singles and one was the Hippy, Neil, singing There’s a hole in my shoe and it’s letting in water.

While I have had plenty of holes in shoes over the years as I have worn them into the ground, I have never had a pair completely disintegrate on me. Until last week.

One of the joys of having a summer home is that you can leave stuff there, which massively reduces what you need to pack (in theory). I don’t have to worry about stuff like shampoo, hair dryers, some clothes, and even shoes. And usually if they die I can go out and get a replacement and leave that here.

The trouble is that it doesn’t quite work for everything, and shoes it would appear are one of those things. Plus, I have massive feet meaning I cannot simply replace them. Shoes are things I have always had to buy back home. Even there it’s getting harder with most of the shops that usually stock larger sizes now not, and suggesting if you want anything bigger that a 7 1/2 (41) you have to go online. That’s all very well but I like to try things on before committing to a rather expensive purchase. And many retailers of larger shoes, clothes etc seem to think that larger, taller and such means fatter and wider. As my brother said recently, as he has similar problems, tall shops don’t mean tall they just think fat bastard.

Anyway, shoes. I don’t keep many pairs here because I can’t really afford to. But if I have managed to find some nicer ones, or I have now deemed them OK for Turkey but not practical for the UK, I will leave them behind. One pair I have had here for a few years and they have been really useful for popping to the shops, pool or beach. So when we decided to take a walk down to our local beach I thought it would be practical to wear them.

That’s when the fun started. Not long after getting onto the street they felt a bit funny. I looked down to see that the inner sole had started to come away from the outer sole. Well, we weren’t walking that far and I could possibly glue them or bin them when we got back depending on how bad it was.

Then again, maybe not. They started to feel a bit worse. Looking down I saw that the inner sole on both shoes on both sides were pulling away from the outer sole. Not great but carry on. Then the boys, walking behind me, all started laughing and saying ‘mum’s walking and leaving breadcrumbs.’ What? Admittedly they were feeling decidedly weird. So I stopped and took one off to examine what further damage there was.

They’re only low wedge mules but on taking them off the heel part completely split from the rest of the shoe. Quickly followed by cracks appearing all over the soles. Any slight touch meant where there were cracks the sole disintegrated like bread crumbs. Well this was a first, no shoe had ever fallen apart on me quite so spectacularly.

Fortunately there was a bin a few steps ahead so I decided to let the boys find out who had the best aim and go barefoot. The beach isn’t far and the tarmac is reasonably smooth up to the sand.

It would seem that certain things do not fare well left in a apartment made of concrete, which acts like a storage heater. Only a few days away this week and walking into the flat was like walking into and oven. Given that it’s also humid all year round and winter temperatures feel much colder as a result, anything left here has to deal with those extremes.

Thankfully I do have other shoes, and brought way more with me than I have actually worn. My bog standard these days are a crappy part of black canvas, flat, slip-ons for £8 from Asda. They have seen me through a muddy day at a festival, caves, canyons, beaches and normal pavements. They can get flung in the washing machine when they start to smell and binned, usually at the end of the summer. I think I’ll stick with those and not leave anymore shoes behind.

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Prime real estate, satan and butterflies

Most people when they think of Konya, they think of Rumi the poet, Mevlana, sufism and the whirling dervish. And for years they would have been right. This large city traded on all this for tourism and little else. The trouble with that though is you can come to Konya, do most of that stuff in a day and carry on your journey to somewhere else. They didn’t seem to understand that while they got quite a bit of tourist money, there was little else for the locals and they weren’t getting the most from the tourists.

Having a friend who lives here and another who visits regularly because her husband is from here, meant that I have seen the places they visit and so this attracted me to bringing the boys here this year. We only had a short time here but with good planning we managed to see quite a lot.

Day one was the bog standard: Rumi’s tomb, several mosques of different architectural styles from Roccoco to Selcuk brickwork, Aladdin’s hill, and a couple of medresse (religious schools). We even got to see an Ottoman re-enactment band.

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It was surprising how much walking we did to say all of these things are in a pretty compact area. We also went up Aladdin’s hill to the rose gardens. There is a wonderful view of the city and the mosque is still being restored but it offers some respite from the hustle and bustle below. The boys found a fabulous tree to sit and rest in then started a trend among the other kids by doing roly polys down the hill.

Exhausted we went back to the Polisevi (state hotel for policemen and other state employees) between the Ramada hotel and an industrial zone. Our search for something to eat led us to find that Konya has not modernised much in terms of cuisine. Everything, and I mean everything, is meat. Even the boys were starting to get fed up of it. As for me the only thing on offer was cheese pide, and there is only so much of that I can stand. Konya is not a place for a vegetarian and I would like to see a vegan find anything they can eat. Lentil soup perhaps but they often put meat stock in that.

Day two, and thanks to my friends I had a plan. First stop a village outside town called Sille. The map told me that there were two churches (Milk Hill Chapel and Saint Eleni) and Satan’s bridge. What it didn’t tell me was it’s a beautifully restored village that used to be home to Greek Christians before the exodus and people exchanges during the start of the Republic. Nor did it tell me about the cave houses hewn out of the hillside rocks. We could have spent the whole day exploring this lovely place. It’s not signposted even though it’s only 15 minutes drive from where we were staying. Most people who come here only know about the dam further up the road and although that has a nice park we weren’t here for that.

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Of the two churches (Milk Hill Chapel) one is a restored chapel on top of a hill. The municipality that restored it has done a really good job but according to the, very helpful, man who looks after it, they didn’t know what to do with it after the restoration. So they have made it into a museum of time. It’s a really clever idea and is now full of old or replica time pieces or instruments for calculating the calendar from the stars.

The other church (St Eleni church) has been kept as a church but obviously no longer for prayer since no Christians live in the village any more. They have done some restoration and again not everything is original. There are frescos but they are difficult to see behind the grandly decorated woodwork in front of the simple stone altar.

Further into the village, which has a manicured stream running through it there is a museum and mosque. The mosque is a simple brick and wood construction, similar to Aladdin mosque in central Konya. We didn’t make it to the museum because from the mosque you get a great view of the caves and we were all drawn to those.

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The boys had a great time clambering up and over the rocks. The caves were really interesting because some where clearly dwellings with multiple rooms. They even found one with stairs to a basement and upper floor. Smelly became an estate agent trying to find a suitable home and describing the features to me. He found one cave with a basement stable, three bedrooms and an upper floor with open plan living area leading to a balcony. What he didn’t realise was that the property was much more extensive and lead round the hillside. It was Lai lai who discovered this taking on his usual mountain goat status.

There were signs everywhere saying that entering the caves was dangerous and forbidden but this clearly didn’t stop us or anyone else. Yet again we found evidence of where people had gone for picnics and barbecues and couldn’t be bothered to take their mess back down this hill to the bin. Yet again M became the rubbish collector and even more disheartened at the mess his fellow countrymen seem happy to create and ignore. I saw a man walking towards us looking very purposeful so, worried that we were about to get told off I called the boys down. Turns out he just walked past us but it was time for us to move on to the next place: Satan’s bridge.

Satan’s bridge turned out to be another of my ‘oh let’s go there, oh shit why did I suggest coming to this horribly dangerous place’ ideas. I seem to have a lot of these. There is a reason it’s called Satan’s bridge, and of course the boys loved it. There is no road there so we had to walk, and part of that felt like we were trespassing. The path is narrow and only fit for donkeys. When we rounded the corner we saw the very narrow bridge going between two sets of rocks. Straight away the boys ran across this M following. I did not. I just felt sick at the height once again and had to use my ‘turn the other way’ technique to stop myself from spoiling the boys fun.

We stayed in Sille all morning and could easily have spent the whole day there but there were other things we wanted to see. Since we planned to head to Ankara the next morning we only had the rest of the day to do them. Back in the car we headed off to The tropical butterfly place. I had seen pictures of this and we have them in the UK but it turned out to be a great plan. I am not sure who subsidises it but for all of us to get in it was less than £10. There are big signs as you go in saying do not touch the butterflies but as we were queueing we typically heard one person say to a young child ‘of course you can touch them.’ Yet again the rules don’t apply.

There isn’t much opportunity to touch them anyway. The building is cleverly designed both inside and out. The whole place is the shape of a butterfly and inside there is a one way path that circles round the building and leads to some exhibits for other insects. The butterflies were beautiful and if you were lucky, occasionally, came to land on you. Sadly Lai lai saw them land on all of us except him. We had a very sad Lai lai and had to spend ages trying to have him stand so one might come, while explaining they were wild. Smelly and Fatso were wearing blue which seemed to attract them, and I was wearing white so this just upset Lai lai even more. Finally we came to the last point and there were loads of butterflies and these ones were landing on far more people. After waiting patiently one landed on his head and we had massive smiles meaning he decided this was fabulous place to come.

After the tropical house there are a few rooms with exhibits and a cinema. Unfortunately I had to get up and walk out of the film because it was just utter rubbish. I thought it would be educational about the life cycle of a caterpillar and butterfly. It was, but simultaneously sending out all the wrong messages. It started off well then turned out to be crap CGI of a small and big caterpillar. The big one appeared to be acting in the role of mum. Erm mum is a butterfly! It didn’t get better. But apart from that everything else was pretty top notch.

After the tropical house it was a real relief to come out into the cool Konya air. Konya was quite cloudy, 25 degrees and dry. A bit like a good English summer. We had one last place to visit so after yet another cheese pide we piled into the car again. It was a shame because the park next to the tropical butterfly place, Butterfly Valley, looked really good and even had a sky trail.

Next stop was the science museum. We’ve been to quite a few of these back home so I was interested to see what they had to offer here. As we arrived after 3pm most of the supplemental activities had finished but since it closed as 5 there was still plenty to go and see. Six rooms on three floors plus the planetarium. Divided into space, our world, our bodies, muslim/Ottoman science history, the future and something else we didn’t make it to. the boys had a blast, this was way better than we imagined with so much to see and most of it interactive. It was also well translated into English so not just aimed at Turkish kids and families.

With less than two hours we did as much as we could and Smelly was really disappointed that he didn’t get more time in the Muslim science history part, especially as I called him away to something I knew he would love in the future section. Pixels:

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One was made with big plastic tubes and the other smaller plastic pins. But being life-size the kids had a blast.

The museum doesn’t get over run but they do have school groups that come often. We discovered this when went back the next day. Again we only had 2 hours before we had to leave because M was keen to head off to Ankara before lunch. But it was enough for them to see the rest and for them to visit the planetarium for a film about space.

These days Konya is really managing to try and do something not just for the tourists but for it’s own population. On the way to the science museum the boulevard is lined with various parks. We did get to stop off at one of these because it seemed a shame to go back to the hotel before 6pm. I would say that Konya is doing a far better job of providing leisure opportunities for people living there than Ankara. Ankara in contrast is just interested in building evermore shopping centres, whereas in Konya we only passed a couple.

The next improvement Konya could start to make is in it’s cuisine. man cannot live by etli ekmek alone, and I have yet to see how this is really different from a meat pide. By the time I got to Ankara we were all craving vegetables. To say that Agacli motorway services in Aksaray offers more in the way of vegetables and vegetarian options than the whole of Konya is not an exaggeration. But if that is my only complaint then it’s pretty thin. Fatso loved his time here and definitely wants to come again. My only regret? We passed a sign for Catalhoyuk on the way here and I really wanted to go but we simply didn’t have time. I could have taken the boys when I drove back to Mersin from Ankara but I wimped out. The drive would have been 7 and half hours in total, not including the stop. It would mean driving back to Mersin when it started to get dark and I didn’t want to do that as M was staying behind in Ankara. An adventure for next year then.

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Off to Konya, the long way round

Each year we try to show the boys a bit more of Turkey. So far we have managed to take them across country to the west a couple of times, Gallipoli and Troy, and they have even been up to the Black Sea while I stayed in Blighty. This year we decided to bring them to Konya. It’s somewhere I have only visited for a day but with friends who live here or who have family here they have told me it’s really improved to have more to offer than just Rumi and Mevlana.

We could have gone the quicker way but we decided to go the long way round; via Mut. I had heard last year, in my quest for caves similar to Gilindir, that there were good caves somewhere nearby. It turns out that I was wrong but there was a famous selale (waterfall). Oddly named Yer Koprusu, Ground Bridge. The long way round means going west towards Silifke before heading up through the mountains. Silifke has a large river running through it called the Goksu. Little did we know that the valley it runs through in the Taurus mountains is simply spectacular and the road gives you magnificent views for miles as you drive along.

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We took a quick stop to take some photos of the river. While we were there we came across a very unkempt and uncared for monument. It turned out to be a memorial stone describing the story of the place where a German Emperor drown on his way to Jerusalem as part of the crusades.

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Back on the road again, M was frustrated to find the boys were more interested in their devices than the spectacular views of the river valley and mountains above it. In fairness, it was a long windy drive and took over two hours to get past Mut to the turning for the waterfall. I had promised them caves and was quite concerned that Google was now showing nothing in the way of caves for this area. M assured me that his brother had been and that it was definitely worth it. The trouble was, we arrived just after midday and it felt like it was hotter than hell. We planned to have a picnic but seemed to have spent most of the journey eating so weren’t massively hungry. It all went a bit downhill when the boys spotted hornets buzzing around. Having been stung in the past by these nasty, painful creatures, the boys were taking no chances.

The hornets eventually left us alone and picnic quickly eaten we set off to the path for the waterfall. The sign said 1.5 km. Not that far really – until we saw the path. A very steep, downhill path. Not so bad on the way down but really not what you want on the way back. Well, we were here now so in for a penny in for a pound, this had better be worth it. Thankfully I brought two bottles of water with us. In reality I needed a  lot more but fortunately we saw there were taps at regular intervals along the path, as well as some rest shelters. Trouble was, in this heat, many of those taps just delivered boiling hot water.

The boys charged off down the slopes while we ambled after taking photos and taking in the breathtaking views. Then came the bridge, which Fatso informed me with glee was ‘very rickety’. Oh how I love a rickety bridge going over a very deep valley. It wasn’t that bad and I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous. Yet again it was worth stopping and taking it all in. The water was perfect turquoise and so clear that even from this height you could seen a huge shoal of fish making an S shape in the current. Although the water was inviting you could also tell it was very deep and had strong currents.

Passed the bridge came the steps. Lots and lots of steps downwards and extremely steep, in some parts covered by a strong metal mesh to protect you from potential falling rocks. After the steps the path lay before us snaking up, down and around the mountain. This was not an easy walk in this heat. But again there were more rest shelters and more taps. The ones where the pipes went deeper underground the water was thankfully cool enough to drink. Bottles refilled, drunk and refilled again we carried on. As we started to go downhill again we could see we were almost at the waterfall. There were viewing platforms but Smelly thought this was all there was and was very disappointed that this would be the end. No cave to go into? It turned out he was half right. There were several viewing platforms that got you quite close to the waterfall but you couldn’t go into the cave. The cave was actually part of the river where it went underground for several kilometres. The only way in would have been by boat but they had not set anything like this up.

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Fatso and Lai lai, once again, decided the rocks beyond the barrier looked inviting and so clambered over. They were soon spotted by an angry looking guard man with a whistle. they do like whistles here. It turned out that angry guard man wasn’t really that angry just always spoke in an angry fashion whether saying something nice or not.

There were a surprising number of people on each of the platforms so getting close to the waterfall was not that easy. Occasionally, when the wind blew in the right direction you got a fantastic cooling spray from the waterfall. It was so green a lush, with moss all over the place. Then disaster, Smelly was trying to take a photo and ended up accidentally throwing one of the water bottles down into the river. Going back up was going to be interesting with less water.

We started to go back up thinking that’s all there was to see but decided to investigate if the path with the sign to the toilets was really only a path to the toilets. It wasn’t. It lead up round the back of the waterfall to the pools that fed it from the river going over the mountain. It didn’t go far but there was a board walk across the pools meaning you could stop, dip your feet in, and cool off. M decided to take this one step further and strip down to his pants to go for a swim. I wasn’t convinced that the water was deep enough, especially as there were quite a few roots and branches in it. But swim he managed and we all turned away to disown him. Then angry guard man came a long again and we hung our heads trying not to be with M as angry guard man shouted at him. And that’s when we found out his shouting wasn’t to tell him off but to praise him for braving the ice cold water.

We stayed at the pools for quite a while, even though the hoards kept coming and the boardwalk getting quite crowded. I should say my idea of crowds of tourists in more than 20 people, so it wasn’t that many on balance but given the small space it felt like a lot to me.

Another bloke claimed you could walk further to the source of the river and there was an unpaved path beyond the loos. I managed to walk about 100 metres before angry guard man appeared out of nowhere yet again and waved his arms to shoo me back.

By now it was 2pm and we had several hours drive through the mountains to get to Konya. We decided to head back and hope that we could get enough water to last the mostly uphill walk. We were fine till we got to the steps and bridge. For some reason Smelly chose this point to ask me a question that needed a detailed answer. What the actual..? Why does he always do this? Of, course I will answer your question while climbing up 100 stairs and being completely out of breath. (He does the same when I am trying to concentrate on unfamiliar roundabouts or junctions). After the bridge there was a water fountain with refrigerated water. Well, it was refrigerated on the way down. now, however, it had run out of the cooled water in its tank and was only giving hot water as it needed time to cool it again. Our supplies were running very low and we had a long hill to climb before getting to the car, cool box, and the big bottle of water in there.

Thank goodness for the shelters, but they did mean that we all ended up going at our own pace. On the last leg Smelly, Lai lai and I decided just to press on to the car. Fatso and M lagged behind. Smelly and Lai lai opted to take a quicker round of climbing up the slope to the car park than going along the path so they missed the joy of a complete stranger telling me my face was ‘shining’ meaning bright red and sweaty. Thanks for that, like I needed reminding I look like a sweaty read balloon.

Once back at the car the air con was put on full blast and the water downed. M arrived with no Fatso, who had decided to wait at the top of the path for us to drive to him. He was collapsed in a heap with a few concerned people round him. My immediate thought was that this was him being dramatic but it seems he had tripped on his sandals as he got to the top of the path. No cuts or bruises so he got in the car and off we went.

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This place really is spectacular and well worth seeing. Perhaps not at midday in the height of summer though. And whenever you go, you need to be fit and have plenty of water. Though, considering that there is nothing around for miles and that Mut is a really small town, you have to be determined to do this if you’re not already on the way to somewhere beyond and this is sort of on your route.

We did see some men swimming in the river, but given it depth in parts and strong currents, it was something I would not be willing to investigate no matter how tempting. It looks like a pretty good place to go kayaking though.

 

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