Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Cherries and Chapulling

Our first full day in İzmir was spent inside, chilling and eating huge plates of cherries picked from the family mountain allotment. Although I really enjoyed it, I told Oli we couldn't do that every day, and said we should go out the next. I now understand why people in the Med stay in during the day and go out in the evening... it was bloody hot! Despite this, we had a lovely day wandering around the city, with Oli and Can (Oli's brother) as tour guides.

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In the green space along the sea front, an Occupy style camp has sprung up as part of the protests. Close to this, people had written messages on pieces of paper and stuck them on the wall of a disused building. The boys translated some of these for me, some reflective, some inspiring, angry or humorous. It is certainly an interesting time to be visiting Turkey.

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In the early evening, Oli and I went with his parents to the mountain house to pick more cherries and some linden tea. Whilst cherries were a total luxury for us in the UK, here they are abundant seeing as there is actually the climate to grow them locally. After picking several boxes and bags full of cherries, we moved on to the linden tree. The flowers on the tree have a beautiful aroma, and we happily picked tea, accompanied by numerous fat and happy bumble bees. The mountain setting is beautiful and so peaceful in comparison to the city, and even with the forest fire that devastated a large area two weeks previously, it remains stunning. Apparently a lot of fires start in Turkey from the side of the road, caused by cigarette butts or glass catching the sun. Sadly, this one seemed to be no exception, as Oli's Dad informed us it had indeed originated from the roadside.

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We woke up excited on Wednesday, as my Mum and Dad were due to arrive in the evening. We went out for breakfast in the morning with some family friends who also happened to be Can's old teachers. Turns out nobody loves breakfast like the Turks. We had an incredible spread of bread, pastries, eggs, salad, cheese and, my personal favourite, a slab of cream covered in runny honey. Amazing. We rounded the meal off with a Turkish coffee, and had a giggle pretending to read the political future in the dregs.

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Annoyingly, my parents' flight was two hours late, so they weren't due to get in until 9 p.m. Their flight was mainly full of package holiday makers, and we waited patiently for them in arrivals as loads of British families trooped out, being given directions to the coaches by the worlds most patient man. We were getting a bit worried after a while, and I checked my phone to see a text from Dad saying that somebody had gone off with his suitcase, leaving the wrong bag circling all lonely on the baggage carousel. The airport tried to track down the owner, but it appeared they had already left, so we would have to wait until they realised the mistake themselves.

Mum, believing it to be Dad's suitcase, laughed at him and was incredibly smug. However, when we arrived home, we discovered that they were labelled wrong, and it was in fact hers that was missing. After laughing so much at Dad and telling him it wasn't a big deal, there was no getting cross!

We went out the next morning to get Mum a few emergency clothes, and after this Oli and I took the parents into central İzmir, the intention being to see the Atatürk museum and the Agora. Sadly, both were closed, but we had a great day wandering the city and exploring the Kemeraltı market. We saw some interesting sales techniques, including one stall owner stopping Oli to tell him he was fat, but that my Dad was very slim. Sadly for him, this didn't entice us in.

In İzmir, at 21:05 every evening, people go on to their balconies and beat pots and pans in support of the protests. Mum and I went onto the balcony whilst Oli's Mum did her bit. It was quite inspiring to hear so many others doing the same. After this, we decided to go for a walk via the main Bornova square. Mum was enjoying breaking the FCO advice (avoid all protests and demonstrations), and even joined in with some flag waving. Since the protests have been going, the PM has derided them as looters / riff-raff, or çapulcu in Turkish. The protesters have taken the insult as their own, even making it into an English verb – chapulling. Oli and I were both proud of our çapulcu Mums.

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The next morning, Oli, Can and I took Mum and Dad back to the breakfast restaurant. After eating ourselves silly, we drove on to the mountain house to pick more cherries. We had promised Oli's parents we would put Dad's height to good use, and get him to pick the high up ones.

After picking a satisfactory amount of cherries and a little sit down, we carried on to the town of Manisa. Here, we met up with Oli's cousin Tuncer, who took us on a small sightseeing tour. As well as the Gallipoli museum, we also went to see Niobe. According to Greek legend, the Goddess Niobe's fourteen children were murdered by Apollo and Artemis, and she asked to be turned into a rock in her grief. Needless to say, none of us were convinced, but it was interesting to see nonetheless!

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Manisa is nestled in the mountains and has some fabulous views, which we stopped to photograph on our way to our next stop. The last stop on Tuncer's tour was Ulucami, which is a very old mosque dating from the 1300s. After a quick look around, we went back to his parents flat to see the family. We had a lovely evening, and sat on the balcony after dinner drinking tea and watching the sunlight fade over the mountains.

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As we were planning to spend the next few days at the summer house in Akbük, we did the drive later that night to avoid having to undertake it in the heat of the day. It turned out that Mum's suitcase had gone on holiday to nearby Didim, so she was reunited with it the next day. We passed a relaxing few days chilling on the porch, swimming in the warm sea in the evenings, and eating lots of delicious food.

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The time with Mum and Dad went far too quickly, and before we knew it, our days were up. As their flight wasn't until late evening, we decided to drive back to İzmir via Ephesus. The ancient Greek / Roman city is vast and still remarkably intact, with new parts still currently being excavated. It was fascinating to walk around and explore, but again, bloody hot. I am starting to understand the phrase “only mad dogs and Englishmen” like never before. A newlywed couple were having their wedding portraits taken amongst the ruins, and whilst I am sure the final photos will be amazing, I didn't envy them standing in that heat. The bride was wearing a big, full skirted wedding dress, which must have been pretty warm! As we left, Dad and I had a quick diversion into the gift shop under the pretext of admiring the t-shirts, which just happened to be located right under an air conditioner....

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All too soon we were at the airport waving Mum and Dad through the departure gate. It was a lot harder saying goodbye this time around, as we know that this time it will probably be a lot longer before we next see them.

I am currently sat on the sofa, hiding from the heat of the day, and eating (you guessed it...) cherries. We are going to spend the next few days planning what to do in Turkey when, as we reckon we will have about another six weeks here. If the past week is anything to go on, it is going to fly by!






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