Thursday, March 31, 2011


Aphrodisias is an ancient city in Turkey located about an hour and a half from Pamukkale. It is bypassed by the hundreds of tour buses that offer a two day tour to Ephesus and Pamukkale. It is a hidden gem . They have found traces of civilization going back 2800-2200B.C.
It is one of my favourite ancient sites in Turkey. I'll let the photos tell the story.

The New Barbie

One day, early on in our friendship, I went to visit Gülsüm. We sat and chatted and then she invited me to come with her to visit her mother. Her mum lives less than 500m from her. So off we set. The first thing İ noticed when we arrived at the house was about 10 pairs of ladies shoes outside the door. Oh oh!. Sure enough when we went in there were eight women of varying ages, sitting and chatting. Not only were they chatting but everyone of them had some handwork, knitting, sewing crotchet. İt was like stepping back a couple of generations in İreland. Gülsüm told them I was a friend and immediately they started to ask her about me. Where was I from, was İ married, where was my husband, did İ have children,were we renting a house......?????????? Much to their surprise, I answered the basic questions in Turkish. There was an immediate cry of....'Come to my house, come to my house, İ live.......' One lady wanted me to tell her why her husband who had died of cancer when working in a factory in Holland hadn't received her pension form the EU and could İ sort it out for her.
Later, İ went back to Sean and told him that even though İ didn't have the body for it, he was looking at the new Barbie. Everyone wanted to play with me!

Direct Speech - Saying it as you see it, Turkish style!

I have found Turkish  people to be amazingly direct and to jump in places even I wouldn't dare to go! Within a short time of meeting them, you can be asked "How much do you earn?"  "How much have you in the bank?". These questions often precede the more basic "How old are you?"
When we were first furnishing our house we went to Metro, a large store which sells wholesale, but also gives a day pass to ordinary shoppers. If you do not hold a metro card, you get this day pass on entering the store. You need photo ID and a contact telephone number.
I gave them my phone number and produced my passport which was a number of years old. In my photo I had the end of a perm in my hair. The girl looked at my passport and then, doubtfully, at me. I now had a straight bob and was 6 years older. So my other half produced my driving licence. The photo was even older and I had a "chaps haircut"......or a "convicts haircut" some might say in it.
Once again, the girl looked at my photo IDs and then back at me. "Oh, you're so much prettier now" she exclaimed!
A more recent incident, I was swimming in the pool and there was a lady, dressed in a bhurkini also in for a swim. She was full of admiration for my front crawl and wanted me to show her how to do it. It was so difficult for her to lift the arms far enough out of the water as she was weighed down by her swimming costume. She then decided to engage me in conversation and wanted to know if my friend's 5 year old was my grandchild. I told her that I had no grandchildren as yet. This led to the inevitable question of my age.
When I told her I was 50 she appeared shocked! It was not my comparative youth that gave her pause. How did I have so many lines on my face if I was only 50. Answering with my own brand of humour I told her it was because I was which she replied that she had lost her husband recently. He died of complications due to diabetes. Oops, that was my two feet well and truly in my mouth.
It got more difficult when I was asked to guess her age.....what a minefield. I went for being younger, at least that was more flattering (though in hindsight I should have gone for the late 60's) It turns out she was 52. There are definitely advantages in being covered when living in hot climates!
All my friends have had similar experiences, we have put on weight, our Turkish is disimproving........One friend was told by a neighbour, that the previous owner of her house kept the place spotless and washed the terrace several times a day. My friend was very quick however. She replied she was a conservationist and didn't believe in wasting water!
So now, I tell people I'm half Turk and jump in where angels fear to tread.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Third Wish.

In fairy tales the first wish is foolish, the second is used to correct the damage done by the first one. The third wish is the one that must be used wisely and well and usually with the help of your friends!

 I regularly wish for peace and quiet. And now this wish was about to be granted, a weeks holidays on my own. Many people ask me what will I do for the week, wouldn't I be lonely? My difficulty is finding time to myself. Therefore when I find it I make the most of it. So what had I planned for this week? Apart from preparing the house for Mum's visit in April, I was planning to catch up on my reading.

I had bought "The Red Tent" an excellent book by Anita Diamant for a friend for Christmas. Unfortunately she had read it. I asked her what she likes to read. She likes novels set in other countries. I immediately thought of  the quadrilogy "The Jewel in the Crown" which I had read some years ago. I went on the net to look for it and got distracted by a poem I used to have on the wall of my classroom years ago " Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. This in its turn lead me to the author's online journal. I really liked his writing and then I discovered he had written a novel "Third Wish"

Third Wish is a 5 volume 2 book novel that comes with a CD of original music. Robert Fulghum writes that "music is an elemental dimension of being human. The music we carry in our minds reveals much about us" Therefore the music in the lives of the characters of the novel was included on a CD to reveal more of their humanity. We are asked to pay as much attention to the music as the written word. The novel starts at a table in a taverna in Crete and winds its way to Japan, France, England Seattle and back to Greece. It is a journey, not only through countries, but through the minds and relationships of the characters.  The themes are slowly, witness and surprise. Not only does the book come with its own music but it has over 150 illustrations. The book begins with this poem.

Instructions For Wayfarers.

 They will declare: Every journey has been taken.
You shall respond: I have not been to see myself.          
They will insist: Everything has been spoken.
You shall reply: I have not had my say.
They will tell you: Everything has been done.
You shall reply: My way is not complete.
You are warned: Any way is long, any way is hard.

Fear not. You are the gate - you, the gatekeeper.
And you shall go through and on . . .
 —Alexandros Evangelou Xenopouloudakis,

I tracked it down on and read the first few pages online. I was intrigued and decided to buy it for my friend......and also for myself. I could not wait for her to finish it. Amazingly,  considering the size and the CD, the book was not expensive, but the postage was. Anne was not in a hurry for the book so I ordered it, with standard postage. It would take over a month to arrive. Unfortunately, a few days later I got an email telling me my order was cancelled. The book was out of stock!

I ordered it from 5 different suppliers and  each time they cancelled the order, giving the same reason, out of stock. I was getting more and more frustrated! Eventually I ordered it from itself and by now I decided to have it sent by priority shipping. I was growing impatient. The two copies of the book cost €13.11 and €44.78 for the postage. Each copy weighs 3kg!

I managed to keep my hands off the book and keep it for my holiday. I must be crazy because it was 3kg of my 20kg baggage allowance. I hoped to finish it in the week. I read it in two and a half days.  Everytime I thought I knew what happening next there was another surprise waiting for me. It was worth the wait, the weight and every penny of the postage!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friends and Fishing Nets


I arrived in Türkbükü at approximately 9 o'clock on Monday morning. I no sooner had the car parked than Metin was out to carry my bags.  It was a beautiful sunny morning. I opened the door and reeled back in shock. The houses on our site were built as summer houses. Because of this, there are no south-facing windows. It was colder inside than out.
I immediately opened all the shutters to let in the light and switched on the gas super ser. Opening the shutters was an immediate signal that I had arrived and shortly my phone gave a couple of quick beeps. Gulsum"s signal to ring her back.

Gülsüm is my friend from across the road. She has taken me into her home and into her heart. She speaks no English and is very patient with my Turkish. Instead of the rapid fire Turkish she usually speaks she has learned to simply everything so that İ can understand.

Gülsüm married young, at the age of seventeen and now has two sons in their twenties. The youngest, Onur is engaged and impatient to marry but is in the middle of his military service. Military service in Turkey is unpaid and the loss of his income to the family is substantial.
The family is all engaged in tourism, or seasonal work, the boys drive their own taxi and Olcay, Gülsüm's husband drives his own water tanker. Off season life is difficult with little work to be had.

View from Gülsüm's Balcony
Enter Gülsüm! She makes and repairs fishing nets. İt is amazing to see. She sits on her living room floor, from sunrise to way past sun set. Everywhere you look there are nets.  Her house has  wonderful views out over the bay and it is a joy to sit on her balcony in the summer enjoying the sea breeze that blows up the hill.
In winter time the same balcony is filled with nets. She has worked everyday, without fail, since İ was last out in October making the nets. There are different size nets depending on the fishing season. Sometimes, the mesh is large and she can complete a net in a day but when a fine mesh is required, it takes 2 days to finish. She receives 40 Turkish Lira (tl) for each finished net.
In addition to all this, she looks after her family. does all the housework and is an amazing cook. I used to lose weight when İ went to Turkey first on holidays, and then İ met Gülsüm. Sure enough, shortly she appeared on my doorstep, with a plate in her hand! Roll on the week, I'm going to dine well.
Below are some photos of Gülsüm and her friends at work. Thanks to my friend Rasa for the photos.

The summer factory

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Images of Frankfurt

The "Pencil" - the second tallest building in Europe. 
Romer Platz

Arch near Romer Platz

Old building near the river

Main Train Station - the Hauptbanhoff

People strolling along by the river Main

The Beer Bike- You can cycle around to work up a thirst!

St Paul's Church

Open for business

Enjoying the nice weather.

A weight on their shoulders

The Hammering Man.

Six hours in Frankfurt.

Saturday 12th March, I set off for Bodrum, taking the scenic route. Instead of my normal flight from Dublin to Istanbul, I was flying Dublin to Istanbul via Frankfurt am Main. The budget cuts in my pay check are beginning to bite and now I look for the cheapest route rather than the most convenient!

I have not been able to post here for a while as Blogger has been blocked in Turkey. There was a complaint form Digiturk, a major satellite TV provider that some members of Blogger were illegally broadcasting football matches. Hence the shutdown there! 

My journey began at 07.50 when I caught the bus to Dublin airport. I promptly fell asleep, awakening almost two hours later as we approached Dublin Airport
I checked in with no difficulty (my bag was not overweight.....for  a change) and had enough time to spare to have a cup of coffee and a danish.  I found an unsecured wireless signal and checked my emails.
Once we had boarded, it was off to sleep like a baby. At the moment I have a mild dose of sinusitis, a real pain in the face, so I’m taking Actifed, to try and unblock them. It makes me very drowsy, a blessing in disguise when I’m travelling.

I arrived in Frankfurt at 15.30, with a 6 our wait to board my flight to Istanbul. Thanks to the miracle of Google I had found that there was an organised city tour leaving from the hotel desk in the arrivals hall at 16.00. I had emailed them to enquire about the tour and it seemed they were expecting me. I hadn’t booked but they had contacted the company to come and collect me!

Our tour guide was also my pick up driver. The bus tour began in the city and he had come to the airport to collect me. Well, he started on a diatribe on the drive into the city! When he discovered I was en route to Turkey he immediately launched into a spiel about the Turks in Germany and how they, along with the Albanians, Bulgarians and people from the former Republic of Yugoslavia were responsible for most of the crime in Turkey. The EU was responsible for opening the floodgates for the dregs of Europe to come to Germany. They should have stayed out of the EU and the Euro.........

Our tour bus
We then picked up a guy from Kuwait who was also going on the tour. He was also a problem for our guide. He was saying 200m from the tour office but we had to drive 4km to collect him, due to the one way system. Of course this took us through the red light area, needless to say you would not find a single German in this area, only the Albanians, Bulgarians and Turks. 

 We were brought to an open topped double decker bus and told to take our seat. He hoped we wouldn’t have difficulty finding a seat, as there were only 85 seats and there were two of us.

We then set off on what you could really say was a private tour of Frankfurt. Our guide gave us an excellent commentary on the city-surprising considering his earlier rant - full of humour and jokes. Interestingly, many museums were pointed out to us but the Jewish museum, he neglected to mention.

Debit and Credit!
We  sat in the open air. Today was the warmest day they have had so far, it was 16°.  Yesterday , early morning, it was -5.  People were sitting out for the first time, enjoying their coffee or beer.

Frankfurt is a city of contrasts. 85% of the city had to be rebuilt after World War 2. It is a very modern city, sometimes nicknamed “Bankfurt” as it has a huge commercial centre. The city is the 5th city of Germany but it is the largest financial centre and has one of the busiest airports  in Europe. It is not a tourist centre, people fly in and out of here without ever leaving the airport. The twin towers of the Deutsche Bank are fondly known locally as Debit and Credit. Frankfurt is the headquarters of the European Bank, no mean feat for a city of just over 640.000 people.

 Building in Romer Platz
Frankfurt is the third largest trade fair centre in the world and holds the worlds largest  motor exposition every year at which all the new cars are launched. In addition it also host the worlds largest book fair. Hotel rooms for these exhibitions are often booked two years in advance and room prices soar.
In normal times a single room in a  3 star hotel costs approximately 59 euro. In Jan – Feb when there are no tourists the same room costs 29 euro and the hotel is still empty. During a trade fair, you would be lucky to get the room for 240 euro.   

We had a free half hour to wander round the Romer Platz and take photos. The old buildings are beautiful but sadly few and far between. They are juxtaposed beside modern skyscrapers.
After we got back on the bus we had amazingly picked up another four people.
It may be a business rather than a tourist town but it is a place that is worth a stopover or adding a couple of days .to your business trip to explore