Foça

Foça, sometimes called Eski Foça to differentiate it from Yeni Foça, was a beautiful place.  We stayed in an adorable pension named Iyon Pansiyon, about a block from the water. The rooms were clean and comfortable, opening on to a large stone courtyard filled with green plants and fruit trees.  At night it was beautiful to sit in the serene courtyard and read with the lights hanging from the trees P1016506

Foça is still an actual fishing village, so while you walked along the wharf with the tourist shops and restaurants, along the water side there were fishermen cleaning and selling their catch, fixing their nets and preparing to go out.

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I was lucky to run into a couple of pazars. One was the typical pazar, the exception being a difference in some local produce and the amount and varieties of olives available.  Foça is on the Aegean and the area is known for its olive production.

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The other was a local organic pazar that was part of the “Slow Food” network. The products were locally produced with a minimum of interference and without the use of forcing or overproduction via hothouse.

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Above from left to right: walnuts, olive oil soap,sundried tomatoes                Second row: garlic and almonds

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First row: lettuce, Black Sea cabbage (Laz lahanasi) eggplants                                Second row: Arugula, parsley, mint, beans

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Foça used to be a Greek town, and so there are many beautiful old Greek stone (Rum) houses.

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Honestly, it was quiet and charming. There were shops and restaurants enough to make it fun and interesting, but quiet enough that you did not feel bombarded by tourism.  We asked one of the locals about living there, were there any negative aspects to life in Foça?  She thought hard and then told us she would need more time to think about it.  A few hours later she said the she still couldn’t think of one…It is definitely on our short list of places to live if we every move from Ankara!

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Aegean Weekend

Last week Bülent had to go to Çeşme for the Turkish Economic Association conference.  It was at the Altin Yunus, a five star hotel.  Unfortunately it rained for most of the week.  I joined him on Friday and it rained the whole hour drive from Izmir to Çeşme.  But when we woke up on Saturday morning the weather was beautiful. Bulent went off to some meetings and I enjoyed the hotel.

I was a little surprised by the Altin Yunus.  It is advertised as a 5 star hotel, but the rooms are pretty basic, something you might see in a Motel 6.  However, the location was fabulous and totally made up for it.  This pool on one side…

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and the beach was on the other.  The food was also included in the price and was quite nice. 

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The conference ended Saturday afternoon and we spent the day exploring.  We went to several secluded bays in Çeşme.  It is off season, and so was not crowded.  It was a lovely way to explore the area.    We also went to one of my favorite places in the area, Alaçatı, a former Greek town.   The old section of town is full of cobble stone streets and stone houses.

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The old houses have been transformed into cafes, restaurants and shops.

Alacate

We were lucky enough to stop by on Pazar day when the streets were filled with vendors.  All sorts of fruits and vegetables, homemade olives and olive oil. 

Cesme

One of the things I love about the Aegean is the secularity.  People there are very strong Atatürk supporters and very secular.  Women might be “closed” and wear headscarves, but it is not a political stance but a choice.  Walking though the pazar I saw these boys playing soccer.  If you look closely you might notice the architecture.  The terrace of the mosque made a perfect soccer pitch, so their ball didn’t get away from them.  No one minded, no one even looked.  This might not happen in many communities.  Honestly, I don’t think it would happen in my neighborhood.   

Mosque

We ended the day with a night time walk on the seaside in Çeşme.  The next day we spent the day exploring coves and köys. 

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We have been able to travel quite a bit this year.  So far we have been to Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Québec, Marmaris twice, now Izmir.  But the year is not over yet!   We have a trip planned to Vienna for December, and I suspect another impromptu one will be scheduled soon for an as of yet unannounced family event. 

Oh the Figs

It is the season of the fig, and there are fig trees all around.  I grew up in New Hampshire, where figs were flown into the grocery store and sold at exorbitant prices, and were at least a week old.  Here I can pick a fig off the tree and it is glorious. Marmaris JulyAug 2009 156

I have been simultaneously trying to eat as many and few figs as possible.  For this to make sense you need to know two things.

1. I love figs, tremendously.

2. Figs are natural laxatives.

Enough said.

So up in Seferhisar, the fig tree was in the neighbors yard.  We still had full access to the tree, because Bulet’s uncle is married to the neighbors daughter.  When it was found out how much I loved figs, I was inundated.  Every morning they would pick fresh figs for me.  They sent Bulent’s 12 year old cousin up into the tree to pick the best ripe ones they couldn’t get from the ground.  Several times Uncle Hadi would run over with a fig in hand, saying here—this is for you, a perfect fig!!  And they were.  The thing about figs is that when they are ripe they are soft.  The softer they are the sweeter and juicer they are, however, there is a thin line between the perfect fig, and a soured one.  Right before they go bad, they are perfectly ripe.  So they would run over with the perfect fig and hand it over for immediate consumption, sweet and warm from the sun.  We left for Marmaris yesterday, and with us they send back several pounds of figs, in different stages of ripeness—so that I could triage.

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And so I am eating figs.  Many figs.  But only when we do not have plans far from the house.  Just in case.

I’m BACK!

I now have a laptop, and it is lovely!  To be able to use it in the comfort of my own home, without being sandwiched between adolescent boys playing war games is wonderful.  Not having to remember to stuff toilet paper in my purse in case there is none in the internet cafe is a privilege I won’t soon forget.  Since I last posted lots has happened, including our inaugural BBQ, two trips to Bodrum and a visit to Cesme and Seferihisar.  We have been in Seferihisar for about a week, at Bulent’s grandmother’s summer house.  Photos are forthcoming. It really is a beautiful place.  It is right on the sea, a community in the middle of no-where.  It was formed as a Co-op about 30 years ago, and everyone has been here since.  It is a place where grandparents, adult children and grandchildren all hang out together and visit each other.

The hills surrounding it are empty of development and thyme grows wild.  When you walk here the constant winds actually carry the smell of thyme.  It is delicious.  It is hot and dry here which is great, and also terrible.  Last night there was a wild fire, right across the highway from our community.  We could see the flames and smell the thyme burning.   Thankfully they were able to control the fire.  Today we drove by and you can see how close the fire came through through the blackened landscape.  And God help me, my first thought was—If we have to evacuate I am taking my damn laptop.