Monday, February 28, 2011

Three Monkeys

Last night BBC4 showed Uç Maymun, Nuri Bilge Ceylans film Three Monkeys. It is an excellent  but dark film. It follows the lives of three people, a husband wife and son and how their life unfolds after the husband agrees to take the rap for his employer's crime.
 It is a tale of deceit and greed. Like the other two Ceylan's films, Distance and Climates it is a slow moving film. What struck me most is Ceylan's cinematography, his close up shots of the characters faces as their emotions shift, and the panoramic shots inside the apartment as well as outside.Again I'm struck by the violence shown to the female character, by her son, husband and lover.
Ceylan won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival 2008 for this film. Well worth the watch

Friday, February 25, 2011

Evenings in Turkey

Evening in Gumuşluk

Evening in Gumuşluk

Sunset at Hieropolis, Pamukkale

Sunset at Hieropolis Pamukkale

Sunset at Hieropolis, Pamukkale

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Following yesterday's post I thought I would add the following post. This is an email that came to me. It brought home to me that sometimes we have to face adversity to appreciate more fully what we have. The bad things in our lives make us experience the good things more intensely. We enjoy our half an hours peace more if it has been preceded by a half an hours noise. 

"Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the 
mother said, "I love you and I wish you enough". 

The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom". They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” 

"Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” "I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral," she said. 

"When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough'. May I ask what that means?" She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other
generations. My parents used to say it to everyone". She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled! even more. "When we said, 'I wish you enough', we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just 
enough good things to sustain them." Then turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. 

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter 
how gray the day may appear. 
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. 
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and 
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life 
may appear bigger. 
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. 
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. 
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

She then began to cry and walked away. 
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to 
appreciate them, a day to love them but then an entire life to 
forget them"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Food for Thought!

Tonight is was Turkish class again. Mercifully, we did not have to struggle again with grammar, but did it in an incidental way through conversation.
The conversation was quite wide ranging from topics such as how our week had been,  when and why we had first come to Turkey, to the status of women in Turkey.
I have found the status of women to be an anomaly. With the coming of Ataturk, women in Turkey were given the right to vote before many of their European counterparts, the veil was outlawed , civil marriage and divorce introduced ( divorce only made legal in Ireland in 1995) and were given  the right to inherit property etc. This was very advanced thinking for the time. Therefore, you would think that in this political climate, women would flourish and have equal status with men.
From the outside looking in, this does not seem to be the case. Many Turkish films I have watched have a theme of violence against women running through them and this seems to be accepted as the norm by many. What happens in the home  seems to be dominated by the male. One of my friends, whose house is divided into two apartments, was forbidden by her husband to go out into the garden when their tenants were at home because the men would be looking at her.
I find it hard to reconcile that in a country where the equal status of women was legally recognised at an early stage, the attitude to women remains very traditional.
Ozge, our teacher made a very interesting statement. In many countries where women gained the right to vote, they won this right after many years of struggling and campaigning.  Turkish women were given the right to vote, they did not work to attain it themselves. Food for thought. Perhaps it is only when we struggle for something we realise how valuable it is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Good Day!

Today was a good day.  Today I had the kind of day I look forward to having more of. Today I was one of the ladies who lunch. I met with two college friends, they are each others in laws and have had a recent bereavement. My friends were also my bridesmaids almost thirty years ago. Time and life have got in the way and I  have had only sporadic contact with one of them while the other has remained a close friend. Today we met up and the years melted away.
We immediately slipped back to the old friendship and spent the afternoon filling in the gaps, in addition to drinking copious cups of coffee. I've no idea if I'll sleep tonight from the caffeine high, not to mention the high of old friends chatting and being togother.
Following a very late lunch, I had time to nip to the bookshop. This year my hubbie seems to have lost  his aversion to "Hallmark....sorry... Valentine's Day and I was the proud possessor of book tokens, a much nicer present than roses! The pleasure lasts a lot longer.
 I spent a happy hour before the shop closed browsing and choosing. Of course, I couldn't resist temptation and I overindulged and spent a  little more than the tokens covered. I now have the new Richard North Patterson and Denis Lehane novels plus "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" and another book I can't remember the title now, it's already stashed beside my bed ready for packing for my holidays.
The day just continued to get better. I rang another school friend who had two lumps removed from her arm two weeks ago.. She had been told it was definitely basal cell carcinoma, the only question was what stage was it at. The good news is it was not a carcinoma, she is clear.
Finally, I booked my summer holiday. School closes on June 30th. I leave home on July 1st and return August 28th the day before I go back to work. There are times I love being a teacher! My sister-in-law is coming out with my hubbie for three weeks and I have also booked tickets to fly to Ankara for 4 days. Safranbolu here we come!
My addiction to Turkey will be well fed in the coming months. I fly out in March for a week "to get the house ready" for my Mum, lol, any excuse! We are bringing her out  for Easter.  This will be only her second visit. She is 84 years young and I told her she could bring a little friend to play with. Someday that poor woman will snap and kill me!!
So I will be on a plane in two and a half weeks time, for a week.
Then I will have a three week wait and we go out for another two weeks.
Then 9 weeks later the summer is mine. 8 whole weeks of blue skies and sunshine, good food, good company......
Yes today was a good day.

Monday, February 21, 2011


From Reflection 
Christina Aguilera

Why is my reflection
Someone I don’t know? 
Must I pretend that I’m
Someone else for all time? 
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside? 
There’s a heart that must
Be free to fly
That burns with a need
To know the reason why
Why must we all conceal
What we think
How we feel
Must there be a secret me
I’m forced to hide? 
I won’t pretend that i’m
Someone else
For all time
When will my reflections show
Who I am inside? 
When will my reflections show
Who I am inside? 

A Perfect Evening at Kylemore
Kylemore Abbey

A winter's evening at Kylemore


Nightlights on the water looking over at Roundstone

Near Aashleigh Falls

The lake at Johnstown Castle

The Trees at Johnstown Castle

Winter Light at Johnstown Castle

Ducks on a frozen lake St. Stephens Green

Evening in Killarney

At Muckross House Killarney

Lake at Muckross House in the early evening,

430 days but who's counting?

Some days it seems like a long time to retirement. At the very earliest I will retire in August 2013.. Recently, the Chairperson of  our Board of Management visited my classroom and happened to ask when I hoped to retire. I hope this wasn't a hint!!!!
I said not  for a while yet  but hopefully in two and a half years time." Ah, thats not long" he replied "about 430 days". Well, that made my day, I had not thought of it in terms of actual working days. It suddenly didn't seem half as long.
Recently, I was asked what will I do when I retire. My friends reckoned that I would not be able to do nothing, in terms of work, anyway. How wrong they are. I will have worked 30 years longer than my original plan and I have a lot of making up of lost time to do!
What I will actually do, will depend on my family situation, if my other half can retire also. Plus of course my poor long suffering mother! She is now well on her way to being 85 but fitter than I am. She is still driving herself everywhere and playing golf twice a week.
I have warned her I have plans for my retirement and they don't include her. So she has three options, find a toy boy to look after her, enter a nunnery ( there are two beautiful ones, way up on the heights in Meteora, in Greece) or she can pop her clogs.  Needless to say none of these appeal to her. I really thought she'd like the quiet life in the monastery, among the rose gardens, but I heard her muttering something under her breath about a crowd of women living together.
 All things being equal, I would love to spend more time in Turkey, take photography and cookery classes, and read  and travel to my hearts content I dream of a 1st of September when I will go to school at the normal time but stand in the road and wave and nod to everyone going in the gate. Then I will go home, collect my bag and head for the airport.

The Book Club


Saturday was my first night attending "Book Club" and what a wonderful club it is.  It was not quite what I expected. I had been told the book for discussion was "The Slap" and I had frantically read through half of it to have some idea what the others were talking about.
I firstly got a call early yesterday morning to see if I had been told not to eat dinner as dinner was provided by the host. I was aware of this but hubbie had forgotten and for the first time in ages he had bought two juicy steaks for the dinner. I left home with the smell of steak and onions wafting through the air.
My fellow club members were very welcoming especially as they have been meeting for 5 years.. Even though, as usual, I am the oldest there, I was definitely "the new kid on the block"
After  a very tasty dinner and a few glasses of wine, we started to talk about the book. One of the group, like me, had only  read 200 pages. She felt the book was very slow, the character was only still only eleven half way through.. This didn't sound like the book I was reading..........t turns out my friend had given me the name of the wrong book. It didn't matter as most of them hadn't had the time to read the recommended book. There was a short discussion as to whether the book was worth the effort of sticking with it followed by a short discussion on "The Slap" It was felt the book gave the impression that Australia wasn't somewhere you would want to live, it being a very male chauvinist and racist society. I find it an interesting book because it discusses the issues of  child discipline.The book is told through the eyes of the individual people who witnessed the "slap" and I must say to date there is not one character I like!

Then the book for the next meeting was chosen "No Way Down" by Graham Bowley. It is a true life story of how 30 people climb K2 but when an ice shelf collapses their lines are cut and there is "no way down" I have just ordered it online from  They deliver free, worldwide.
After this it was down to serious conversation and I rolled in home at 04.30 this morning! I'm glad that unlike the others, I do not have a young family and had no obligation to get up early.
Roll on the next meeting!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Yippee, it's midterm.
Yesterday I had a long evening of parent teacher meetings. One parent I met, I taught her 30 odd years ago, it feels like it is time to give up the day job!! She is also teacher, and now, in her turn, teaching the children of her past students. How old does that make me?
But four days of planned indolence stretch out before me, I plan to do absolutely nothing......well almost nothing.
This evening I have been invited to join a book club. My friend is a member of two book clubs, one serious and the other not so.
She has invited me to join the fun one. I love reading but don't necessarily want to dissect the book later. However she told me the format is dinner in the hosts house, 5 minute book discussion and then on to an evening of good food, wine, chat.
The book for discussion tonight is "The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas. Fortunately, it was in the stack beside by bed, so I abandoned the book I was reading and started this on Monday evening after receiving the invite. I'm 230 pages into it but have as many to go again. At least I will have some idea what it is about.
More anon............

Friday, February 18, 2011

Irish Tourist Visa for a Turkish National

Sean and I invited our friend Metin, the caretaker on our complex to come and visit us for Christmas.
He has become a great friend to us over the years. His life can be difficult because his job involves being on call 24/7 especially in the summer season. I love Turkey but the one thing that annoys me more than anything, is the class system.  Everyone has their place and there they must stay. Metin has gone out of his way to help us, especially in the early years, learning the ropes, learning the language, and learning to cope with driving on Turkish roads!
We began a whole new learning curve, how to apply for a tourist visa to Ireland.
The first thing was for Metin to apply for his passport. So we began the process at the beginning of last year. He got his photos taken and then went to the police station on the seafront in Bodrum to see what he had to do.He asked me to come with him and so I went.....the first and last time I'll do this.
I said I'd wait for him outside but he wanted me to come in. I hung back, I was mortified, a young Turkish man applying for a passport with a middle-aged blonde woman hanging around in the background!
We decided to send the application in at Easter, it would give him plenty of time to organise leave and cover for work.
The website for Immigration Services warn that applications should be made at least 8 weeks prior to the visit, so we were well inside the limit.
We spent our fortnights holidays at Easter helping him to gather the endless paperwork required. Everything, including bank statements had to be translated to English, a very expensive business for him. In the end everything was ready and sent to the consulate in Istanbul. All we had to do now was wait for 6-8 weeks for the decision.
However the weeks passed and in spite of anxiously checking the website every Tuesday there was no decision.
Eventually, 14 weeks later, his passport came back, with the receipt for the application, but no visa.
The surprising thing was there was no  reason for the refusal.
So the next day I asked him to ring the embassy to find out on what grounds his application had been refused.
The girl there told him his application had been made too early, and to apply again. This would involve new documents and new translation, which cost 600 lira the first time plus the cost of reapplying. He then asked why the decision hadn't been uploaded to the website. He was calmly told they hadn't processed his application because it was made too early.
Metin did not want to apply again because it was too difficult and too expensive but I told him to leave it to me.
I rang the consulate and asked to speak to the consul. He wasn't there but I was told when he should be there. But, no luck next time either.
Eventually I was asked why I was ringing. I explained the story to her. I then went to update Metin. and ............he was on the phone. The consulate rang him. They miraculously found his number ( he had used my phone earlier) and rang him to say to apply 8 weeks before he wanted to come and he needn't pay the fee. He was also asked what our jobs were. I now knew that we were in a great position.

I rang again, the next day to speak to the consul. And again he was not there, but I was told they had sorted everything out with Metin. He just had to apply again, there would be no fee.
I told them (in Turkish) that they had taken Metin's money but hadn't processed his application and I was taking it further. He should not have to reapply with all the expense that involved! The amazing thing thin was they understood me! Sean was beside me, when I put the phone down he was looking at me with his mouth open. "Where did your Turkish come from," he asked, " I didn't understand a word but I was terrified"

Not having any success reaching the consul in Istanbul, I rang the embassy in Ankara. I spoke to the first secretary, who was extremely helpful. To cut a long story short, Metin had his visa in two days. He now thinks I walk on water, but I reckon I need to lose a little weight before I try it.

A list of the document required include:
A letter of invitation,
A letter from employer to state you are employed and will return to the job.
6  months bank statements - no lump sum lodgements to cover the holiday will be accepted
6 months social insurance payments
previous 3 months payslips
Copy of hosts passports including visa stamps
Details of your family
Evidence of property owned or rented...................

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning Turkish.

Well, it's on nights like this I know why I chose the title "The adventures of Crazy Girl" for my blog. I have just driven 200km after work to attend my weekly Turkish lesson.  Until two weeks ago, these classes were every Thursday evening but were then changed to every Wednesday,

I have been attempting to learn Turkish for 4 years now and have made slow progress from Beginners through to Intermediate level. It is said that up to 7 years of age is the optimum age for learning new languages. Where does that leave me, I began at 49 I use this as my excuse for my slow progress!

For four years I went to night classes in Trinity College Dublin. I got great delight in teasing my daughters that I was also a student in their university........ even if it was just for a couple of hours a week.  I was a university student.They humoured me while asking to see my student card!

My first teacher, was with us for three years and struggled mightily to beat grammar into my head. It was quite a challenge. It is amazing to think Turks can fit a whole sentence into one word by adding suffixes. At times the language is very logical and makes perfect sense and others I just want to bury my head in my arms and say "What in the name of God am I doing???" Unfortunately, she was under contract to the Turkish government and her contract ended a year ago and she was replaced.

This year four of us, who have been going to classes  together and are equally crazy, broke away from the main group and found a new teacher. We now enjoy a two hour session once a week in the bar of the Davenport Hotel, indulging in "dedikodu"- gossip as well as continuing the unending struggle with Turkish grammar.

A Turkish friend recently asked me was I still going to classes as, in her opinion, my Turkish has disimproved drastically. To which I replied "Thanks" She again asked me the same question and I said "Thank you very much"

You don't understand me, she cried. Oh I understand you very well, I replied. It was she who did not understand, my way of dealing with negative comments.

Again she asked why my Turkish had disimproved. I immediately gained brownie points when I replied "saftırığım' 'I'm  a blonde' She was truly impressed I knew this word, and reckoned there was still hope for me.

So once more this evening, straight after work, I got into my car and drove 100km to struggle with the book which I bought......the woman who was talking and just when I thought I was getting to grips with that we were challenged to put it in the objective case. Without a doubt "cilginim - I'm crazy!

And the worst thing of all is, because of the change in schedule, it won't be Friday when I get up in the morning :-(((((((  There are still two more days of work this week,  where I in my  turn will try to beat Irish into the more receptive heads of my class of six year olds. I understand their pain!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kavaklıdere and the Art of the Copper Smiths

Last time I was lucky enough to be in Bodrum  for the week I was unable to resist the opportunity to get in the car and set off of places new.
This time I was accompanied by my sister-in-law Mary and my cousins wife Julia, and a Turkish friend, Metin who offered to drive us. This didn't turn out to be as much fun for him as he thought, having to listen to a constant stream of commands to slow down and belt up. He'll think again before offering to drive some Irish women anywhere. The truth is we drove him.........around the bend!!

However, his suggestion to visit Kavaklidere near his home town of Yatağan was wonderful. Plans made we decided to set off reasonably early. Unfortunately we woke up to the sound of rain bouncing off the terrace.
Luckily my visitors were undeterred by rain, after all we are Irish and decided we should go, instead of spending the day looking at each other.

Passing many marble factories on the way, we arrived in Kavaklidere just before noon. The skies had cleared and we were free to ramble.

Kavaklıdere is located 26kms of the Aydin –Mugla road and is famous for its handmade copper crafts. It is approximately 700-800 m high and the area was originally settled by nomads. Their nomadic traditions can still be seen in their weddings and  festivals. It is an area of natural beauty and 70% of the area is covered by pine forests. The town has a population of 2822 and is set into the side of a hill!

The town is known for its copper smiths and everywhere we could hear the tapping of their hammers against the metal as they made their pots and pans.

The story of the copper smiths in Kavaklidere began in the 14th century when the nomads from Turkmenistan settled in the area,  With no running water nomads used copper pots and utensils to carry water.  Later making copper items became the main source of generating income in this area.

It became a highly skilled trade passed down from father to son through the generations.
 In the 1970’s  there were between 180-200 copper smiths working in the area and donkeys were used to market the products  to other parts of Turkey. In 1984 to foster this profession a factory was established to manufacture copper plate. However as glass, steel and  porcelain replace copper in our kitchens, the factory was forced to close down.

Whereas in the past copper smithing generated 80% of the income in the area this figure is now in the region of 10% and interest in being a copper smith has dropped dramatically with the younger generation and there are now only approximately 30 people continuing with this trade. As copper has disappeared from our kitchens, it is mainly for the tourist industry these skilled craftsmen ply their trade.

We set out to wander around and of course with three women that meant straight into the workshops.
We looked around at the amazing workmanship at the array of goods on display. We also got talking to the craftsmen who were only to happy to display their talent and tell us about the process. It takes a full day to make one çaydanlık

Mary and I were like children in a sweetshop but almost afraid to ask the prices. We were totally taken aback when we did. 40 lira for a çaydanlık, 50 for a large copper serving dish. These men are working in the wrong place, if this was Ireland you would have to quadruple the price at least for work of this standard.

We thanked our lucky stars we weren't flying Ryanair and got to down to serious 

Mary and I did serious damage to the holiday budget and spent just over 100 lira each.
We had by now worked up an appetite and needed to eat.

We asked for advice on where to go and we were guided to a pide salonu.
After a delicious lunch, we asked for the bill only to be told that they had been told by the copper smith not to take our money, lunch was on him.

What a first introduction to Turkey for Julia, her mouth is still hanging open.

We then walked around the town, the mosque is beautiful inside, well worth a visit.

We then met an 80 year old who wanted to be our tour guide. I think he fancied his chances with the three women.

Everywhere we went we were welcomed and the work explained to us with time courtesy and patience. The number of craftsmen is decreasing and one told us that he reckons there will be none of them left  in 10 years time. This would be a dreadful pity. As you watch, everywhere you hear the tap tap tap as the craftsmen turn the sheets of copper into pots and pans, teapots and signs. These men employ their passion for their craft to reproduce age old designs. Even though their lives are different , they employ the same patience and  traditions Even though the day to day use of copper has dwindled, the copper smiths of Kavaklidere are doing everything in their power to keep their tradition that they are so passionate about.

I would strongly recommend a visit to this village. It is such an interesting place to see. I intend to go back again in April. We thought we might be there for an hour but one hour became four.

We then went to visit Metins family in the evening where we were made very welcome and to feel at home. We rounded off the day with a very comfortable stay in the Hurtur Hotel on the Mugla road as you leave Yatagan.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A New Friend.

Monday morning is market morning in Türkbükü. I usually set out on my early morning walk but with my backpack for my market shop - in summertime it is easier to walk at 8 in the morning when the temperature is around 28-29C instead of 40C in the afternoon.

A couple of years ago, I was "sweating" back up the hill from the market, labouring under a load of fruit and veg.  It was a good job they tasted so good because I was at the point of collapse by the time I had made my way up the second hill. I had stopped to catch my breath when this lady appeared around the corner and fired a stream of rapid Turkish at me. In my very broken Turkish, I asked her to slow down and repeat what she had said. Eventually, I got the gist of it and reckoned that what she was saying was that she had seen me coming and going over the summer and she wanted to be friends. She had a present for me and would I call in for coffee sometime! Needless to say I was gobsmacked!

If this had happened at home I would  have thought she was an absolute nutter. But here I was intrigued. I was a bit shy of knocking on her door, so two days later I made sure my morning walk took me past her house again. Sure enough, she was on her balcony and called me in for coffee. This time  I had my secret weapon in my bag, my good big thick Turkish-English dictionary. In addition to coffee and delicious homemade kurabiye she gave me a scarf. She had hand-crotcheted the edging, she had chosen the colour blue to match my eyes. With the aid of the dictionary we had a good conversation and it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

I have been welcomed into Gulsum's family and made feel very at home. If I had reacted as I might have done at home  an run a mile, I would have missed out on a wonderful friendship and an insight into everyday life in Turkey.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Turkey I am Beautiful - Brendan Shanahan

In Turkey I am Beautiful. Brendan Shanahan

This book was recommended to me by an Australian girl I met recently, so I looked it up and purchased it second hand on Amazon.

The author Brendan Shanahan is an Australian writer. He returns to Turkey two years after his first visit He goes back to visit his friends in a carpet shop in Istanbul and his friend Hüsseyin asks him to run the shop in his absence. He is going to America on a selling trip. We also meet his friend Tefvik, a drug addict.

Before he takes over the running of the shop he decides to travel east. His journey takes him to Sanliurfa, Mardin, Diyarbakir and Konya among many other places. 
Later he returns to Istanbul to run the carpet shop. The book recounts hıs experiences. It is well structured and you find yourself wanting to read on but it is not your typical travelogue. You have the sense that he is talking to you and describing his experiences good and bad. His language is very descriptive e.g. "Istanbul is a Blanch DuBois city, best seen in low artificial light". His description of coming into Goreme on the bus will stay with me for a long time. He wrote what I felt seeing it for the first time.

You get a real sense of his growing understanding, affection and respect for the Turkish psyche.

Anybody who has travelled in Turkey or spent time there will identify with and enjoy this book


Saturday 8th May Mardin.

It is hard to believe it is only a week since we got on the plane in Dublin. It has been an action packed week and to be honest we are feeling a little tired. We are glad we are not getting back on the bus to travel back to Göreme with the others, as it is a very long trip.

Instead we have rented a car, or should I say Turkish Heritage Travel rented a car for us. İt would arrive at the hotel at 10 a.m. It suddenly dawned on me I didn’t know from what company we had rented the car. But no need to panic, everything had gone smoothly so far. Fingers crossed it would continue to do so.

We got up and joined the others for breakfast. This morning’s buffet was the best on the trip. In addition to the usual tomatoes, olives, cheeses, etc, there were a couple of types of borek and menemen. We exchanged contact details and promised to stay in touch. Facebook does have its advantages, so perhaps these won’t be empty promises.

Having waved the group off, we checked out and waited in the lobby for the car. We were now truly on our own; the lobby was full and we were the only yabancıs in sight! 10.15 but no panic we were on turkish time! Shy smiles were exchanged with the families around us.

TomTom, my GPS, was in my bag and ready to go. I had spent the previous day in the car looking for road signs for Mardin and thought I had spotted the road but TomTom would hopefully do the navigating for us. However he has been known to lead us astray! I have used him in Turkey before and certainly when on main routes he had proved himself to be pretty reliable and more polıte than some navıgators I know (husbands included!). However, to be sure to be sure, I had also printed out a route from the internet. Those instructıons would only help when we got onto the right road. 

Ten minutes later, a man entered the lobby and it was obvious he was looking for us. We must have blended in because amazingly he didn’t immediately pick out the two foreigners:-)) He asked for us at the reception desk and the receptionist caught our eye as we were getting up from our seats. Our guessing skills were obviously better than his!

Well, it was the strangest rent–a–car transaction we have ever done. Perhaps because the agency arranged it, perhaps because he was afraid we wouldn’t understand, he handed us the keys and then turned to the receptionist to ask where we were going to leave the car in Mardin. She smiled at me and told him I spoke Turkish.

I told him we would leave the car in the airport in Mardin at 08.30 on the following Monday morning. He then gave us two contact numbers, one for problems on the road and the other for problems in Mardin. I hoped we wouldn’t have to use either! To be on the safe side, I enquired if we had full insurance, not sure if the agency had bought the extra optional insurance on our behalf.

Reassured that we were fully insured, TomTom primed to go, we took possession of the car. Being cautious, I inspected it and noticed that there was a big dent on the front bonnet. I was about to point this out but there was no-one to point it out to. Our man was gone.

We hadn’t been asked for driving licences, credit cards, or even to sign the rental agreement! There was no point in worrying about the dent, we had full insurance..........we hoped. The one thing we didn’t have was petrol. Usually the tank is empty but this one appeared to be running on fumes. The first petrol station we saw was on a roundabout and we passed it before we realised it. 

Eyes peeled, we pulled into the next station we came to. In addition to our 60tl petrol we were given a free cleaning cloth. It was like getting petrol in Ireland in the 70’s. Anyone remember Green Shield Stamps? 

I was excited. Finally travelling on our own! İf there was anything I wanted to photograph, we could stop. This is how I prefer to travel.

Would you believe it, there was nothing of interest on the road! The road made its way through low rolling hills. Actually, all our time was spent watching the road. We had finally found a road that was as bad as our own at home. There were potholes you could get lost in. It explained the time differential. Our itinerary said it would take us 4 hours to reach our destination, while TomTom said 2½ hours. As we drove, TomTom predicted a later and later estimated time of arrival. Maybe he thought that because we were driving in Turkey it was a Turkish driver at the wheel. The road from Şanliurfa to Mardin must be an industrial highway because I have never before seen the number of trucks on the road as we met on this journey, not even on the M50 in Dublin.

As we neared our destination we spotted Mardin airport on our right. That was good news, we wouldn’t have to spend Monday morning looking for it. All we had to do now was find the hotel. I had programmed the street address into Tomtom who shortly told us to turn right. But, there was no right turn! Undaunted, we took the next right but it wasn’t going anywhere. There was a little corner shop so I asked for directions. We hadn’t arrived in Mardin yet so they gave us directions and told us continue to the upper part, to the old city. We were then invited to join them for a glass of tea but unfortunately we had to get on.

One of the reasons we were going to Mardin was one of the friends I had made on Live Mocha last summer , Kemal, was a primary school teacher in Nusaybin and we planned to meet up. As luck would have it, he had exams this weekend. They were on Sunday morning in Mardin. Kemal insisted he would not be studying on Saturday, he would be relaxing to get into the right frame of mind to face the papers.

Having asked directions another couple of times, we found the hotel. We stopped just beyond it and asked a man sitting outside his shop where the carpark for the hotel was. He directed us down the street. Obviously, something got lost in translation!
Going a little further, we asked again, to be informed that there was no carparks in old Mardin. It was funny because we were getting some strange looks from the men because I was doing all the talking and they wanted to talk to Sean, who could only look blankly at them, point at me and say boss!! 

We followed the directions and went around in a circle. There is a one way system in the old city. There must have been some high ranking officials in town that day, as there was a strong police and emergency services presence on the main street, making the one way system just a little more difficult to negotiate.
We pulled up on the kerb opposite the hotel and went to check in.

We were staying in the Artuklu Kervansaray hotel. It is an amazing building, built in 1278. There are numerous original features in the building and the lobby was a delight. They were expecting us, but even though it was half past two in the afternoon, our room wasn’t ready. They parked the car in a side street at the back of the hotel and brought in our bags. 

These were carried up by the tallest man I have ever seen. He must have been over 7 ft tall. We were asked to wait on the terrace until the room was ready. Half an hour later we were still sitting patiently. The porter asked was our room not ready yet and then disappeared. About 10 minutes later he came to get us. The building was like a rabbit warren. The room key was enormous, actually it was probably bigger than the room! Saying that, the room was lovely. It had the original stone walls with little niches with antiques in them. There was just enough room to walk around the bed and there was no wardrobe......nowhere to put it. We had just investigated the bathroom when my phone rang.

It was Kemal. He had arrived from Nusaybin and was at the hotel entrance waiting for us. He had his friend Osman with him. Osman was also doing the Turkish exam the next morning. After a quick discussion it was decided that lunch was the first thing on the agenda. Kemal was anxious to show us around, but the sounds coming from Sean’s stomach made food a greater priority!

They took us to a local restaurant and, luckily for us, Kemal was a carnivore like us, so we left the ordering to him. They brought us cacik and a dish that seemed to have raspberries with peppers and spices to go with it. Then to Sean’s delight we were served with a large plate of meat - chicken, meatballs and lamb. In addition to this the long flat bread came straight for the oven and was constantly topped up. Kemal extolled Osman’s wonderful quality as a friend............. he didn’t eat a lot, so Kemal regularly ate some of his share. 60% - 40% I asked, to be told very quickly by Osman, it was more like 80%-20%

The lads were anxious to get moving as they wanted to bring us to Deyrulzafaran Monastery, 4km outside Mardin. This is an important centre for Syriac Orthodox Christians. It was built in the 5th century over the site of a temple for sun worshipers. Later it was used as a fortress by the Romans before it became a monastery. Inside there are a number of churches as well as other buildings for the monks.

In one room, below ground level, we were shown the amazing construction. There was no mortar or cement between the stones. They were held together by keystones. This is now the residence of the archbishop of Mardin. As it is still a working monastery, people are only allowed to see the monastery with a guide. We had to wait for the next group and then we were given a guided tour of the monastery. Kemal did his best to translate the main points for us, though for some he said we had to wait ‘til we got back to the car to use the dictionary! As we were entering the monastery I caught the eye of one of the ladies leaving. İnstant recognition. She had been one of the ladies with whom İ had exchanged smiles in the lobby of our hotel in Şanliurfa this morning –small world!
Following Kemal, we left the main group and went upstairs to the next level. Kemal wanted to show us the views from the outside wall but unfortunately the gate was locked.

Back to Mardin, we went to a tea garden with a beautiful view over the hillside. We spent a little more time getting to know each other and exchanging information about teaching in our respective countries. We encouraged the boys to leave, if they were tired, but they wanted to wait for dusk and to bring us to a viewpoint where we could look at Mardin as the lights came on.

Kemal told us there is a saying that during the day Mardin is a grave but at night it was a necklace. It certainly looked beautiful, looking up at all the lights on the hill. I had no tripod to steady my camera so I got down on my knees to steady the camera on a convenient rock. Unfortunately, I had not considered how I would get back up so once again I had to forget about my dignity. I couldn’t use the arms to push up and my leg wasn’t great. The lads wanted to help but they could not take my arms to pull me up. After a couple of embarrassing moments I was back on my feet. Good job İ wasn’t trying to impress the young men!! Unfortunately the photos were like myself, a bit shaky !

We left the boys off and wished them well in their exams the next morning. We got a good nights sleep and then got up for breakfast. Even though we were up by nine we were obviously too late. There was very little variety and the hot food was cold.

So we made the best of it and then set out to explore the town on our own. It is the first tourist destination we have visited where everywhere was closed on a Sunday morning. Later, as we returned back they were beginning to open.
Stopping on a street corner to take photos, a shop owner greeted us and as usual İ answered in Turkish. Once again, this led to a conversation, where were we from etc. We were then offered suggestions as to what we should see.

We wandered along the streets, noting the gold shops on one side of the street and the silver shops on the other. Mardin is famous for its filigree silver and I wanted some time to browse shop windows. With four daughters I could feel a shopping expedition coming on much to Sean’s horror!

However we first set out to explore the streets and buildings. We wandered into a girls school that seemed to be undergoing some renovation. There were notes from a lesson on the board. It seems like I’m never going to escape the blackboard.

Later we were passing a silver shop that appeared to be quite busy. We went in to have a look and again we became the focus of attention, all positive. Even some of the customers wanted to know if they could help us and to explain about how famous Mardin silver is. Having picked out a necklace with matching bracelet and earrings, we did a little bargaining, then the deal was done. Later we would look for something for the girls.

We were happy to wander on our own. The streets felt very safe. The atmosphere was very different to Urfa. The streets were very peaceful and style of dress western. The city felt very open and relaxed. As we came down the steps from the school we were stopped by a film crew and asked did we speak English...........Sean’s turn! Having confirmed we spoke English, we were asked for the correct spelling for embarrassed. They were filming a programme for the Turkish TRT tv channel – glad to do our bit for international relations!

Later while Sean relaxed at the hotel, I wandered around with my camera. The hotel was an amazing building, it’s a pity the service didn’t measure up.

We sat and relaxed on the terrace for a while. We both were now ready to admit to being tired. We had done a lot of travelling in the past 10 days. We enjoyed the break while wondering how Kemal and Osman were doing with their exams.

Shortly my phone rang, Kemal had arrived and joined us on the terrace. He felt he had done well and was hopeful for the results. Osman had gone shopping and would return to Nusaybin. Kemal was anxious that we get going, as time was getting on and he wanted to bring us to Midyat.

We didn’t realise that Midyat was 50km from Mardin and Mor Gabriel, the monastery he wanted to bring us to see, was another 25km beyond this. We suggested getting lunch but he was anxious to show us as much of his area as possible so he made a quick shop stop and refuelled with four chocolate cakes.

The trip to the monastery was well worth the journey. Again, we had a guided tour of the monastery but this time the crowds of yesterday were missing. Mor Gabriel is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. It was founded in 397 and is still a working monastery. Its main purpose is to keep Syriac Orthodox Christianity alive in the land of its birth by providing schooling and ordination of native-born monks. The thing that surprised me most about the monastery was that both men and women lived there. There were three priests and eleven nuns in residence at the time.

The stonework in the building was beautiful and the sense of peace was wonderful. Sean sat and I think this could have been my opportunity to get rid of my husband. He would willingly have stayed to enjoy the peace. We wandered through the visitor quarters and he was weighing up the pros and cons of the monastic life. Unfortunately, he decided to come back with me! 

Having eventually torn himself away, we went back into Midyat where we visited Midyat Devlet Konuk Evi.This building is a restored guest house, now a major visitor attraction and has also been used in the shooting of a film. It afforded great views over Midyat. 

Leaving the house we were quickly surrounded by children, wanting to sell us bracelets and asking for money. The same thing happened when we went to look at the celebration of a Kurdish wedding in a nearby schoolyard. We were immediately surrounded by another group also hoping for a handout. Kemal explained this is a problem in the some areas of Eastern Turkey and told us not to engage with them or would continue to pester.

Kemal wanted to bring us to see some more of the sites but by this time we were a little tired and hungry. We told Kemal that not seeing everything would be a good reason to come back to visit the area again. We were happy to sit and chat and get to know each other a little better.

We thanked Kemal as we were so appreciative of him sharing so much of his time with us on what must have been a difficult weekend for him. It is so nice to see an area with someone with local knowledge. For his part, Kemal said he too was delighted as it was the first time he had spoken English face to face with native speakers. He felt he couldn’t talk to Sean the day before, but now they could talk comfortably to each other as he had gained confidence in speaking and he had my trusty dictionary by his side.

We finished off the meal with tea and Turkish coffee. I made Sean confess his opinion of Turkish coffee to Kemal. He thinks it is like mud. Kemal offered to read my fal (my fortune) from my coffee grounds and we had a great laugh. There was a long haired man ...definitely not Sean...... and a journey in my future. Could it be a trip to the Black Sea region....... but who is the man? Only time will tell.

After our meal we had a wander through the silver shops where we made purchases for our 4 daughters. The silver work is beautiful and I have to confess to hoping our girls wouldn’t like what we bought. Then I would have to keep it for myself. We bargained and so did Kemal. They asked him if he was he a tour guide because they did not give reductions to tour guides. He told them we were friends of his family. He didn’t want to tell them he had met me on the internet!!

It was time to return to Mardin. Kemal was staying the night with a friend and getting the early bus back to Nusaybin and we were packing our bags to catch a morning flight back to Istanbul. It was hard to believe the holiday was almost over.

We got up early the next morning in the hope that the breakfast would be better but unfortunately it was not to be. We finished our breakfast, checked out and headed for the airport. It is the smallest airport I have been in. Sean parked the car and we waited outside the door for the people to come and collect it. We were a little early. After a little while we were approached by a security guard who asked us were we going to check in. He told us we could go ahead and check in and then come back out to hand over the car keys.

We had hoped to check the bags the whole way through to Dublin but because there was more than 24 hours between flights we had to collect our bags in Istanbul.

So bags checked in I headed out to wait for the rental company. There was no sign of them so I rang them and they seemed to be surprised we were at the airport. They said they would be there shortly. In the meantime a taxi pulled up, a couple got out and I recognised the man, I had last seen him eating breakfast at our hotel. They also acknowledged me with a nod and a smile.

The security guard started to talk to me in Turkish again and the lady who got out of the car was very interested. I was asked was my husband Turkish and she was amazed that the answer was no. It automatically led to the next question, why did I speak Turkish. The lady was living in Istanbul but had a summer home in Turgutreis. We had quite a chat only ending when the man arrived to collect the car.

In İstanbul, we were met by a driver from the Airport İnn Hotel, a small hotel on the seafront in Yesilkoy. I stay here when I have a brief stopover in Istanbul, it is very convenient for the airport. 

Again we were located on the third floor, difficult as I was still limping, but we were reassured that though it was a climb we had the best view in the hotel and so we did. The view was wonderful.

We had a brief rest and then headed out for lunch. It was the perfect end to the holiday for us. We sat in the sun, well in Sean’s case, the shade, enjoyed our lunch and later had a wander along the promenade looking at the beautiful houses behind us, deciding which one we would choose to live in....if we won the lottery!

At 5 o’clock, my phone rang and Leyla, another of my friends that I met through Live Mocha, was at the hotel to meet us. We sat in the sun and chatted for a while. It was the first time she had met Sean, but we had met on a couple of other occasions. We have exchanged music and lots of laughs. She informed me my Turkish had got worse and İ had put on weight. Wonderful!! My swollen head was rapidly deflating. Leyla wasn’t a nurse for nothing! If she could have worked the same magic on my swollen foot I was right.

The holiday was over. In spite of all I’ve written, I feel like I haven’t words to adequately describe the experience. However, I have just read Brendan Shanahan’s book “In Turkey I am Beautiful” where in Chapter 25 he describes arriving in Cappadocia - it could have been me talking, only I don’t have the eloquence.

“Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of Cappadocia. It’s a UFO sighting or a lottery win. It’s beautiful in ways that make you want to turn involuntarily to the stranger next to you on the bus and say, “Look! Look at that!” which is precisely what I did the first time I glimpsed the Göreme Valley from the high road, oblivious to and uncaring of the fact that he didn’t speak English and actually lived there. That was two years ago. This time around the same sight had lost none of its excitement.”

I can identify totally with this. I would go back to Cappadocia in the morning. We probably tried to fit too much into too short a space of time. We definitely did not have enough time in Şanlıurfa. It would have been nice to wander at our leisure. Sean really enjoyed Mardin and meeting Kemal. He said he felt part of something. Again we would have liked to have had more time to wander at our leisure. I can see us returning!

The whole trip was a wonderful experience, made more so by the people we met along our way.