Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Brief Footnote, or Paradise Lost?

After posting this morning a fairly detailed tribute to the attractions and quiet beauty of Çiralı and enjoying a wonderful breakfast here at Baraka House, we decided to drive in to one of the markets by the bridge in downtown (so to speak) Çiralı.  The road is not wide anywhere along the seashore and you always check carefully before pulling out because there could be cyclists or pedestrians or cars or small trucks.  So I did check, and something was clearly coming.  The first thing that crossed my mind was that a Boy Scout group was parading through.  It was the berets, the khaki shirts, and the red neckerchiefs that did it, but then I realized these were men, not boys, and something else was going on; they were, in fact, jandarma, serious people you don't mess with here.

We sat in the car, waiting for a break in the parade, and wondered.  We wondered even more when a small squad in riot gear went by, their clear plexi shields at the ready.  What was this?  Some big jandarma paddy wagons were next, followed by a couple of TV cameramen, many people walking, then two big flatbed floats with large excavators on board, and then more jandarma.  This was not cennet gibi; this was the big mean world of confrontation between people and state marching into Çiralı.

Finally the road cleared, and we asked a young German woman who had been walking and taking pictures what was going on.  She told us that the local citizens had blockaded the bridge this morning in protest against a planned government move to tear down some houses and maybe some trees.  She said that her boss, who owned the pansiyon where she worked, had been arrested at the protest and thrown into a vehicle with many other local citizens.

We asked at the shop and learned only that there had been a protest, that it was a buyuk problem (a big one), and that it seemed to have been caused by buyuk para (big money).  We drove around the back road to try to find out and saw the two empty float trailers down by the football area but no sign of the excavators.  Coming back along the sahil yolu, we came to crowds of people and cars with jandarma lining both sides of the road outside Fehim Pansiyon, the first place we ever stayed here in Çiralı.

Later Ihsan told us that there was a problem with some people's deeds to their properties and that some of it had to do with orman (forest) being improperly used (olive and citrus groves, pansiyons, etc.).  It seemed clear that there may be a push going on to change the character of Çiralı by pushing small operations out and letting big hotels in, and clear that many people were very unhappy.  We learned later that some or all of Fehim Pansiyon was torn down, even though there were guests staying there, and that Peace and a couple of others were gone or going.

There is much concern and puzzlement here and many conflicting stories, including that many businesses had no deeds to the property they were on and that the government had offered the land to them.  Who knows?  There are two newspaper stories here and here (for Turkish readers, who probably know much more about this than I do) and a typically poor Google translation here (for non-Turkish readers like me, and you'll have to scroll down a bit to find it).

So we still swam today, still walked way down to Olimpos and had a picnic supper there, and still photographed the ancient harbour and ruined walls and doorways from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman times.  

The whole place is still magical, still beautiful, but also now somehow a little more ephemeral.

Cennet gibi, or A Little Bit of Heaven

It’s late on Monday night here, and we’ve just spent our first full day of a one-week stay here in Çiralı.  We arrived last night after driving in our rented Hyundai Getz from Antalya Airport through city and suburbs, mountains and tunnels, until we came to the turnoff, wound our way down in the dark for 7 km through showers and mist, and arrived at the village of Çiralı and the beach and all of its little restaurants, souvenir shops, citrus groves, and pansiyons.  We had a late and friendly dinner at the Oleander, drinking a little rakı (bir az sadece) and remembering with the staff Lorraine’s birthday celebration there on our last visit two years ago.

We tried on the beach today to remember how many times we’ve been here, when it was, where we stayed each time, and what we did.  The first time was in 2003 with our daughter E., having driven all the way from Kapadokya and winding down the small road in rain and darkness to find Fehim Pansiyon where we stayed for a night before heading on to Patara Beach and the coal-choked atmosphere of Muğla the next morning.  We have learned a lot since then; for example, find a place you love, go there, and stay there.  Which is what we did yesterday.

It wasn’t until our third visit that we discovered Arcadia, where we have now stayed on several visits, loving the wooden bungalows with verandahs and thatched roofs, the gardens and groves, the proximity to the sea, and the tables with white cloths at the crest of the beach where the most wonderful breakfast anywhere is served to you every morning.  We have told others about it and regaled those not fortunate to have got there yet with tales of those breakfasts just above the morning Mediterranean.

I love that Çiralı is hard to get to, surrounded by high rocky hills, that huge loggerhead turtles come to lay eggs (check here for the hatch) all along its protected beach, that the pansiyons and hotels are small and intimate, mostly  set in citrus groves, that the water is so clear and so warm, that you can walk to the far end of the beach and see the cut stone piers of the ancient port of Olimpos, that you can climb partway up the mountain at our end to see the amazing flames of the chimaera, and that there’s a Mount Olimpos looking over it to connect us with a rich and resonant heritage of travel by sea and small settlements around the edges of the Med, the sea that was (and sometimes still seems to be) the sea at the centre of the earth.

So Lorraine and I are staying at Baraka House, checking out this new enterprise of our friend Ihsan and following the advice in the top picture, remaining calm, deciding difficult things like whether to have another cup of tea or coffee at breakfast or whether one more piece of toast with bal kaymak is too much, what we will read, or where we will swim today.  It’s difficult, but we are moving slowly, like the tortoise on our walkway, and we think we will manage.  It is, after all, cennet gibi, or a little bit of heaven, and there's no need to rush anything here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Atolye on Dereboyu

Atolye is Turkish for studio or workshop, cognate with the French atelier, and it is our friend G’s studio, the one she got after we gave up the lease on the space we shared with her down by the sahil yolu (seaside road).  This one is directly above a kuaför, which is two flights up from the entrance on Dereboyu Caddesi, Ortaköy’s main street, which takes you straight down the waterfront.  It’s far enough from the late night noise of the bars and clubs but still only a short walk away and on a street that is always bustling with activity throughout the day and evening.

It’s a privilege and a treat for us to come here during our time in Istanbul and a wonderful reminder of the years when our shared atolye in Ortaköy was a haven for us in the city every weekend.  This may be only sentimental nostalgia, but I love finding in the cupboard the same dishes and cups we always used at the studio and sitting in the same folding chairs we bought at the eskici (second hand & antique dealer) and eating off the big table G’s brother made for the space.

Lorraine added to this when she pulled out a pale blue mug with musical instruments and notations painted in various glazes and asked if I remembered where we got it.  It’s like our memory of Turkish, which had faded so much over the years we’ve been away.  On the plane we couldn’t even remember the words for fifty and a hundred, words we used so much when we lived here, but once we arrived the language began to come back.  As E. put it, when you get there, it’s as if the language chip in your head becomes activated again.  So I did remember as soon as I saw it – we bought the mug in Iznik (Nicea) on our first overnight trip away from campus back in 2003, not exactly the original Iznik ceramics, but a memory chip of a time and place activated.

I have written before about our Second Life; that is, our life here in Istanbul, our second home, and it’s the studio that represents it so well.  So we make tea in the morning, bring back simit and borek, walk down to check the Bosphorus, practice keyif, a uniquely Turkish form of hanging out, talk about art and language, listen to the traffic and conversations from the street, watch the moon rise and the lights on the First Bridge change colour, pick up beer at the tekel across Dereboyu, and decide what we’ll do or not do tomorrow.  

It’s a good life here at the atolye on Dereboyu, and we thank our dear friend G. for letting us share it with her.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Back in Ortaköy again!

It was a long trip after leaving Halifax Monday night and a bit arduous, with the better (or worse) part of a day spent in Heathrow's Terminal 5, no one's idea of a good time these days.  Then we ended up circling Atatürk Airport for so long we had to land at Sabiha Gökçen to refuel before flying back over the Bosphorus to land where we were supposed to.  But we made it, and that's all that matters, especially when you can go to sleep and then wake up here in Ortaköy.

The Bosphorus, when we checked, was fine.

Because it was after noon, the ships were heading north to the Black Sea.

Kahvaltı (breakfast) at the Cheesecake Cafe was a delight, especially the bal kaymak (clotted cream and honey) on fresh bread, my first taste of Turkish food this visit, a sweet treat!

The fishers were fishing (as usual).

Some istavrit were getting cleaned.

And the fishing boats were bobbing in the wakes.

Pigeons were hanging out in the waterfront trees.

The waffle guys were ready with their own sweet treats.

And there was a good trade in kumpir, baked potatoes stuffed with savoury delights.

Lol found a guy making earrings.  And a waterfront cat was enjoying the sun, just like us. So, if you wondered, as I did, if Ortaköy had changed in the two years since we were last here, the answer is yes, but bir az sadece (only a little), and yes, it is wonderful to be back!