A big wooden horse and a bunch of rubble?

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A trip to Canakkale wouldn’t be complete without going to Troy. And since Fatso is our budding historian/archaeologist we simply had to go.

A visit to Troy is actually split into two parts: The archaeological museum in Canakkale city centre; and the main archaeological site of Troy about 25 km south of the city.

Because we were visiting on our way to Ankara we didn’t have time to stop in Canakkale and it also meant any time in Troy itself was limited. We had woken up at 5am to get the 7o’clock ferry from Gokceadi and then the 9am ferry to Canakkale. The drive to Ankara would be another 8 hours according to Google maps and that was without the necessary stops. It’s a shame because we definitely could have stayed a lot longer.

Even though it is mid August, the Canakkale coast and Dardenelles get a lot of wind meaning it didn’t feel as hot as the 30 degrees on the thermometer. Plus the site is filled with plenty of mature trees, mainly oak and gorgeously scented figs, so lots of shade. Recognising that people will want to sit and take in the site there are also a good few benches under the trees.

Unfortunately Lai was to be disappointed early on because the promise of a big wooden horse did not materialise. In the car he had got increasingly excited about the prospect of pretending to be a soldier hiding in the horse to trick the Trojans. It was cordoned off and no climbing allowed. The signed said it had been constructed in 1984 but a friend told me she had heard Brad Pitt donated the one after filming his Hollywood blockbuster. If he did it isn’t here.

My kids have got used to being able to clamber over castles in the UK, but being a historical site with active archaeology continuing much of it is roped off. This didn’t bother Fatso, as although he also loves to climb and re-enact battles, he also loves to learn. For Smelly and Lai this became and exercise in testing my patience as they increasingly expressed their boredom. Unless you have kids like Fatso, who adore Horrible Histories and drink in history without having to touch absolutely everything or climb, I would say that this isn’t perhaps the best place to bring them. Fatso also faced disappointment when we encouraged him to ask questions of the archaeologists and was roundly ignored. Turkey has a long way to go to make museums and sites like these attractive for kids but it will get there slowly.

The site is well organised with walkways and ropes showing what is off limits. There are a few parts to climb on, such as the outer walls. The are just enough information boards with timelines and descriptions to give a good overview without overloading you. They also show just how long the city of Troy was around for and how it expanded. Most kids will just learn the story of the Helen and the horse. In fact, Trojan history includes way more than this and shows the city was there for centuries.

The site is on top of a hill that overlooks a plain of what is now farmland. From what we could guess most of this would have been covered by the sea in the past.

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Although it doesn’t look much when you first park up and enter the site, once you start to walk around you soon start to marvel at what they achieved. While quite a bit is piles of rubble, the archaeologists haven’t attempted to reconstruct it but rather they have revealed what is there and described it. Except for one part. When you get to the inner city walls, that would have surrounded the largest temple area they have recreated the mud brick walls to protect the existing ones. This is covered by a large awning and allows you to get closer than anywhere else on the site. Touching is encouraged here, sadly that didn’t thrill Smelly and Lai.

There are other temple sites and these were expanded and divided as the city grew. In one area there are what look like wells that are now covered with metal grates and sparrows dive in and out of them. Huge birds of prey soar above the plains below. In another bit you can see where the outer walls expanded as the city grew.

We easily could have spent a lot longer there. It would have been nice if the archaeologists were willing to engage with visitors. Especially as their current excavation they were uncovering what looked like water pipes. An earlier display had described how the Trojans used three types of systems to pipe fresh water to the city: stone, lead, and terracotta. We did see what seemed to be gullies that would act as sewers and only one clear path that was the entrance to the main inner city temple area.

Much of what you see at Troy is stone or mud brick that formed the foundations of buildings but there is some marble that remains in a few places. It would have been preserved for the visible parts of the building for ornamentation. And probably, as with most sites like these, a lot been taken over the years by people using it to build houses later, treasure hunters, and foreign archaeologists. Even so, the fact that they are still digging, and quite deeply too, shows that there is still much to discover and quite a bit preserved by the land that later covered much of the city after its destruction.

Fatso said he had read they had uncovered a mosaic recently. If they have they must have moved it to the museum. He was impressed by the amphitheatre. Not sure how much of that they put back together but they have added a wooden stage at the front. That may be for effect as it clearly wasn’t for clambering on and playing.

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I had been told that Troy was a bit of a disappointment. Whoever said that clearly has no interest in history. Ours was a whistlestop tour of the place but we could have stayed much longer. You can really understand why people chose to establish a city there, it’s a beautiful place and strategically brilliant as you can see for miles. It’s far more than a big wooden horse and a pile of stones.

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Gokceadi, holidaying Turkish style

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Our original plan was to pop over to an island on the other side of the peninsular for a night. Mainly because I keep hearing about my friends who still live in Turkey coming here for a holiday and because I haven’t visited many of the few Islands round the Turkish coast that belong to Turkey.

Although we got up fairly early and made it to the ferry port at Kabatepe by 9am it would seem that we were less than reliably informed and the ferry didn’t leave till 10:30. Also, it did not take 30 minutes but 75. I still don’t get this liberal with the truth stuff, why can they never just say they don’t know? On arriving we saw that there was a line for online tickets. We have since tried this online system for our return and I can safely say it does not work. Apparently, after calling the office it only works on Explorer. Who uses that browser these days? Well it didn’t work so we have given up on that one.

We made it and that was the important thing. We didn’t have a map but we did have google and some data that M was hiding on his Turkish mobile. Trouble is the mobile is about four centuries old and so the navigation was random at best so we just took to guessing. We found the apart hotel, which was a nightmare in itself because M seems to have picked one where their idea of graphic design was to spell out their name in sea creatures rendering it illegible. It got better though. Turns out M had booked the next night, so no place to stay and no rooms. I was in no mood for this shit. After the awfulness I had put up with in Eceabat for two days I was not about to hang about while we had already wasted half a day.

Next door said they had rooms, so I just stomped off, asked how much and arranged to pay in cash later that evening. In the meantime M was farting about trying to get a refund and I was moving the car and lugging suitcases. Apart hotel is a stretch to be honest. Basically its self catering at it’s most basic. But once again I didn’t care. As long as we all had a bed and a shower I was reasonably happy and this had both, with much more space as there were two rooms and a kitchenette. Fair enough the boys would be on sofa bed but they have extremely low standards and think everything is the height of luxury.

Vague happiness restored it was time for us to find a beach. The hotel owner gave us some vague instructions but driving up a single track hill with insane Turkish drivers coming at me from all angles I kept stalling, which enraged M. He forgets I have to get used to our Doblo which has a temperamental biting point and loves to be revved. He stomped off to discover that the beach we were heading for was, by all accounts a bit crappy. So armed with our ‘map’ that turned out to be a vague approximation of the roads on the island rather than a true representation, we headed off to try and find the beach. Turned out there are two of the same name but my repeated stabbing of the map showing the one at the bottom eventually got M to head in the right direction. That was after a debacle of entering the town to find 5 roads on a junction with absolutely no signs. I do love that. Seems to be a universal thing, they’ll signpost you to a town centre but not out of it.

We got to the right place in the end and I was soon as happy as larry. This beach had a huge sand filled expanse behind it for parking that made me think of my favourite beach as a kid: Aberech in North Wales. No men hovering to take money for parking, yay! But it did have facilities, one of them being windsurfing and kite surfing hire. There were wooden sunbeds and parasols, and they weren’t extortionate. This was holidaying for Turkish people without lots of money. No preening women, no poser men, just a bunch of families with cool boxes out to have fun. (Although I did see one woman changing her baby’s nappy using a surgical glove, ah well each to their own).

As soon as I plonked myself down on the beach, and wasn’t immediately pounced on by the sunbed commander demanding money, I knew I wanted to stay another night. Even if the hotel was basic, even if it did mean I would run out of pants before getting to Mersin, and even if it did mean that M would yet again have to change the Ankara reservation.

The boys went off to play, swim and build sand castles, while I had a bit of a plunge in the sea but discovered my arm hurt too much to swim. The whole of my right side was really battered. The sea was clear and bright and did a power of good to my grazed shin that was still fiery red. I fell asleep and the boys carried on playing. We didn’t leave till after 6pm.

There is a little port for fishing boats near where we are staying in Yeni Badem (New Almond). We wandered down to find expensive fish restaurants and watch the sunset. The boys were exhausted and Fatso decided he was going to demand the most expensive thing on the menu. I had to explain the concept of taking the piss to him. I had agreed to let him have one thing, swordfish kebabs, but he decided that gave him permission to demand the swordfish dish that cost a further 5TL. While the others had kofte because it was cheaper and Lai doesn’t eat fish, I had a glass of wine. One of those that tastes OK on holiday but would be rank if you bought a bottle to share with you horrified friends back home.

In the morning I thought we could make the most of our second day by finding another beach on the other side of the island. Laz Koyu beach, pictured above, can be found either by driving along the coast of straight through the middle. We chose the coast road and despite the boys moans of ‘how far is it? why couldn’t we go to the other beach?’, it gave us great views of the island along its mostly single track precarious road. The beach turned out to be a great find with lots of parking and no charges, cheap sunbeds, and lots of families with cool boxes. Again no preening and when I mentioned to M, when we left, the lady with dubious choice of swimwear he laughed and knew exactly who I meant.

Laz Koyu did not have as soft sand as Aydincik and I worried the boys would be fed up at not being able to make castles as they had yesterday. But I was proved wrong, they were as happy as larry and we had to drag them away just before 6. They all fell asleep on the drive home, when we took the straight through the middle road that allowed us to see the landscape change from barren hills to forest as well as a deep cut through the earth with a riverbed at the bottom. This island has what looks like an extinct volcano and plenty of hills that appear to be formed from eruptions and earth movement. There are old Greek villages and churches that we haven’t had time to see because we just needed a bit of time to slow down after all the rushing around.

We had been warned that the island was a bit dull with little to see. I am really glad we came though. Dull is what I needed, and my preference in a holiday when I need to wind down. It’s not somewhere to come for two weeks, especially if you want people, bars, and party atmosphere. If you want peace and quiet, and a slower pace, it’s a really lovely island to visit.

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Lest we Forget – A Canakkale Tour

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This year we decided to have a bit of a holiday/trip to see parts of the country neither I nor the boys had seen before. So after a couple of days in Istanbul and the bloody great fall, we headed south down the Cannakkale peninsular. Our intention; to visit the battle fields of the Galipoli campaign for our history loving Fatso, who it turned out loves ancient history more, and for Smelly who has started to take a bit of an interest in military history.

M had booked a rather dubious ‘hotel’ in Eceabat. Eceabat is basically a port town which still sees it’s main purpose as being to ship and receive people from the city of Canakkale on the other side of the Dardanelles. It does not seem to have woken up to the fact that tourists pile in with the main purpose of seeing and hearing about the history of the area. As such the hotels are quite dire, in the town that is. Most of them being little more than back packer hostels and I am slowly beginning to realise that certain hotel owners don’t exactly put photos of their own places on booking.com.

Hotel and town aside, I’m not a massive snob and thought for two nights I can put up with it. A bed and a shower would do. More than that would have been very welcome but we had plans to be out each morning so that was that.

We were persuaded to take a tour with the one run by the hotel owner. He reckoned that even with a car a tour would be better as we would see more. The thing is there are two tours: a full day Turkish only tour, which it turned out vaguely mentioned the British, French and Anzacs while whizzing past any related sites; and the half day Anzac tour. We took the full day one as it’s only fair that the boys hear history from both sides. And hear history they did.

Our tour guide was a man boy called Volkan, who when he got on the bus I didn’t believe he was Turkish until he started to speak. And boy could the boy speak, almost non stop for the whole day. I think he took two twenty minute breaks while people were off the bus and either eating or free to wander in the time he gave. He had a lot of history to tell. the trouble was that I knew that Fatso and Lai couldn’t tolerate that much talk because of their age. A bit of an argument ensued when I managed to make Volkan understand that as long as he told us the time to be back on the bus we would wander freely and be back in time. M did not appreciate this and we had a bit of a set to but he eventually relented when he realised that trying to force bored boys to listen to Volkan’s spiel, that could last up to 20 minutes at a time, as they stood by buildings, was not exactly fun.

The first place we stopped at Volkan stood outside and talked for about 15 minutes then took us inside to see a video that lasted who knows how long. I decided to venture off on my own at that point and look at lots of objects then read the stuff beside them. I knew that the language would be quite jingoistic but even this surprised me with it’s descriptions of ‘superhuman efforts’. I mean this is a tour of war sites and most nations present stuff focussed very much on their own terms. Plus Turkish history does get told/taught with the purpose of building nationalist fervour, particularly anything that involves Ataturk and the birth of the nation. The thing was, where we had stopped was close to an Ottoman defensive fort, which I knew the boys would loved to have explored. And above where the museum was (a converted ammunition store) there were other buildings overlooking the sea to Canakkale. I took Fatso and Lai for an explore to find that they predated the conflict having been built in 1862. While we were there we saw another tour group below, outside the museum and suddenly they all started to applaud–not something I have ever seen on a guided tour unless the guide had performed some trick.

We didn’t have much time to explore before we were back on the bus again and going further south round the bottom of the peninsular. The next stop looked fun for the boys. It was another battlement overlooking the mouth of the Dardanelles with ammunition stores connecting seven gun positions. From here it was easy to see how the Ottoman army picked off the British and French ships as they attempted their entry up the straight. Now the view shows a wind farm on the other side but there were still rails where the enormous guns would be turned into position and the ammunition brought up from the stores. In addition to a monument to two key officers in the battle there was also the remains of a trench.

After a while I start to get history overload, which is why it might have been better to have gone by ourselves. It would have also meant that poor Volkan didn’t have to talk even more when M followed him with lots of questions, even during lunch. But M was really enjoying it and we went to a memorial garden, or as the Turks call it a martyrs grave but no one is buried there. ITtwas a peaceful place to wander and show the kids why almost 50% of the plaques had Mehmet Oglu on them.

While we were on the bus Lai was eagerly reading a brochure M had picked up for the “Canakkale Epic Promotion Centre”. This has to be one of the weirdest names ever for a museum/centre that explores the history of a region. Admittedly the brochure starts with a quote from Ataturk saying Turks must “build huge and colossal memorials” when the time and opportunity presented itself, so Erdogan was only doing his patriotic duty in opening this massive place in 2012. The thing is, although Lai is only 7 and can read quite well, he couldn’t understand a word. What he could understand was the tone. We often think that tone is lost in the written word but it certainly wasn’t lost on Lai. He was most impressed and incredibly disappointed that we didn’t get to go. As we past it, Volkan said it would take over an hour to go round it so I wasn’t sure if he was avoiding it because he wasn’t really in favour of it or because it would cut short his own talking time.

Just to give you a flavour of the brochure:

“Handing down such a major war to future generations and incessantly reviving its spiritual aspects will be a unique treasury to bring us to the future. Rather than being a story of a historic place, the Canakkale Epic Promotion Centre situated at the Gallipoli Historic Site is the story of strength, ambition, and faith of men who have remained amongst the most brilliant pages of a glorious and victorious history”

The other strange thing about it was that it seemed more interested in describing in great detail the technology in the centre rather than the history. So it read as a bit of an epic fail in terms of what a great museum could offer, as in not really great for kids but totally adult focussed.

So the tour did give me that. I don’t think we could have avoided it if we had driven round ourselves. I do like museums, don’t get me wrong but I do like them to be a bit more than a bunch of films, which is the only thing the brochure was boasting about.

M accused me of not liking the tour because the Brits lost. But he totally missed the point. I was enjoying the tour (as much as I could because I really don’t like tours in general, I like to wander freely and take as much in as I can rather than having it all talked at me). but I was getting tired. The fall the day before had left me in quite a bit of pain and walking was hard. Plus it was getting hotter.

After lunch we went to the biggest Turkish monument and graveyard. I decided to wander off and enjoy some peace in the shade while M took the boys to see the reenactment. It was rather loud, lots of patriotric music and punctuated with shouting. The boys really enjoyed it and came back with hats. Fatso had persuaded M to but a Ottoman soldier’s hat, rank: Private. Smelly wanted to be an Officer, and Lai was happy to copy Fatso. Fatso did not take his hat of until he went to bed and wore it much of the next day too. Thankfully M said no to the wooden replica guns. It was great to see them enjoying and engaging with Turkish history, as they get little back home and this is the whole reason for us trying to explore Turkey with them.

Next we whizzed past Anzac cove so I tried to take a couple of snaps from the bus. I knew that I wasn’t taking loads of photos but M was taking enough for both of us so I took the ones he was less likely to. Plus I was on the side of the bus where I could take better shots. We saw lots of the remains of trenches as we carried up to our next to final stop. While M, the boys, and all the Turks walked up the hill to the monument I walked down to Quinn’s post where there was a commonwealth war grave, probably the only one I would have the opportunity to visit. I’m not the sort of person to get emotional over these things, in fact young men being sent to fight a war that was not their making, however willingly at first, tends to really annoy me. But what did strike me here was the repeated inscription of ‘believed to be buried here’ before many young men’s names. Not all the stones had that inscription and there was one lone Brit amongst the Australians and New Zealanders. It was quiet, simple and overlooked the gulf below. Also, in amongst all the crosses there was a lone Jewish star.

Our last stop was at the top of another hill that looked down over flats where the  British troops landed after their failed naval campaign. Here there was a line of reconstructed trenches. Not very deep but the boys had a great time playing in them and reenacting battles, even to the point of Fatso dying and Lai attempting CPR.

It is difficult to comprehend that 102 years ago, in this beautiful place that is now a protected national park, such a bloody part of history took place. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the numbers on both sides that died. While I did find it a bit of a shame that the tours are separate and it’s thought that each side only wants to go and see their ‘own history’, I was glad we went on the Turkish tour. We got to see far more than we would have on the half day. If you like tours and your Turkish is great I would say that it’s worth going. But if you’re like me and like your independence, and have a car, it is doable by yourself. It would just require some research and a better map. I would also suggest that more than one day would be good as it can be exhausting trying to cram it all in. I would also say, don’t stay in Eceabat, or if you do avoid the town. If you have a bit more money there are nicer places a bit further out. The problem for us is we are a family of 5 and that can make finding rooms hard or doubles the price when we have to pay for two.

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Humpty Dumpty had a bloody great fall

After two days in Istanbul, and deciding it was definitely not what it used to be, it was time to move on. Or so we thought. Best laid plans and all that….

Our plan was to get up early(ish) and head straight for Eceabat, just past Gallipoli. Google assured us the drive would take 3 hours. Google maps can go shove it where the sun doesn’t shine on it’s timings for Turkey but that’s a whole different issue. We hadn’t even made it as far as the car before M announces that he has lost his credit card. A few phone calls and it is found – on the other side of the water. Ok, a set back of about an hour but doable. That was until he got in the car.

While we waited with the bags for him to bring the car round to load it up there was a bit of a thwack, followed by a hiss. I wasn’t looking at this point to acknowledge what had happened. Smelly was the one to point out the flat tyre; the horribly torn, irreparable tyre. OK so this was going to take a tad longer than planned.

Once the spare was located and fitted it was off to take back the credit card. That was the simple bit. The next task was to find somewhere open on a Sunday to fit a new tyre. We decided to go through the Avrasya tunnel, under the bosporus, and find somewhere connected to a petrol station as we had to fill up anyway. Filling up was the easy bit, sadly no tyre fitting service. What we did get though was the usual set of crappy Turkish directions. OK a bit more advanced that the usual “biraz ilerde sol’a” (straight on for a bit then left) but still basically a blind alley.

The fun really started when we finally found one open and M almost collapsed at the price. That was quickly sorted when someone (I wonder who) suggested swapping the good tyre from the spare to the other wheel, and putting a crappy one on the spare.

We were all a bit stressed and I would have preferred if M had gone with my plan A of leaving me and the boys in a cafe while he sorted it. This was mainly because the boys have been just a tad over excited and misbehaving ever so slightly. Plan A wasn’t happening so I was trying to sort three boys in a grotty part of town. One insisted in sitting on the floor. Not the best choice of seating in most places but in Istanbul and a muddy part at that, probably up there on the disgusting list. Smelly, now supposedly reaching a more sensible age, has decided that sensible is definitely not for him and lunacy is his preference. Not great when lai is 6 and copies idiotic behaviour plus is adamant that he will listen to NOBODY. Lai’s internal voice rules and sadly it rules in all the wrong ways particularly when mum is tired, stressed, or vaguely concerned that death could occur.

For some reason I was round the back of the car, below the pavement, when the boys started ramping up their lunacy. Pavements and curbs in Turkey are not like in the UK, a mere step up. They are extremely hazardous things for pedestrians because they are full of obstacles designed to prevent drivers from using them as parking zones. Meaning often they are a foot hight, have huge concrete mushrooms, or other sticky outy stuff. They are not to be tackled while distracted.

And what did I do? All the things I shouldn’t. I was looking at the boys not at the curb when I raised my foot. I assumed it was a normal curb not one with an f’ing great sticky outy bit. I massively misjudged and before I knew it I was flat on my face, in mud. I had managed to stub two toes, scrape my shin on the sticky outy thing (which wasn’t even a smooth mushroom but a really joyful object with jaggedy bits), land smack on my hip and smear my arm and dress in the mud.

In terms of falls it was pretty spectacular but bloody painful. The graze went deep and knowing my luck will take the entire three weeks I am here to heal. M picked me up and the boys got quite distressed but no bugger else ran to my aide as I desperately tried to find something to stem the blood and clean myself off.

My hip really hurts but I have no bruise to show. I just walk very wonkily at the moment and can’t sleep on my right side at all. Ah well humpty dumpty certainly had a bloody great fall but at least she didn’t fall apart. Three things on one day? Things have got to get better, surely–well, let’s just see……

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Memory Lane and Faded Glory

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I lived in Istanbul for four years until 2001. While I used to go back frequently, to visit friends and my fabulous hairdresser, I haven’t been back since I left Turkey over 7 years ago. So meeting my boys off the plane was my first chance to see the city again.

It was never a city I fell in love with, like so many people do. I always found it, like most cities, to be dirty, overcrowded, and far better for tourists than as a place to live. That said I did love my little district – Acibadem on the anatolian side of the city.

I did enough of the touristing with family and friends who visited over the years to not feel the need to go to all those places again this time. My boys have already been, two years ago when I had to stay behind for work again. So this time I wanted to take the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts and favourite places. The trouble with that though, is it is a reminder of why memory lane is a path I rarely walk down.

We stayed at the parliament (TBMM) guest house. A step up from the TEDAS place we stayed in last year in Ankara (no carpet in the lift here, this one has glass). Yet it’s still a tired place, which attempts to be modern but never quite gets there. Of course the boys, having the low standards I set them, think it’s the height of luxury and get very excited about it. The guest house is next to the building in the photo above. A symbol of the lesson of be careful what you wish for. For years I used to see this building sitting on top of the hill as you look up Barbaros Bulvari from Besiktas. In the bright Turkish sunlight, even if winter it appeared to gleam bright white. I always had the impression it was an old palace and part of Yildiz university. Just a tad wrong. Turns out it’s a concrete monstrosity, parading as fake castle thing that was once part of social facilities for the military. The photo is crap because the military are really antsy about you taking photos of their stuff. I think the biggest disappointment was that it wasn’t even white but pale pink and blue and most of that is peeling off.

Our first day in Istanbul together again, I decided that we could leave the car and walk down to Besiktas to get the vapur (Bosphorus ferries) across to Kadikoy. Istanbul, like most Turkish cities, is not really set up for pedestrians and usually in mid August you would melt walking anywhere. This year, though, it’s relatively cool and I knew that walking by the sea would have a breeze. It became an exercise in “I don’t know where anything is anymore” and ” Blimey, so much has changed”. I don’t mean big things. In a fast paced city like Istanbul and a President that adores mahoosive construction projects, none of that surprised me. Instead it was the little things:

The iskele had changed (where the boats leave from). We walked to where I expected to depart only to find the ticket offices had become a bookshop and the ferries had a different destination. To get to Kadikoy we now had to walk further down to the once dilapidated iskele to see it transformed. After a short battle to buy a jeton (token) – involving typically unhelpful staff, a machine that only took some notes but not all, and a confused M, we eventually got through the turnstiles. More surprises, gone are the rickety wooden boards shoved on to embark. Now they have a trendy metal system on the boat itself that folds out once the boat docks. Surprise number two, air con. Apparently this isn’t on all the boats was on the one we got there and back had it. The tea man appears to have gone but buskers are more common now.

We sat outside because, well you have to. While the kids ran around we enjoyed the view and the bright blue sea remembering how whenever I crossed it always seemed messy and black. It really is a great way to see the city even for the short ride to Kadikoy. And yet another change, not the iskele I remember again. Turns out it’s all change in Kadikoy with the old Besiktas iskele becoming partly shops and vapurs to other destinations and the old Eminonu iskele no longer there.

Once in Kadikoy it all started to feel familiar. We had plans to meet a friend up at Moda cay bahcesi and decided to get the heritage tram up there. It would be simple to think that we could find out where it went from, what time, and how to get tickets. After eventually discovering a bit of back and forth and purchasing a very useful Istanbul kart we made it on the tram. Wish the boys were impressed but Lai Lai was getting tired with the heat and the walking so the moaning started. Even so, getting off the tram it wasn’t long before we found our barings. Mood hasn’t changed much and finding the cay bahcesi was a relief as it had hardly changed. Even down to the old Kemalist matriarchs that are a feature of Moda.

After gabbing to my friend for ages it was time to wander back to Kadikoy. I was really surprised that it wasn’t meltingly hot for mid August and walking was comfortable. M took me and the boys to Ciya, but on finding it we also discovered that the street was crammed with even more restaurants than I remember. Ciya, well the one of the three on that street of the same name, is another thing that felt familiar as it still serves traditional anatolian home style dishes and marks it out from all the other places that burp out kebabs.

It wasn’t till the next day, when I dragged the boys back to Kadikoy that I saw how much had actually changed. We went in the car this time and had to battle all the road changes to find we had no idea how to get there anymore. After finding somewhere to park, in Moda again, we wandered bak to central Kadikoy past my friend’s old street. It had the nick name of bar street because of all the bars, obviously, but this time there seemed to be a tonne more along with loads of graffiti. Slightly saddened we plodded on to find another of my favourite eateries, having checked on the internet that it was still there. Still there yes, but totally transformed. Gone were women making gozleme in the window, now only one shoved at the back. Gone were all the Anatolian cushions and low tables. Replaced with normal tables and raki glasses. Similar menu but an addition, a extensive fish menu. Seems it is now a meyhane. At a certain time the woman making gozleme disappeared and a large screen pulled down to play whatever football match was on.

Ah well things can’t stay the same. But it all came crashing down when we had to return in the morning as M discovered he left his credit card behind. This time we decided to drive down my old street to avoid getting lost again. I knew it was transforming when i left in 2001 with many more restaurants opening and buildings being renovated. Nut two years ago M had taken the boys and photographed them outside my old apartment building and took them to my favourite icecream shop. In those two years both have gone. My old apartment is now shrouded as it prepares for demolition. It survived 1998 unscathed but not the modernisation of the road. Further down the old dilapidated imam hatip school is no more–except it is, it’s now huge and dominating the street in it’s glory while the girl’s school opposite stays the same.

My Istanbul has all but gone. There are glimpses but it’s no longer a city I can think of as one I was once part of. It is a completely different beast now. Memory lane is definitely a journey to taken with caution and no expectations.

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And so it begins…..again

Sitting in the airport waiting for the flight to board means that I am off to the land of Turks again. Later this year thanks to May following Trump’s lead and banning laptops on flight from Turkey, so I had to stay behind and work. I did not think it was a good idea to risk losing a government laptop just to travel with my kids. Unfortunately that has meant I stayed behind for three weeks while they had fun travelling to parts of the country they hadn’t seen before: Bodrum, Izmir, Pamukkale and Ankara.

While it meant that I got some downtime, and by that I mean in addition to working I mostly sat on my fat backside thinking ‘I should do…that’ and not getting round to it. It was time a definitely needed after a very stressful 7 months. But very far from productive. To say that I missed the boys is an understatement and I can’t wait to see them again but for this damned flight. Fortunately they are now in Istanbul so I only have one four hour flight to contend with. A double gin is making me feel delightfully fuzzy and keeping the demons at bay.

This morning Smelly wished that teleportation was real. I do too, up to a point. but for now it’s a few hours on a plane to see their faces again and get the biggest hugs in the universe.

Looks like everyone is piling through the gate so time to get my fuzzy head in gear and follow them too. Wonder what adventures this summer will bring.

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Waterfalls, rivers and a police checkpoint

My fellow, and more regular, Mersin blogger–Janey in Mersin, recently posted this video advertising Mersin as a place to visit. The province itself is quite large and so some of these places are around 400km away from us. Many of them I recognised but not all. In particular there was one waterfall that seemed impressive. After asking Janey where it was it turned out to up in the mountains and we had past it on our way up to see farmer nephew.

I must be drawn to water. I lived close to the Bosphorus for a few years, and  now live close to canals, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

With the waterfall being relatively close, we planned a trip. It’s in a place called Santuras, which translates as Saint Iris. Not being Catholic I know nothing of saints but no bother it was the waterfall I wanted to see.

We had hoped that we could take a picnic and have a wander. A quick chat with brother-in-law informed us that it wasn’t really a place to do that. The place itself is lovely, with glorious views up into the mountains. Our new purchase of binoculars turned out to be a good one.

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The waterfall is quite impressive. But no way as impressive as the video makes it out to be. In fact parts of the video are a demonstration in how it’s possible to make anything look good, recognising certain parts as I do. Sadly even a walk was out of the question. The waterfall is down a very steep hill, which most Turks drive down. Then there are a set of about 100 steps, that the local council recently put in. The steps then open out onto a sort of viewing area that is pretty much a dead end. Much to my brother-in-law’s amusement though, my boys were not deterred and aimed to get as close as possible.

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First they attempted a descent to the pool at the bottom of the fall. Not deep but slippy and I had no spare clothes so they didn’t go far but they enjoyed getting sprayed by the splash back and falling water. Then they attempted to climb up to discover caves. They were the only kids doing this so brother-in-law was busy saying ‘mashallah’ a lot. That’s pretty untranslatable but basically means he is impressed. They made the other kids look dull and unadventurous in comparison.

After that, with it being a dead end, there was the choice of turn back or head up to the restaurant. We chose the restaurant because part of it was on stilts and gave fantastic views of the mountains and valleys below where the water form the fall continued through. The restaurant was also part of a kiwi fruit plantation so we were surrounded by the vines.

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The restaurant also had its own fish farm for trout. But while the boys were amused by watching the fish in all the tanks, Smelly was less than impressed by the squat toilet. He is such a privileged western boy.

Our water based adventures are pretty topsy turvey, as I am not presenting them in any particular order. But as well as the waterfall adventure M was soon to be amused by my interest in this:

IMG-20160812-WA0005 An ice factory. Right in the centre of Mersin there is an ice factory. It’s not an enclosed place but instead, in this humid and sweltering city a guy is battling against the elements to produce ice. I made M take photos so all around though he was the nutter. He also took a close up of the Bici Bici motorbike (pronounced biji biji). He was there to collect the ice so he could go around selling his concoction of shaved ice, cubes of muhalebbi (a set starch and milk thing like blancmange with no sugar or flavour), and bright red rose syrup. I have tried it but it most definitely is not my favourite. Mersin bods love it though. Traditionally it’s made with mountain snow but now they shave ice from Emin the ice maker.

The a few days ago, because it’s part of our annual routine and at Dosh’s bidding, we went up to Doctor’s Place in the canyon near Limonlu (Lamos, or lemony as I like to refer to it). Finally managing to go on a week day meant it was much quieter. But for some reason M decided to scare me shitless with his exciting driving so I took over. All good until we hit the single dirt track, hairpin bend strewn section. Of course no Turk coming the other way will drive at less than 50kph and M was busy screaming that I was too far to the right and we would sink into the ditch. HA! now you know how being a passenger on a Turkish road feels.

We had a nice lunch and played in the river. This time no one fell in. Typical, must have been because I bought spares. Oh my the flies though, that is the biggest downside of the place, the bloody persistent, greedy flies. They are making improvements but I think they need to invest in some of those electric tennis racquet thingies. Die evil swines die! The boys asked me the point of flies, to this day I don’t have an answer. To me, of all the beasts the fly is the most pointless. All I could come up with was they are food for birds and spiders.

Dosh has been particularly grumpy this year and so started pressing to go. It was then we learned his croc must have gone on a journey downstream. We did find a fetching pink flip flop wedged under the platform in front but he decided he would rather just wear one shoe. We then decided to try and investigate further up the river. The picnic area has an interesting play park, read that as sad and dilapidated. So the boys played there for a bit attempting to all slide down the spiral slide together. Smelly fell out of a very similar one a few years back so I waited for a similar disaster to unfold. Thankfully it didn’t but I didn’t have my phone and M was too slow for a shot.

We headed away from the barbeque smoke and up to find the source of the river. Dosh wasn’t complaining about the stones on the track but Lai was moaning that he was tired. The river has been tapped for irrigation. Sadly aesthetics are not a priority so huge pipes obscure the potential beauty of the river. We did find a nice spot though. We climbed down to capture the table placed in the river directly under the sign instructing people not to do that. I persuaded Smelly to cross a very rickety bridge and go sit there. The other’s soon followed joined suddenly by another boy. I found a rock opposite that was a perfect seat and just above the waterline had ferns and other plants growing on it. As I looked into the clear water I saw a few waterboatmen floating about. Nice to have something unusual to show the boys.

After freezing our feet we headed back. Dosh did start to feel uncomfortable but despite our offers and attempts to fashion a shoe from discarded materials, such as other broken flip flops or water bottles and twigs, he rejected them all. Admittedly the twig Smelly chose had sharp spikes and so didn’t really hold the bottle in place. Dosh did not see the comedy in our efforts.

We ended our trip by washing at the abdess area of my favourite mosque–no one there so I freely walk around unheadscarved with no stares. M drove down the hill but later proved that he clearly wasn’t up to the task of getting home terribly safely so I took over again. This time though the police in Erdemli had set up a road block to check for elusive coup supporters. I would have been fine but not realising I was in the lane they had blocked off meant I got stuck as traffic in the left lane streamed past. Not being Turkish I don’t have the confidence to just edge out and hope they will not crunch into the front of the car, so M was being very helpful by shouting at me to ‘just go’. Panic setting in meant I didn’t realise I was also in 2nd gear at a standstill so stalled the car 5 times. I was actually thankful the police pulled me over. I was also very thankful that they didn’t care that the yabanci wasn’t carrying her driving licence. They were more interested in checking M wasn’t on their list. Satisfied we weren’t coup supporters they let us go.

 

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