Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

Sólfar Suncraft

Sólfar Suncraft

Beginning of a Voyage…

Iceland is proud of its Viking heritage because the country was first colonised by Norwegians in the ninth century and the story goes that the first permanent settler was a man called Ingólfur Arnarson who landed here in 871 and named the location Reykjavik, which means smoky bay, on account of the comforting plumes of hot steam that were escaping from the nearby hot springs.

Turkey, Yesilkent and Football

Yesilkent Turkey

On the first day we had walked to the busy seaside resort of Altinkum and the old town of Didum so today we decided to walk in the opposite direction to the more sedate seaside village of Yesilkent about three kilometres away.

It was a good day, a blue sky, a cooling breeze and a pleasant mid-morning temperature just about perfect for walking and we set off in the direction of the coast and the smoky blue hills far distant beyond the waters of the bay with silver-blue dragonflies buzzing around our heads.  Turkey is apparently the place to go if you want to see dragonflies, I think these were called Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum).

We walked at a steady pace along a rural road next to dusty orchards of olive trees twisting and contorting as though in a Richard III lookalike competition and heavy with autumn fruit.  Next to the olives were fields of hard stony ground impossible I imagine to cultivate and abandoned instead to the wild flowers and the thistles standing undisturbed and swaying like stately golden candelabra.

It was rather peaceful and almost serene but the one thing that spoiled the ambiance of the walk was the dreadful amount of litter because the road sides were strewn with a ribbon of human debris which made it look rather like an open landfill site.  In Turkey it seems some people have seriously limited environmental awareness and clearly have a very disagreeable habit of dumping waste and litter at any scenic spot that they find convenient.  This is such a shame because it will be impossible to ever clean up this environmental sabotage and no amount of boy scout campaigns or community litter-picks are ever going to remove this mess.

Closer to Yesilkent we walked through an estate of expensive houses and the litter stopped and then after stopping for a while at a bar we arrived at the beach.  We didn’t stop for a swim just yet but kept on walking with the intention of walking back along the coastal route and we negotiated the rocks and the stony path passing on the way some women who were sitting in the water and applying generous amounts of mud to their sagging faces and bodies in a totally pointless anti-ageing rearguard action.

Turkey Youth Mud Treatment

We were making steady progress until suddenly a jobsworth man in a blue uniform stood in our way and asked to see our wrist bands.  What wrist bands? It seems that we had strayed into an all-inclusive resort area and there was no way that he would allow us through.  We explained that we only wanted to pass by but it was like trying to negotiate with a mule so we were forced to retreat and make our way back to the road where instead of walking we caught a Dolmus (which isn’t a disease but a mini-bus public transport system)  and made our way back to the apartment.

We sat for a while on the balcony and read our books and began the process of acquiring a sun tan.  When I was younger I used to take this business rather seriously and apply all sorts of creams and oils steadily lowering the factor strength as the holiday progressed but I am beyond that now and I am a dedicated factor thirty maximum protection man.  Sunbathing you see is so utterly pointless. It is a waste of good time, it is expensive, it is tedious, it is dangerous but above all the results are strictly temporary so on account of that I find that thirty minutes is just about as long as I can stand it before I have to find something more useful to do.

Something else that I don’t normally do while I am away is go to a bar and watch big-screen football but today, my team, Leicester City were playing Manchester United and although I was pessimistic about their chances I couldn’t resist going along for the last half an hour of the match.

When I arrived things were going badly, Leicester 1, Manchester 3, and some rowdy United fans were celebrating already and punching the air in ecstasy in anticipation of more goals.  I sat down discreetly to watch the inevitable humiliation unfold.  Suddenly, Leicester 2, Manchester 3 – Leicester 3, Manchester 3 – Leicester 4, Manchester 3 and finally Leicester 5, Manchester 3 – the very satisfying and completely unexpected final score.

The table of red shirts was stunned into silence and I thought I was going to explode with excitement, I could no longer disguise my pleasure so I drained my glass of Efes beer, glanced across at the silent table with as big a smile as I dare and as I left punched the air several times in celebration!

As the light faded and afternoon turned into early evening barbeques began to flare into life and cooking smells drifted in teasing waves across the balcony and so thoughts turned from beaches and football to food and wine and we prepared to walk into town for an evening meal.  We didn’t get very far because restaurant owners and waiters in Altinkum can be very persistent in trying to gain custom so not in the mood for a debate at every place along the strip we stopped at one that we thought looked as though it might be quite nice and then enjoyed a very average meal and (by my benchmark) a shockingly expensive bottle of wine.

Later as we made an assessment of the day and on account of the disappointing evening meal we made a decision that tomorrow we would go shopping and then have a couple of nights of self catering.

Yesilkent Turkey

Turkey, Religion and Pass The Pigs

Didim Turkey Mosque

Leaving the Kemal Atatürk Boulevard, the centre of the town of Didim was quite a contrast from the brassy tourist sea front at Altinkum and on our way to the Mosque we passed by coffee houses where men sat and played okey, Turkish cut throat barber salons where men were being dangerously shaved and an assortment of traditional shops and cafés that were all doing brisk business until we came eventually to the Mosque.

I am not a great one for visiting Mosques which is a good thing really because non-Muslims tend not to be all that welcome to go inside and wander about.  I think we could have gone inside this one but we would have had to go back to the apartment first and get changed first because men are not supposed to go inside in shorts or women to have bare shoulders.  As I understand it there isn’t much to see anyway because they don’t have any pictures or statues or elaborate architecture inside just boring tiles and mosaics.

For those of us that used to go to Sunday school or paid attention in school assembly the origins of Islam are surprisingly similar to Christianity.  It begins with the premise that Allah (God) created the World in much the same way as the story is told in the Bible and then kept regularly in touch through the Prophets like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and so on.  The difference between Christianity and Islam really emerges in the status of Jesus who Islam relegates from Son of God to the lesser role of a Prophet and not even the most important one at that because this is Muhammad who is considered by Muslims (for the time being at any rate) as the last mortal to speak directly to an ambassador from Heaven.

By about the fifth century AD people were beginning to fall out about some rather important points of interpretation of the Bible and especially about the issue of the virgin birth and the son of God theory.  Basically, according to fundamentalist Christians, the Romans had distorted the whole Bible/Christianity thing and sort of moved it of its axis.

In the year 431 an ecumenical Church Council was held at Ephesus (in modern day Turkey and where we would be visiting later this week) chosen because this is alleged to be the place where the Virgin Mary lived out her days after the Crucifixion.  After much debate it was agreed by a majority of the Bishops present that Mary was indeed the virgin mother of Jesus Christ and that Jesus himself was therefore by definition the son of God which meant that henceforth in the Christian faith there is a belief that there is a dual deity.  Those who disagreed were thoroughly denounced and effectively excommunicated and banished from the Church.

This provoked a major schism and those who disagreed with the decision became increasingly convinced that Roman Christianity had corrupted the messages of God delivered through the medium of the earlier Prophets.  In Persia and what is now the Middle East the Church began to move rapidly in a different direction from the West.

Theotokos Mary Mother of God Divine Maternity icon

Then, rather conveniently, along came Muhammad.  One day in 610 Muslims believe that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and delivered the last ever message from God to a mortal person and handed down a new list of rules which were recorded as the Koran, which is remarkably similar of the Old Testament of the bible and which for Muslims re-established the original monotheistic faith by rejecting the virgin birth and the son of God corruption.

In the Islamic faith Muslims believe that they should live strictly by the Koran because it is the absolute and definitive word of God and the sole purpose of mortal existence is to worship….

… except those who don’t of course which means that strict fundamentalist Muslims sometimes fall out with the more liberal ones and in general Turkey and the Turkish people fall into this second category.  Although most Turkish people are Muslim, Islam is not an official State religion and Turkey has a secular constitution which to hard line Muslims is inconsistent with the Koran which states that it is the only source of law and cannot be subjugated to any form of civil law (think Ayatollah Khomeini for example and the 1979 revolution in Iran). Across the Islamic world Muslims have to struggle with the reconciliation of religious law versus secularism which is thankfully something we don’t have to do in the west.

We left the Mosque and as we walked back towards Altinkum I shared this simplified religious lesson with Kim and other little pearls of wisdom about Islam and we considered the issue of not eating pork.  We (except vegetarians of course) consider this to be rather odd, especially as a bacon sandwich is one of the top ten pleasures in life, but to be fair the Koran only re-establishes an instruction from the Bible and one that Christians just blatantly ignore:

“And the pig, because it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass.” Deuteronomy 14:8*

Reading this now that seems very clear to me but I used to go to Church every week and never in any Sunday School lesson or sermon do I remember the Vicar making reference to this and I doubt if it was ever read out in a Bible lesson either.  Christians you see enjoy their bacon sandwiches!

Turkey seems rather relaxed about this law as well because back at the sea front the restaurants were all offering English breakfasts with bacon and sausage, in a shop I spotted some Peppa Pig towels for sale and Turkish waiters were  openly flirting with English girls and some of them were real porkers I can tell you!  This liberalism didn’t extend very far beyond breakfasts however and the man at the meat stand in the street seemed a little surprised when Kim asked if there was a possibility of a pork kebab which confirmed to me that she hadn’t been listening to a single  word I had been saying.  As usual.

Later that night after evening meal and back on the balcony of the apartment and probably in blatantly open defiance of the Islamic pork rules we had a couple of secretive games of Pass The Pigs!

Pass The Pigs

* This isn’t the only bit of nonsense in  Deuteronomy that has had an influence on history, consider this at 22.5…

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God”.

It was this instruction from the Bible that condemned Joan of Arc to a bonfire because it would seem that that God through Moses was much less than tolerant than we are now on the issue of cross-dressing!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Icicles and Light

We travel through life with great ambition and sometimes imagining that we have huge talent just waiting to be unlocked.

I bought myself some golf clubs and imagined myself a Championship player.  I can’t get my handicap lower than 20!

I bought myself a guitar and imagined myself as the next Bob Dylan.  I can’t play the guitar, write songs or sing.  But then again Bob can’t sing that well either!

I started to write a blog and imagined myself a great writer.  I can’t even get Freshly Pressed!

A long time ago, about 1976, I bought myself an SLR camera and imagined myself a great photographer.  This is one of the images from that brief period of expectation that I was certain would be snapped up by National Geographic. It wasn’t!

 

Turkey, Postcards

Turkey Postcard 1 (2)

turkey1

Pamukkale Post Card

Turkey, The Inevitability of Kemal Atatürk

Kemal Atatürk

“His name is affixed to bridges, airports and highways too many to mention. And seemingly every house where he spent a night from southern Aegean to the Black Sea is now a museum.”                                                                                  Lonely Planet

There was a perfect blue sky when I was woken quite early by an invasion of sunlight bulldozing its way into the room through the gaps in the curtains and I lay still for awhile contemplating being in a new country and I began to think of the most obvious things that I associated with Turkey – Turkish Delight, Turkish Baths, Turkish Tea, Turkish Wrestling, Istanbul, Magic Carpets, Kebabs and Belly Dancers and when my mind was quite cluttered up with all of these thoughts I got up and opened the balcony door and was greeted with a powerful aroma drifting in from an adjacent apartment that reminded me of one more thing – Turkish Coffee!

Now that it was morning we could make out east from west and our location seemed much less confusing so after breakfast we consulted the map and headed off towards the sea front and the centre of the town.

First we walked along the promenade squeezed in between the caramel coloured beach with its sun loungers and colourful umbrellas on one side and the strip of fake produce bazaars, glitzy bars and English breakfast restaurants on the other and then we turned away from the sea and the main arterial road of the town, the Kemal Atatürk Boulevard and about halfway distance north to south we came to an open square and a massive statue dominating the centre.

It is not unusual to find a street named after Kemal Atatürk in any major town and city in Turkey because he is the great hero of the Turks, a sort of Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle all rolled into one.  Atatürk was a military officer during World War I and following the defeat and post war dismantling of the Ottoman Empire he led the National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence. He defeated the Allied forces and humiliated the Greek invaders and led the Nation to complete victory and a fresh new modern start.

Kemal Ataturk Postcard

He became the first President of modern Turkey in 1923 and embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership the capital was moved east from Istanbul to Ankara, Islam ceased to be the official State religion and in a reform programme called Turkification, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, the wearing of the Fez was banned (because he considered it to be a symbol of the old Ottoman  Empire) and women were given equal civil and political rights

His image is everywhere in Turkey – on street banners, shop window posters and flags.  It is difficult for us to imagine how a single man can be revered in such a way.  In 1934 he was honoured with the name Atatürk (Father of the Turks) by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and his other titles include Great Leader (Ulu Önder), Eternal Commander (Ebedî Başkomutan), Head Teacher (Baş Öğretmen), and Eternal Chief (Ebedî Şef).  He is buried in a massive marble mausoleum in Ankara called the Anıtkabir (literally the Monumental Tomb) which continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

You can read a good account of a visit to the Mausoleum in a post by fellow blogger Uncle Spike.

Turkish people worship Atatürk like a god.  In the late 1990s Time Magazine ran an international voting competition to find the Person of the Century.  Very quickly Atatürk established a surprising lead but eventually Time Magazine withdrew his name from the list of nominations because of multiple voting (cheating) by the Turks which in my book sort of makes them look like hypocrites for complaining about the Eurovision Song Contest!

All of this cult worship means that there are statues of Atatürk in every town, city and village in Turkey and it is said that there is a bust of him at every school in the country.  A few posts ago I speculated on the question of which secular figure in history might have the most statues and likenesses erected in their memory and honour.  I considered Atatürk as a serious contender but was quick to dismiss his claim and concluded that it must surely be Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian Unification, but after visiting Turkey I think I might have to make a reassessment.

As well as statues and monuments right across Turkey there are statues dedicated to Atatürk in Canberra in Australia, Wellington in New Zealand, Kushimoto in Japan and Bucharest in Romania;   He also pops up in South America in Santiago, Caracas  and in Mexico City.  There are streets and parks named after him in New Delhi, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Islamabad, Pakistan; Larkana, Pakistan; Baku, Azerbaijan, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Israel, Amsterdam, Northern Cyprus and Kabul in Afghanistan.

In 2013 a monument was erected to him in Washington DC and although there isn’t a statue to Atatürk in the United Kingdom there is a likeness of him in Madame Tussaud’s waxworks museum in London.

Yes, I have to concede that Atatürk seriously challenges Garibaldi for the title of most statues erected in his memory.

We spent a few moments admiring the statue and then continued with our walk to the old town of Didim (a sister city incidentally with Gibraltar*) where we were looking specifically for the Mosque.

Ataturk Waxwork

* No one else will twin with Gibraltar!  The troublesome rock offered a twinning arrangement with London but was turned down and offered Goole in Humberside instead.  Goole is a dreadful place and Gibraltar was insulted and turned the offer down.  I think they were lucky to be offered Goole, I would have given them Jaywick in Essex which is generally reckoned to be the worst place possible to live in England.

 

Turkey, Preparation and Arrival

Turkey Postcard 3

The end of the Summer usually means the Greek Islands for our travels but this year we were breaking with tradition and although close by to the Dodecanese we were visiting mainland Turkey instead.

The flight to Bodrum was with Monarch airlines and this reminded me that my first ever flight was with Monarch when I went to Sorrento in Italy in June 1976.

Shortly before take off this time the pilot introduced himself as Captain Rupert Mattox and I couldn’t help thinking that there is something reassuring about a pilot called Rupert because it’s a fair bet that he has been to Public School and served in the RAF.  What you don’t want is a pilot called Wayne or Brandon because that sort of introduction is rather like seeing a single magpie – a bit of a worry.

Briefly though now, back to 1976 because on that occasion the pilot didn’t introduce himself by name until after we had safely landed when he revealed his name to be Captain Skidmore – I kid you not.  I was travelling with my dad and he thought that was so funny, so funny he told the story for the rest of his life.

00 Monarch Airlines

It was late when we arrived and quite dark but the prearranged transport was there to meet us and took us on the one and a half hour journey to our accommodation in Altinkum.  We found the place and then climbed three flights of stairs to the top of the apartment block.  It was dark in the hallway and there were light switches which were on a timer and had an annoying habit of going out too soon to be completely useful.  The light switches were placed next to the doorbells to the apartments and Kim managed to push everyone during our ascent bringing residents to open their doors and to several apologies for disturbing people but I suspect this happens quite a lot.

After settling in we went in search of a shop and on the way down the stairs Kim managed to press most of the door bells again.  There was a shop next door so we bought some beer and wine and some snacking food and returned to the apartment and Kim managed to press the door bells for a third time so I was glad when we reached the top and got inside and locked the door so that we couldn’t annoy anyone anymore this evening.  We weren’t going out again because we were unsure of our location and anyway it was getting late so we spent an hour or so on the balcony and reviewed our plans and itinerary.

In preparation for travel I had carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

Turkey is the thirty-fifth largest country in the World, out of two hundred and six (give or take a few disputed states) and is one of five European/Asian transcontinental states (the others are Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan).

Turkey is placed sixty-first in the Human Development Index which means that it is categorised as having high human development in an index that ranks countries by data composed from life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.  It is sixty-first in the OECD Better Life Index and forty-fourth in the Happy Planet Index which is three places behind the United Kingdom but way ahead of the United States which is as low down as one hundred and fifth.

Turkey Souvenir Shopping Bag

Turkey has thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites but the chances of visiting more than one or two was very remote because they are spread evenly right across the country.  Like Greece and Egypt it has two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and due to their proximity to Altinkum it seemed quite likely that we would be able to see them both while we were here.

The country has seven thousand two hundred kilometres of coastline and an impressive three hundred and seventy nine Blue Flag Beaches which according to the Blue Flag website means that this is the second highest after Spain.  There is some dispute about this however because although the website is quite clear that neighbouring Greece (having carelessly lost thirty-three awards between 2013 and 2014) now has only three hundred and sixty and has dropped from second to third place, the Visit Greece website stubbornly claims four hundred and eight.  I think the Blue Flag website is probably correct!

My final benchmark is always the  Eurovision Song Contest and Turkey has taken part since 1975, it won the competition in 2003 but it has come last three times and on two occasions didn’t score any points at all.  It pulled out of the competition in 2013 because it disagreed with some voting rule changes.  Sour grapes it seems!

As we sat under the stars trying to make sense of the geography we knew that this was going to be a different sort of travel experience for us because we were going to be based in the same place for two whole weeks something that we hadn’t done for ten years or so because normally we like a few nights in a place and then move on so this fortnight was going to require some adjustment and before bed we considered the guide books and the travel company brochures and drew up a short list of places that we would probably like to go and visit.

Turkey Postcard 1 (2)